Q: Cheating is so common in my school. How can I pray so I’m not tempted?
A: While I was in high school, my family moved from our home in England to another country for a year. This meant a change to what I was learning in school, and I found myself falling way behind as I didn’t have the same academic background as my new schoolmates.
I worked so hard to get my grades up, but as exams got closer, I found that I was barely passing most classes. Exhausted, I knew something had to change. I began to pray.
God’s infinite nature meant that whatever I needed would be there.
One evening I came across these words that God speaks to Joshua in the Bible: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5). I thought of the Moses story and realized that if God could part the Red Sea, supply food and water in the desert, and bring the Israelites out of slavery, then certainly I could rely on Him for my exams. God’s infinite nature meant that whatever I needed would be there, in whatever way I needed it—be it as intelligence, guidance, peace, or clarity.
My first exam was computing. Before the exam, as I sat on a staircase to study, I overheard some of my peers, who were also waiting to take the exam, talking about an aspect of computing which I didn’t know anything about. I asked if they could explain it to me, and they did.
After we spoke, I went to find somewhere quieter to study and ended up sitting outside a classroom. In the classroom were two more of my friends talking about something else from the class—something I had no recollection of learning—so I asked them about it. By this time, I was pretty excited. I had been praying for God’s guidance and here it was in the most unexpected way. After that, I went and found another place to study, and again had a similar interaction with more peers from my class.
When I sat down to take the exam, I had a look through the questions and noticed that all of the things I’d learned just minutes before the exam were on the test. This totally removed any fear of failure, because I felt I’d glimpsed the truth of this statement: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 494).
Partway through the exam, the teacher left the room. This was a country-wide exam, in which every student was supposed to be taking the same exam, at the same time, under the same conditions. So his decision to leave the room seemed to be a deliberate attempt to encourage dishonesty.
I realized that God, being Truth, would never work through dishonesty.
Sure enough, as soon as he was out of the room, my peers started talking among themselves to try to figure out the correct answers. The suggestion came to me, “It’s not your fault if you overhear something you’re not meant to!” There were still a few questions I was struggling with, and I was tempted to believe that maybe this was another way God was helping me out. However, I realized that God, being Truth, would never work through dishonesty. And I knew from reading Science and Health that “honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help” (p. 453). With that, the temptation to cheat left, and I decided to make a conscious effort to tune out my classmates’ discussion.
Minutes before the exam was to end, the teacher, who had at this point returned to the classroom, offered us extra time to finish the test. Again, I recognized this as dishonest, so even though I felt like I could do with some extra time, I stood up at the end of the hour and walked out of the class, alone.
The feeling of Love loving me, which I experienced when I left the classroom, was such a sweet, powerful reassurance that I had done the right thing. Later, I found out that I’d passed the test with a better grade than I expected. More important, though, I gained a deeper understanding of the way putting our trust in God always gives us what we need, which means we can’t be drawn in by the temptation to cheat.
The strength of Truth is behind your desire not to cheat and supports you in trusting God as the source of infinite intelligence that you can never be separated from for a moment. God’s love is taking care of you and will never fail you. As you understand this for yourself, and for the other students who are struggling with the same temptations, the feeling that cheating is just “the norm” can fade and there will be healing.