This morning, we drove past a business sign that said: “Enjoy the Summer.” The irony is that we were on our way to school for the first day of classes. While it is still technically summer for more than a month, summer break is ending for students across the nation. Schools in our area on the so-called “balanced” schedule began in late July, others are starting now, and some in other states will begin after Labor Day.
Thus, God’s people embrace a new season of prayer for students and teachers. For me, it is helpful to have mental hooks – little devices to organize my prayers for specific situations like this. One such hook is the mascot for our classical school: The Achaeans.
“Achaea” today technically describes a northern region of the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece. Homer used “Achaeans” to describe all of the Greeks in his Iliad and Odyssey. The New Testament speaks much of God’s work in the region of Achaia, then defined as southern Greece, including the leading city of Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:2). Because of these connections, the Lord’s work among the Achaeans of old guides my prayers for my children and other students who are heading back to school. I pray that students, like the Achaeans of old would:
- Believe God. In 1 Corinthians 16:15, Paul writes: “you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia.” They were the first, and there were many more Achaean converts that followed. They forsook their sin and turned to Jesus Christ. They obeyed, though obedience did not always come immediately. This year, students who already know Jesus need to grow in their faith and knowledge of his word and his covenant. Others will believe for the first time. Last week, we hosted our annual international dinner at church. One elementary school-aged boy, who had just arrived in the United States, heard the prayer before the meal and immediately asked: “what is prayer” and “how do you talk to God?” May he and others who have never heard the gospel be brought to understanding and know the Lord personally this year!
- Study God’s mighty works. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10). The Greeks were known as scholars; we pray for scholarship infused with zeal across the disciplines. The Achaean Christians were obviously students of what God had done in Thessalonica. They reported in detail about the things the Lord had done in another place. It’s my prayer that our students will recognize and exult in the hand of God in their subjects. We long to see them enthusiastically report at the end of this year what God has done in creation and history – including the history unfolding in our day – with an eye to future glory.
- Serve others. The first Achaean converts devoted themselves to the service of the saints and refreshed Paul’s spirit and the spirits of others in the church (1 Corinthians 16:16-18). They had set the pace in giving enthusiastically to the collection for the poor and suffering in Jerusalem, and Paul writes that their zeal had stirred up others to give (2 Corinthians 9:2). Yet, they needed to be stirred up to continue to serve. As our young people grow in their capacity in heart and mind through their studies, we need to pray that they will give generously of themselves, especially to God’s people, recognizing that their labor in the Lord is not in vain.