Fourth-grade teacher Iris Van Dyke thinks kids today are under more pressure than ever.
Van Dyke, who teaches at White Oak Elementary School in Westlake Village, said the prayers of local mothers help to strengthen educators whose hearts are burdened as they walk alongside families hurting in unimaginable ways.
She dropped by the annual Moms in Prayer celebration brunch May 14 at Westlake Village Inn to thank a crowd of nearly 200 women from the Conejo Valley, Moorpark and Simi Valley for praying for local children and their schools.
“As teachers, we get to see God’s goodness play out in the classroom every single day,” she said. “The fact that there’s a dedicated group of moms who pray for us is a more powerful piece of encouragement than I could ever ask for.”
Moms in Prayer International, formerly Moms in Touch, is an interdenominational Christian ministry that started in Canada in the late 1980s.
Founder Fern Nichols was worried about sending her children to middle school, so she asked another mom to pray for her kids with her. Since then, the organization has expanded to every state in the nation and more than 140 countries across six continents with the mission of covering all children and schools with prayer.
The formula is simple: Small groups of mothers, organized by church or school site, gather once a week to pray for their children and schools.
Groups follow a simple prayer booklet that guides them through four steps of Scripture-based prayer: Praise, silent confession, thanksgiving and intercession. The women take turns praying for each of their children by name and offering prayers for each other and the broader school community.
Beth Kitzio has children at MATES Charter School in Thousand Oaks. She said the group welcomes young moms, grandmas, military moms, prison moms and women of any background, race or language who are willing to pray for the next generation.
“Our kids are worth it,” she said. “Our differences make us stronger.”
Barbara Hurst started praying with the group 25 years ago. The Thousand Oaks resident said prayer is a powerful way to intervene in a child’s life at school without entering the classroom.
“Sometimes the only way to fight is on your knees in prayer,” she said.
Debra Lorier has been part of Moms in Prayer for more than two decades. She said prayer works, but moms shouldn’t expect their supplications to part the Red Sea or move a mountain.
“It’s not that prayer changes things,” she said. “Prayer changes us and then we change things.”
Hurst said the results of prayer are nonetheless miraculous.
“We’ve gotten to see God change children’s hearts. We’ve gotten to see him pull children out of the culture of the world. We’ve gotten to see Christian principles in the Conejo Valley,” she said. “He has done great and mighty things.”