Advice for University?

The Judgement of Solomonengraving by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
The Judgement of Solomon
engraving by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)

Academics might not appreciate the first text proclaimed from sacred scripture this academic year:

“I prayed and understanding was given me.” (Wisdom 7:7)

The academic might say that if all you do is pray to get your understanding then you won’t get very far.

And they are quite right. God calls us as rational animals to engage and grapple with the realities of the universe he has made and to struggle to make sense of the beauty of creation. In academic study there will be much reading, much observation, and much thought done if we are to advance in understanding. We can’t rule out flashes of divine inspiration, but to expect instant understanding in response to prayer is naïve.

At the same time, prayer should not be divorced from seeking understanding. Prayer is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God; and God, we believe, is the source of all that is. He is the source of all meaning, all wisdom and all understanding. Only in the context of God do things ultimately make sense; and even though we can never comprehend him fully, we are called to participate in his divine life.

A Christian Student must both study and pray. Not as two unconnected activities: we study because we seek understanding of God and his creation; and we pray because we seek to be united to God who creates.

Much has been said to new students this past week about making the most of your opportunities for study and development afforded at Durham in your chosen area of study and beyond. This is good advice. But if the University experience is to be truly fulfilling, make the most too of opportunities for prayer, that your study and development may be set in the only context which ultimately matters.


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