Nearly 20 years after the Supreme Court declared prayer in public schools unconstitutional, the battle lines are being drawn again.

While the school-prayer issue has resurfaced periodically since the 1963 decision, seldom has it reappeared with as much passion as in recent months.

As American attitudes appear to shift toward the right, pro-prayer proponents are gaining growing governmental support.

"I would be absolutely opposed to a state-mandated prayer," said President-elect Ronald Reagan as a candidate, "but I have always thought a voluntary, non-sectarian prayer was perfectly proper, and I don't ever think we should have expelled God from the classroom."

Since the courts historically have ruled against school prayer (The Supreme Court last month struck down a Kentucky law requiring posting of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom), advocates have come up with another angle: By-pass the courts.

The Senate passed a bill that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over certain "voluntary" school-prayer cases, but it never made it out of committee in the House. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the new Congress. Supporters point to Gallup Poll figures indicating that 76 percent of Americans would approve a constitutional amendment allowing school prayers.

The debate goes on, with adults squaring off on such isues as separation of church and state, versus the need, as some see it, for "moral guidance." But meanwhile, how do children view prayer in their classrooms?

Here is a sampling of opinions, voiced by third through sixth graders at Francis Scott Key Elementary School in Arlington:

Colleen Donovan, 11, Catholic -- "I don't think it would be very nice to have prayers at school. People have different religions, and we don't agree on the same things.

"Everyone should have their own individual beliefs. It shouldn't have to be taught in the schools. If you have a prayer in your heart, that's all that counts."

Zarrick Veney, 11, Baptist -- "I think it's a good idea because you should thank the Lord for the food you eat and the roof over your head. It makes me feel good to pray. It's a free country, so if people want to pray they should be allowed.

"If people are different religions, they could say prayers that they know how to say. It would be like you do when you go to sleep -- keep it to yourself and talk to the Lord. If someone didn't want to say a prayer, they could do their homework."

Kristi Glomski, 11, Catholic -- "I think it's a good idea to have prayer at school because there people in my class who don't go to church on Sunday, and this way they could learn about religion at school. Otherwise they would never know about it, and they might have trouble when they get older.

"It should be a prayer that has to do with all religions. Or maybe we could have different classes for the different relgions and people with no religion could go to all of them and learn lots of different things.

"I think kids with no religion are missing something. They should believe in God so they can thank him."

William Rozo, 12, Baptist -- "I think it's kind of a good idea because some people in the lunchroom are bad, and it might give 'em more respect to have grace before meals. We did it at summer camp, and it was nice.

"It could just be something like 'God thank you for the food we have today.' Enough people believe in God, so it wouldn't be a problem. If someone didn't like it they could eat in the classroom."

Thien Nguyen, 11, Buddhist -- "I don't think they should have praying in school. If you take time out for prayer, it would take away time from studying other things like math and spelling.

"We pray at home. If they prayed in school, it would probably be a Christian prayer, so I guess I would just stand there and say nothing. I'd tell the teacher the reason."

Charles Tuttle, 11, no religion -- "I suppose it's okay for people who want to pray, but I don't go to church and I don't know a plumb thing about religion. I can't make up my mind if I believe in God.

"I'd feel a little embarrassed at the thought of saying prayers in school because there are lots of things I wouldn't know about. The people who went to church would know how to do it, and I wouldn't.

"They teach about religion in social studies and that's okay -- it's history. If they made us say a prayer I'd probably go along with it, but I wouldn't feel good about it. To learn about it is okay, but not to live it."

Eric Barry, 8, Jewish -- "My dad had prayers when he was in school, and he didn't like it one bit. He was probably one of the only Jews in the school, so he was sort of left out and people made fun of him.

"But if it wasn't a prayer for one religion that left other people out, and was just thanking the earth for having today and not praying to a certain person or God or anything, I think that would be all right."

Eric Schuler, 11, Espiscopalian -- "They wouldn't need churches if they had prayer in the school. But my mom would probably like the idea because she'd like me to have more religion.

"I have enough of prayers at church. I think they're boring. I wouldn't really mind if the prayer was short, but I'd probably play around with other friends during it."

Leonard Romonoski, 12, Catholic -- "If our parents wanted us to have prayers in school they would send us to a private school. We have enough praying in church.

"Having prayers in the school says one religion is right and the others aren't. If they made us say a prayer I would do it, because if I didn't people would rank on me and say I was a baby. But I would not enjoy doing it."

Luis benitez, 11, Catholic -- "I think it's a good idea because praying together and talking about God makes people feel closer. You could have a prayer for the Jews on Monday and a prayer for the Spanish on Tuesday and one for the Arabians on Wednesday . . . just as long as it's fair and everybody learns.

Or you could have prayers in separate groups, according to your religion. I just think everybody should believe in God because, after all, He created this place. If they don't believe in Him, why believe in anything? And school is the place for learning, so why not school?"

Ebie Briskin, 11, Jewish -- "I don't think it's a good idea because people can pray on their own time or at home. We're not in school to pray. We're in school to learn.

"There are kids of other religions here, and the way they pray could be embarrassing to other people. I don't think it would be possible to come up with a prayer that everyone will like. Some people believe in more than one god and some people believe in no god at all.

"People could get discriminated against. I don't think it's fair or appropriate."