Is Praying for Academic Success Cheating?

Is Praying for Academic Success Cheating? February 16, 2012

Jen McCreight posted on her blog about someone who gave thanks for having passed an exam, and expressed gratitude for prayers offered on their behalf. Jen made several comments, among which this seemed to me the most interesting:

Seriously, if God really is the reason that some students were doing well, they should be expelled. A supreme deity isn’t enrolled in school, you are. If they’re altering your grades, that’s cheating.

I think this topic actually provides a useful case for reflecting on what one thinks about prayer. Christian views have varied widely on the subject down the centuries. Many church fathers were of the view that prayer changes us since God is unchangeable. If prayer is a way of gaining composure and relieving stress during an exam, it is presumably not at all inappropriate.

But if one believes that it might provide supernatural assistance, what then? Would asking God to help you do better on an exam represent a form of cheating? And conversely, if you don’t think it is cheating, does that suggest that you don’t really think prayer in such circumstances results in supernatural intervention on occasion?

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