Everything I Need to Know I Could Have Learned in Sunday School (But Didn’t)


Connecting With God

I’d learned about prayer, and if I’d gone to Sunday School I might have learned about memorizing Scripture. But I hadn’t. So I came to appreciate the Bible in a herky-jerky way.

It began (pre-conversion) when a certain college professor made us attend “the worship service of a religion not your own.” I attended my girlfriend’s church and wrote in my class journal that the message was “surprisingly meaningful.” The professor berated me for thinking there could be anything good about “a dead, white, European religion.” So the next week, I wrote, “I now realize how hypocritical Christianity is” (even though I knew nothing about it). The words “Now you’re thinking!” appeared in the returned journal, along with an “F” miraculously turned into an “A.”  Like water into wine.

The minute the professor said, “No!” I wanted to know more. But it wasn’t until eight years later that I actually walked into a church of my own accord. The next day I bought a Bible and began pouring through it. Jesus’ words burned their way into my soul. Yet my prayer life remained spotty. How do you talk to an infinite being, even one you love?

I’m embarrassed to admit this–I’d love for you to think it happened “long ago”–but the truth is it was 2014. The transformation of my prayer life began with an addictive behavior, one I’d wrestled with for years. My wife encouraged me to confess and reboot each time, but I’d never succeeded in fully overcoming it.

I’d recently re-read Jesus’ words, “Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). It suddenly occurred to me that I needed to be reminded of those words every time I was tempted, not just when I happened to be reading them. So I began saying them aloud each time temptation flashed its face.

This was no incantation, it was a conscious reminder. I was surprised by the certainty of Jesus’ words—not “in the hope,” but “so that you will not fall.” I’m no longer surprised. Each time I pray them, control of my thoughts is wrested back from my flesh to my spirit. It isn’t magic–it doesn’t “work” for someone whose spirit is dormant. It’s conscious meditative prayer.

And in case you’re wondering if this is only for weak people: Jesus did it. When he was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), he recited Scripture to strengthen himself and to drive away “the tempter.”

Once I started regularly praying Matthew 26, I began to wonder what would happen if I memorized other verses, as well. The Scriptures were bottomless, life changing. What if they were in me in a deeper way than was possible by merely studying them?

“Maybe it’s like when you download a file,” I thought, “and then you have to have the app to open it? What if ‘downloading’ God’s written word enables us to more consistently open his living word?”

The difficulty in connecting with God is on our end. God is always here. But to more fully experience his presence, we need to translate his immortal, immaterial mindset into our mortal, material language. That’s exactly what his written word does. It’s the key to consistently unlocking his presence!

Of course, if I’d gone to Sunday School I might have learned about the value of memorizing Scripture long ago.

Next: Storing the Truth in Our Hearts

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Everything I Need to Know I Could Have Learned in Sunday School (But Didn’t)

  1. Grateful that the God of the universe has drawn you nearer to Him.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. ummm … maybe. Much of what I learned in Sunday school didn’t make sense until I stepped away from my faith for awhile and began to understand why Jesus needed to be tempted before he could move onto ministry.

    Liked by 5 people

    • HAT says:

      Precisely. And even then … churches and Sunday schools and pastors and other Christians are not uniformly “about” teaching practices for effective Christian living and inside-out personal transformation.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. smzang says:

    Your lessons always lift me, but today in a way totally unexpected…
    I started at 9:30 this morning to try to resolve an overcharge of
    $12.79 on my phone bill. It is now a few seconds before one. The
    issue has only now resolved to my satisfaction. (the charge was removed)
    I didn’t win because I was right (I’ve been right before and ended up losing
    (my temper and the issue). It wasn’t because they were nice (they weren’t).
    It wasn’t because I wore them down…well, maybe it was, but the remarkable
    truth is, I never once lost my temper, raised my voice or threatened them with
    bodily harm. (all of which I might have done if not for your article) I just kept
    reading it, and repeating “watch and pray”. It gave me such a sense of peace
    and an unbeatable strength. Not only that it saved me $12.79. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bette Cox says:

