A Prayer at the Dawn of a Theological School Year

by Grace Sutton August 24, 2022

O Lord, as light dawns on the first few days of the school year for seminary and bible college students, light our path as we journey through theological education.

Show the cracks and crannies of our beliefs that need to be filled with deeper or clearer understanding of your truth. Don’t let us believe the lie that we know everything about life and godliness before we’ve taken a seat in the classroom.

We can never predict what you’ll teach us in an academic year. We can’t guess our areas of ignorance, faulty theological structures, or relational strengths and weaknesses until they’re revealed by a conversation, or comments on a returned paper, or confrontation with your Word. We are always, ever learning, inside and outside the classroom.

Give us eyes to see and ears to hear what you wish to teach us, but also don’t trap us in the hamster wheel of trying to learn everything about you and your church in our finitude.

We confess, Lord, that we are not omniscient. Thank you for teachers who remind us that a miserly four or five years of study cannot completely comprehend divine truth. They can only give us the tools for a lifetime, mining your truth in your Word with your people.

O God, let us not forget your people. As seminary and bible college students, we are training to serve your people, and yet we so easily serve ourselves through the praise of pastors and professors or the pride of what we know. Keep us from using the privilege of theological education as an excuse to distance ourselves from those who seem difficult or uneducated or unimportant, thinking our credit hours make us more special than the rest of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19).

Remind us that before we sat in a theology class, we sat outside your love, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Now, we have you, as well as your people. We are together chosen and accepted primarily by you, not merely our theological institutions.

We are unified with you, as well as unified in our mission (Matthew 28:19), whether from an American church building, dusty road on the other side of the world, or the desk of a parachurch ministry. May we be amazed at the tapestry of ministries and gifts among us in this season of training. Some of us will be pastors, associate pastors, professors, youth leaders, writers, or staff of countless kinds. Some will stay in vocational ministry, while others will use their education elsewhere. Keep us from pointing fingers at our brothers and sisters like Peter pointed at John (John 21:20-23), preoccupied with asking you about someone else’s future compared to ours. We are all different, yet equally called to follow you.

We are called to follow you not only in word or talk, but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). Forbid our studies from masking who we really are. We are sinners and students, and Christian academia was never meant to be the drug to cure or cover up sin. How easily we can abuse its environment and equipment to be confident before you, when Christ alone condemns or justifies and sanctifies, with or without our bible college or seminary classes (Romans 8:33, Galatians 5:25). You told us to abide in you, not in theological education (John 15:4). Break the leaky cisterns in our studies that we trust could hold or attain any righteousness apart from you.

Before and after our diplomas, Lord, we are yours, and your people are not ours. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

May our “lightbulb moments” and limits to our understanding, love and labor for your people, honesty and humility with your Word and ourselves this year be for your glory forever.


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