What do we expect when we pray for those taking exams? This may sound ridiculous, silly even, but is it not an interesting question to consider? What are we really asking for?
Take, for example, a conversation I had with a mother some years back. She was really upset and disappointed with God. I don’t think she was going to give up her faith, but she sure sounded like she was close to that decision. When the PSLE results were announced, her son did well, but not well enough to get into ACS(I). As such, he had to settle for ACS (Barker) – considered ‘second-class’ in the ACS family of schools. To this mother, God did not answer her prayer, nor her son’s. What made it harder for her to accept was that God seemed to have answered the prayers of the other parents – since their sons got into ACS(I) – and these were less-devoted Christians, and some non-believers!
You may be smiling at this true account 🙂 But I daresay such reactions are rather common in results-oriented, academics-crazy Singapore. It sure makes me wonder what parents really expect God to do for their children when they prepare and sit for exams? Perhaps they want God to supernaturally increase the academic capability of the child, to reveal all the questions and answers, to change the tough questions to easier ones for their child only, to blind the teachers’ eyes to wrong or inappropriate answers, etc. Even more interesting, I hear of prayers for those collecting the results. Are these praying for good results after knowing how well they did or struggled through the paper? Are these praying for the marks and grades to miraculously change from D to A? Or from A to A*?
Can God not do all these, you ask? Of course He can for nothing is impossible for Him. I have heard testimonies of how God had revealed the questions so the individual knew what to study. But does He do it all the time? For all? I’m not too sure about that. You may not agree with me entirely. But if you are so convicted, I’d really encourage you to offer a course “How to ace your exams supernaturally!” Not only will you have immediate sign-ups, you will have great opportunity for evangelism too. Think about it … believe in Jesus, and get straight As!
Ok, coming back to praying for exams. Of course, when the child does well, praises are offered to God. But when the results are less than satisfactory, why question God? Why accuse Him for not answering? Do you really expect every Christian student to score As? If so, you might as well believe in the prosperity gospel that suggests every Christian should be materially rich, wealthy and prosperous!
We need to get our perspectives right again. The academic system needs a means of testing and evaluation and it’s called examinations. In any group – in a class, a school, a precinct, a country – there will be those who do better and those not so well. That is a given. In the odd event everyone does equally well (or bad), you can expect the system to be adjusted to again separate the best from the not-so-good’s. Given the emphasis on education and academic excellence in Singapore, we can safely assume that it will only get tougher, not easier.
As parents, we value the place of education in our children’s lives. However, if we are not careful and mindful, it is also easy for education to take the place of God. Simply put, we trust education more than we trust God. We are so worried and anxious that without making it to the top 10%, we fear our children will lose out in life. They will have to work under someone, or have their career opportunities curtailed. At the end of the day, it’s all about landing a good job, for a good salary, to secure a good life. Where is God? Of course, He is there … but only to ensure exams scores are good that our goals for our children are realised. How we pray and later respond reveal very clearly how much we truly trust God, or grades.
If one chooses to remain in the academic system, the pressure to perform and out-perform others will always be there. Even for us, as homeschoolers, the pressure is still there, however subtle. The key is to always have the right perspective. I’ve found it useful to constantly ask myself, “Is it about education, academics and grades? Or is it about learning life and knowing God?” This is our prayer for each of our children – that they learn life and know God. We recognise their strengths and weaknesses. Not all may be academically-inclined to perform well in a school system; but all are individually gifted and talented, and capable of serving the Lord in whatever capacity He enables them in.
Also, not all bloom or mature at the same time – some earlier, some later. It’s not a one-size fits all – whether you make it or you don’t. Sadly, school systems are much like production lines. If you don’t fit the mould, sorry! You are promptly moved to the next line or category. That’s what makes parenting and homeschooling so tough. We need to know our children that we may encourage them along the right path at the right pace with the right perspective. We too have been guilty of being a little impatient at times, only to discover that given just a few months more, the child suddenly gets it.
As a Singaporean parent, I am equally susceptible to the pressures and demands of our society. Honestly, it’d be nice if each of my seven children do well academically and attain PhDs. I’d be one proud father 🙂 But that is not my pre-occupation at all. If the Lord so leads them that way, praise be to God. If not, praise Him still!
In the meantime, my prayer is for them to have the right attitude towards exams, to do their best and to never give up, regardless the results. I believe God can use any result and every life experience to shape them for His purposes. And in the end, if each would love, know and serve Him passionately wherever they are placed, I’d really be one proud father 🙂