    Father God speaks human, Mitch. And he does it very well… whether 3000 years ago in an obscure mountain village whose language has long been lost to the modern world, or 1000 years ago, or today. Holy Spirit is a “universal translator,” isn’t he!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. JOY journal says:

    🙂 We’re always learning. I think that makes God smile.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Never thought of scripture memorization as similar to downloading a file. I like that! The verses are always accessible, ready to offer encouragement and strength from God himself.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I was lucky to be born into a hodgepodge family. My parents were Presbyterian, My grandparents Methodist and my Aunt and Uncle Lutheran. My best friend was Baptist. I attended all of those churches. My parents didn’t care where I went just that I did. Because of my Baptist friend I memorized a lot of scripture and I find myself mentally regurgitating it when I need it. I has been a blessing in my life. I may not be able to quote chapter and verse but I know the quote and can use it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Good for you. And shame on that so-called professor. – “Now you’re thinking! (Now that you’re thinking my way)”

    Liked by 3 people

  9. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    I love that we all are on the path the Lord has placed us on. Even with the bumps and potholes Jesus knows what will open us up to the things of God.

    In Christ,


    Liked by 3 people

  10. numrhood says:

    matthew 4:13 i can do all things
    matthew 51:16 create thee a clean heart
    matthew 39: thou shall fall unto the mountains of israel


  11. There are very few scriptures I know word for word with book, chapter, and verse. Deuteronomy 8:4-7, 10 (because God spoke to me through them) and John 3:16. But I do remember the message, even if the words are paraphrased. Like when anxiety hits me, I know ‘cast my anxieties on Him because He cares for me.’ When my mind starts leading me wrong, I can tell myself to ‘take control of my thoughts and make them obey Christ.’ Also, if I can’t quite remember the message well enough to help my situation, I seem to be able to find it by remembering where I saw it, like for example, its after the intro, on the left page, at the bottom. Odd little things like that.
    I guess my point is that Gods word is effective even if you can’t quote it precisely.
    Thank you for this post, it’s very informative. I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. My mind is now officially boggled.

    Downloading files from God’s word into my brain? Opening the files with a prayer ap?


    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: “Us Time” With God | Mitch Teemley

  14. CG Thelen says:

    My post today is about prayer. Maybe God (via Mitch) is telling me something.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Katherine says:

    I’m glad I have read it again,Mitch.This is my way, to read books or articles over abd over
    until the essence is part of me.Then in bad times they come into my mind like lottle songs
    and I realise my inner self is in tune with the infinite as someone once wrote.Katherine

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pastor Randy says:

    Loved this line: “This was no incantation, it was a conscious reminder.” Lots of Tenured Pew Sitters see prayer as incantations–not a conversation with God. Glad you got it figured out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      ;>) In a way, I came at it from the opposite side, Randy. Being wary of formal (i.e. written) prayers, I was unsure at first whether “praying Scripture” would become rote for me. But it hasn’t. The same verses open new dialogues between God and me every time I recite and meditate upon them.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I actually did learn, not everything I needed but the bare essentials I desperately had to have, in the basement of Ascension Lutheran when I was five years old. I wish I could go back and thank that young woman who answered my questions so simply and well. Instead, here I’ll thank everyone who has ever given their time for religious education–you have no idea the good you might have accomplished.

    And I’m so glad you came to a faith life, Mitch. Early or late, God is always delighted to welcome his beloved sons and daughters.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You have given us much to think about with this one. You will always understand all that is important.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This is the most ‘relevant to me’ thing I could have read today.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. emmalmoore says:

    I was captivated by your story of you transitioning from what was into what is. I love that you didn’t take on woe is me because of what you didn’t learn in Sunday school but you kept moving forward until you are now in a better place. I can’t wait to read the continuation. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: Storing the Truth in Our Hearts | Mitch Teemley

  22. Pingback: Ash Wednesday | Mitch Teemley

  23. I went to Sunday School. Surprising how many things people forget…

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Pingback: Share Your Story | Mitch Teemley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s