If Jeanne Guion is right to name prayer as “the application of the heart to God,”1 perhaps education, in its purest form, can be a form of prayer. For education would seem most fundamentally to entail an ongoing alignment of one’s soul with truth, and there is no truth more fundamental than Christ, who is simultaneously Truth himself2 and the source of all that is true.3 In Christ, all things hold together,4 for “without him not one thing came into being.”5 As such, when we seek through education to align our souls with truth, we succeed only as much as we align our souls with Christ. We understand reality only insofar as we recognize it as that which Christ defines and sustains.
Thus, the way we turn our minds to truth in our education might properly correspond with the way we turn our hearts to God in prayer. When we pray, we seek to know God personally and thereby to place ourselves in proper relationship with him. We invite God to form us according to his likeness, trusting him to tend our souls with his goodness and grace, and we seek his ongoing revelation of wisdom and guidance. As God shows himself to us, he enables and equips us to live in alignment with himself.
Likewise, in our education, we submit our souls to the guidance and counsel of trustworthy shepherds. Provided our shepherds are themselves disciples of Truth, we may “[b]e imitators of [them], as [they are] of Christ.”6 Led by those who have learned to love God with their whole selves, we too come to learn more fully to know and love the God who made each of us in his own likeness for his glory.
Like prayer, then, education is an ongoing practice of drawing near to God, opening ourselves to him, and trusting him to open himself to us by his Spirit. As we continue exploring and discovering the world God made and loves, we may grow to wonder at the fullness of God’s glory, recognizing his goodness embedded in his creation. Difficult questions can be further opportunities to seek the Lord’s wisdom and counsel as he invites us to know him more.
In applying our hearts to the Lord in prayer, we train ourselves to desire and pursue his truth. Through education, which provides opportunities to know God more truly through the things he has made, we make space to nourish our love of the Lord. When approached prayerfully, education can open us more completely to knowledge of God and relationship with him.
1 Jeanne Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guion, The Worship of God, in Spirit and in Truth; or, A Short and Easy Method of Prayer, Suited to Every Capacity; With Two Letters Upon the Same Subject (Bristol: W. Pine, 1775), 8.
2 John 14:6, NRSV
3 Augustine of Hippo, De Vera Religione, trans. Edmund Hill, in The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. 8, On Christian Belief, ed. Boniface Ramsey (New York: New City Press, 2005), 36.66.
4 Col. 1:17, NRSV
5 John 1:3, NRSV
6 1 Cor. 11:1, NRSV