PrayerDear God. How should pupils be taught to cope with the pressure and stress of examinations? The most recent and most novel suggestion comes from the Church of England: pray your way to a stress free examination season. To this end the Church has published prayers that nervous pupils can utter to help them feel better.

One prayer, to be used by teachers says: “They can get silly if they are nervous or excited. They forget things that normally they know, like their names and the date.”

Forgetting their own names? Are we talking about school pupils here or elderly people with Alzheimer’s?

It seems highly odd to me. I used to love exams, loved learning, loved the reaction I could get from students in a panic on the day of the exam by saying things like “did you get the letter from the exam board about the extra subjects to be learnt for today?” Or when a student said “I revised X Y & Z” I might reply “Why? Sure Professor Smith said we wouldn’t be tested on those.” It was such a wonderful, albeit slightly sadistic, experience and right up my street. I particularly loved the competitive nature of it, and to this day I miss it.

Modern talk about how much more stressful exams are or how much more pressure students are under strikes me as nonsense. Is there stress and pressure? No doubt there is. But exam stress is far from the unbearable burden that many weak-kneed commentators, teachers and students seem to claim it is. Stress and pressure is controlled by hard work: if you’ve put in the time and effort you can handle the stress simply in the knowledge that you have done the work. Stress and pressure are ideal for testing people, and if you can’t cope when under stress and pressure then you aren’t ready to take your nappy off. Seeing how people perform under stress and pressure is a key indicator of their character, spirit, and intellect.

I always imagine God would want us to grow up and learn to be self-sufficient rather than having to rely on divine help every time we’re in a slightly sticky situation. But, nonetheless prayers have been written – six in total – by the Church of England who seem to believe that not only are pupils ill-equipped for exam stress but they’re also too thick to link a few sentences together themselves without being told what to say. It’s not like the prayers are particularly poetic or liturgically deep either. One for teachers says: “I don’t suppose that you have time for this, Lord, but I am nervous. Not for myself, but for my class. Today they have that test, Lord; the one that seems to determine their future. They have worked hard, so have I! They deserve to do well. It should not be a problem, but… well, you know this lot, Lord.” Why does it take an official from the Church of England to write that?

If the Church of England wanted to write an honest prayer for a modern day student it would read something like this:

“Dear God. Holy crap, I haven’t studied. Thank you for the dreams and visions of my future as a refuse collector. You are indeed a wonderful, glorious, merciful, omniscient God. Hey, about that omniscience: you must know a thing or two, having created the world and all that. Any chance of giving me a bit of a heads-up regarding the questions on my exams tomorrow? I know I don’t deserve it, but this Christian friend of mine reckons you do all manner of kind things to undeserving people. In the Bible (some book called ’Resignations’ or something), don’t you say that ‘the last will be first and the first will be the last?’ It would really suit me down to the ground if the last could be first and the first last – not to mention helping to wipe that self-satisfied smirk of the face of that smug bastard with his nose so far up the teachers ass he can see what she had for breakfast. Sorry for swearing there Lord, but it’s just I’m under so much pressure. It isn’t my fault. I just got addicted to Facebook and this really funny video on YouTube with a bunch of rubber chickens and a brush shaft which was much more interesting that Shakespeare. But I really do deserve to pass this exam, because, well , I just do. I promise to do better next time. And if you could organise a brand new Ipod that’d be great too. Tell Jesus I said ‘Hi.’ Amen.”