Prayer and Young People

Prayer and Young People

Chris and Mary-Jane Konings

Well, at least it is for the majority of youth workers. When we talk spirituality we most often have in mind that aspect of ministry that has us individually or collectively focusing on our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. When we actively seek contact with God, when words such as ‘soul’, ‘spirit’, ‘meaning’, ‘inner-life’, ‘reflection’, ‘meditation’� apply then we are probably talking spirituality. And when we talk spirituality with young people, we often simplify things by referring to it as plain simple prayer.But is it that simple? Youth workers in fact often avoid prayer. It’s like brushing your teeth – you know you should, in fact, if you don’t your teeth will rot and fall out, but somehow it doesn’t always happen.

Back in the seventies, our innovative youth leaders sat us in a circle and invited us to say one sentence “Thank you” prayers. Being a church goer from way back, I didn’t have a problem. But I’ll never forget the anguished whisper from my non-Christian friend “I don’t know what to say!” Here are some ideas to save you and your group the same hideous embarrassment.

The key is to be creative and invite but not force participation. Modelling prayer is a great start. Surround kids in prayer.

Idea One: USE OBJECTS.

Candles are cool. Lit candles are hot! If you’ve never used them before, try placing a fat beeswax or brightly coloured version in the centre of your group as a focal point. Or get the group to pass around the candle. He or she who holds the candle prays out loud or mumbles to themselves and the rest of the group pray silently for that person.Get your kids to bring stuff. Autumn is a great time to pick leaves as a way of hooking into “Creator God” themes but you could also get them to bring photo’s / favourite toys / whatever from home, or make the collection part of an activity.

If you wanted to be a bit more directive, try choosing a symbol. Start with the classics – a wooden cross, a circle of thorns or barbed wire, a nice chalice or goblet, then move on to more obscure things such as chocolate fish (doubling as supper!), skater’s gear (relate to Paul’s ‘armour of light’ – Romans 13:12); stones, small plastic containers…

Idea Two: WRITE IT!

Get your kids to write their prayers. For starters, try writing “I’m sorry” or “I wish I hadn’t” prayers on small strips of paper, then burning them. What about making a whiteboard or blackboard available at the door and inviting kids to write up their “Thank-you” prayers as they come in?Pass around a sheet of paper folded concertina-style. Each person writes a line of a prayer, then folds it away. When everyone has had a chance to contribute, read the whole prayer out.

Re-write a Psalm. You’ll need to choose a short one but invite your teenagers to think up pictures and metaphors that relate to them and their world. For example, instead of looking to the mountains, our kids related more to the crane that was the tallest object in their skyline.

Idea three: EAT IT!

Build prayer times around food and eating together. Not just before you eat, but also incorporating the symbols inherent in food and meals in general. After all, Jesus did it big time!

Idea four: DO IT!

Make prayer a part of your group’s lifestyle. Before you start and as you end – pray. Out loud. Short, specific, informal prayers. Some ideas are:1. God, I’m glad you’re here and I’m here and they are here.

2. Keep us safe on this car trip!

3. Keep us safe on this activity!

4. Bless this food.

Idea five: SING IT.

Sing grace. It’s corny, it’s cheesy and it works. If you can’t hold a tune to save your self, try clapping loudly!

Idea six: SHOUT IT.

Use emotion when praying. Get them to shout out the words like they really mean it. Works great for some of the Psalms. Alternately have people whisper prayers. But you will all have to put your heads together so you can hear what is being said.

Idea seven: BOMB IT.

Say it together. Everyone stands in a circle, puts a hand into the centre on top of each other, then tell everyone you’re going to pray all at once, all together, out loud. It’s a great, non-threatening, way of praying together.