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The founder of Teachers Who Pray calls public education “America’s biggest mission field.”

Marilyn Rhames had made it. A journalist in New York City, she worked as a reporter for People and Time magazines. Then she started teaching Sunday school. “I discovered how much fun it could be and how good I was in front of kids,” she said. But pivoting her career to full-time education felt overwhelming—especially for the pay. Then came 9/11.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Rhames felt her priorities recalibrate. “Lord, if I had died today, if I was in those towers, would I be doing what I felt was significant?” she remembered praying. “As much as I loved being a reporter, it had lost its appeal, in terms of changing the world. After 9/11, I said ‘Okay, Lord, I’m done. I’m going to be a teacher.’”

A Chicago native, Rhames soon returned back to the Windy City and moved into the classroom. In 2011, she founded Teachers Who Pray, a national organization that seeks to support educators’ spiritual and professional needs through retreats, conferences, and curricula.

“We want to create communities of faith among educators and mobilize them to deeply love God and deeply love the students he’s given us to teach,” said Rhames. “If we do those two things, we will transform the educational experience, especially for children who are from vulnerable families and underserved communities.”

Rhames recently spoke with Christianity Today about the power of prayer, talking to God in the classroom, and how public education today is America’s biggest mission field.

When did you become first aware of the power of prayer?

I was in the third grade and my dad was a national semi-truck driver. He’d say he’d come home on Monday …

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