“Now I sit me down to study
I pray the Lord I won’t go nutty
If I should fail to learn this junk,
I pray the Lord I will not flunk.
But if I do, don’t pity me at all,
Just sit my butt down in study hall.
Tell my parents I did my best,
Then pile my books upon my chest.
Now I lay me down to rest,
And pray I’ll pass tomorrow’s test.
If I should die before I wake,
That’s one less test I’ll have to take!”

The above exam prayer is a joke. But what exactly should we pray for when we’re praying with regard to exams?

Last month, I attended a talk organised by the National University of Singapore Catholic Students’ Society (NUSCSS). The speaker was Fr Alex Chua, and one of the points he was making struck me. He brought up the idea of “catholic pagans”, who pray selfishly, making requests from God for them to win the lottery, or for students, that they would score well and that their competition would not. It was only then did it occur to me how sometimes we take God for granted, asking him things like we would a wishing well, instead of asking ourselves, how would God want us to pray? After all, Jesus suffered during his life on earth and we as Christians are called to carry our crosses. It doesn’t really make sense then if we continuously ask God to give us a comfortable life, by praying merely for our selfish wants.

For those of us who are students, it can sometimes be confusing thinking of how to pray. We really, really want to do well in our exams. Verses like “Ask and you shall receive” and old sayings like “God helps those who help themselves” seem to contradict each other. So where is the middle line?

I hope that the following prayers, taken from a christian university’s website might help us understand what it is that makes a prayer. I wish all students the very best in preparing for the exams.

Prayer for Preparation to Study

Grant me peace, O God, as I open my books and notes. Open my mind to Thy will, and may I dedicate these hours to Thy Son, Jesus Christ. Offer me insight, O Lord, that I might understand these things, and see them as a part of Thy Kingdom. May I offer Thee my best in reading and learning that it may be a part of my discipleship. O Jesus Christ, may this be a worthy time that is faithful to Thee and bring me closer to the goals I have in order to serve Thee. I offer this time and prayer in Thy holy Name. Amen.

Prayer Before an Exam

O wise God, I pray that my mind might be rested, my body energized, and my spirit inspired for the exam I must write. Grant me peace and assurance so that I might do the best I am able, regardless of what that might be. Be with my fellow students and may I be a good example to them, offering reassurance and confidence regardless of how I feel. May I be honest and insightful, and able to give a true record of what I have learned. In the end, may any disappointment be born with grace, and any joy accompanied with humility. I write this exam with Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer For Peace of Mind

In this time of anxiety, O loving God, grant me peace of mind. Quiet any distress and allow me to see clearly my mission and discipleship. I pray for my examiners as well as for myself, so that they might be wise in their questioning so that it will allow for a true accounting of my learning and understanding. May the memory of my family and friends remind me of their support, regardless of outcome, united with them in the spirit of love. May I be wise enough to gain enough rest so all might be ready, my thoughts organized, and my life dedicated to serve Thee whatever the cost, through the love of Jesus Christ, my Saviour. Amen.

Prayer in a Time of Anxiety

When I am truly anxious, O God, remind me of my love of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. May I realize that I will not be abandoned, but am accompanied always by Him. Dispel any sense of self-concern, and remind me that others are feeling the same tensions, which is only natural in times of stress. Grant me insight, God of Wisdom, to see the things that have been taught, to understand them in the unfolding story of Thy Creation, and our place within it. May I lay my head down to rest confident that Thou art always with us, through the love and affection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Lord. Amen.

Prayer Before Retiring at Night

God of strength and of comfort, I close the day with thoughts of Thee. As I turn myself over to the sleep of the present night, grant that Thy benediction may be upon me, and all whom I love. We depend upon Thy care, and pray that we may awake reassured of Thy presence. No matter how late it might be, nor how early I might have to arise, may this time of sleep help to restore my calmness and perceptiveness, so that when I open my eyes next, I shall be ready to continue my study and service of Thee. In the last moments of consciousness, I resign my life and purpose to Thee, and to Thy Son, Jesus Christ, in whose Name I pray. Amen.

Prayer When I Awake

May my first thoughts be of Thee, O Light of Life, and may I dedicate all that I do these coming hours to Thy glory. If my task be to study, may I do it without hesitation. If I face an examination, may I meet it with determination and goodwill. As I cast off the hour(s) of sleep, and prepare for my responsibilities for the day, may I always remember that Thou art with me in the person of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. As I awaken, quicken my mind, enlarge my heart, and grant me wisdom to do my best in all I do this day. May I be a true steward of the time I have this day, and dedicate all that I do to the love and care of my Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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