3 ideas for Transforming Prayer
Break your kids out of their “prayer rut,” and plunge them into a deeper encounter with God. A sneak peek at Jenny Baker’s powerful new resource-Transforming Prayers.
When and how do your teenagers pray? Likely, it’s at the end of your meeting or activity. “Let’s pray,” you say, and everyone adopts the shampoo position-heads bowed, eyes closed, fingers entwined in hair. The usual handful of people pray, and the rest remain silent. A few people may glance up now and then to check that the prayer is still going on. And you wonder what’s going on in their heads. Are they really praying?
Maybe that scenario is too cynical for you, but I’m guessing you can relate. This is simply how most of us learned to pray. And that’s why so many of us struggle to pray, including me. That’s why I’ve explored ways to pray that involve all five senses and are about doing, not just sitting. Use these ideas to surprise your young people into an intimate encounter with God.
tied in knots
SCRIPTURE FOCUS: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7
TYPE OF PRAYER: Transformation
TIME NEEDED: 15 minutes
SUPPLIES: Piece of string about 3 feet long for each participant, Bibles
OVERVIEW: Worrying can take up so much energy and time. Often we go over our concerns in our minds again and again, exploring all the “what ifs,” imagining the worst-case scenarios, becoming tense and regretful, and focusing only on ourselves. But Jesus said, “Do not worry,” and Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious.” God knows our needs and will take care of them. We need to let go of our worries and learn to trust him.
SETUP: Cut lengths of string about 3 feet long, enough for all participants. You could distribute these as people come in or have them in a central place for people to take from.
THE IDEA: Invite people to bring to God all the things that are worrying them or causing them concern. For each worry, they should tie a knot in their pieces of string and pray, telling God about each concern and asking him to help them trust him with it. Remind them to not tie the knots too tightly! Allow participants six or seven minutes to identify their worries and tie the knots.
Then ask students to each exchange strings with someone else. As they’re exchanging, have them discuss how this action is symbolic of handing over their worries or of letting go of their worries.
Now, participants should undo the knots in the strings they’ve just received. As they do so, they should pray, thanking God that he cares for the people who tied these knots and that he will answer their prayers. They should pray that the people whose strings they are unraveling will receive God’s peace. It’s often easier for people to have faith that God will deal with someone else’s problems rather than with their own, so as they pray, they should also acknowledge that God will do for them what they’re praying he will do for their friends.
Have each person give the untied piece of string back to its original owner, saying some words of blessing as they do so. They might use Philippians 4:7 as a spoken blessing: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
touch of love
SCRIPTURE FOCUS: Galatians 5:13-14
TYPE OF PRAYER: Intercession
TIME NEEDED: 30 minutes
SUPPLIES: Map of your local area and four or five ink pads of different colors
OVERVIEW: Prayer and service go hand in hand. If we meet people’s needs without praying for God to intervene, how are we different from the secular world? If we sit in our churches and just pray for people “out there,” we miss the opportunity to be the human face of Christ to people in need. This idea gives students an opportunity to pray for their neighbors and encourages them to think about how they can practically serve others.
SETUP: Put a map of your local area out on the floor, or attach it to a wall. Set four or five ink pads around the edge of the map if it’s on the floor or sitting underneath it if it’s on the wall.
THE IDEA: Gather everyone around the map and ask people to identify some places that need prayer, such as a school, a place of unrest or deprivation, your own church, and so on.
After 10 minutes of discussion, invite people to pray for these areas and for Christians they know who are there. Encourage people to especially think about how your group might lovingly influence that area and serve the people. The prayers can be silent or out loud. As they pray, people should press their fingers on ink pads and leave their fingerprints on the map around the specific areas.
After 15 minutes or so, ask people to stand back and look at all the fingerprints on the map. You could put the map up on the wall to remind students they’ve prayed for the area and to encourage them to actively serve the people there.
SCRIPTURE FOCUS: Isaiah 58:1-9; Ephesians 3:20-21
TYPE OF PRAYER: Intercession, petition
TIME NEEDED: 30 minutes
SUPPLIES: Newspapers, boldly colored paints, brushes, poster board, glue, pushpins or poster tacks, scissors, Bible
OVERVIEW: Praying for national or international concerns may sometimes feel like trying to stop the tide by building a barrier with sand. However hard you work, your efforts seem futile, and you feel incapable of making a difference. But we should never forget whom we are praying to. Although we as individuals may not be able to change much, we pray to a God who’s able to transform situations by his power. And our combined efforts in prayer can have an impact beyond our greatest expectations.
SETUP: Attach the poster board to a wall. Collect the rest of the supplies and set them in front of the poster board. The newspapers should be black and white for the best impact. You may want to cover the floor to protect it from paint. If you have a large group, you may want to use more than one poster board.
THE IDEA: Have students cut out situations from the newspapers that need prayer. You could have participants work in twos or threes, so they can talk about why they’re choosing those particular clippings. Have them cut out the whole article-including the headline, text, and any pictures-so there’s a lot for them to paint over later.
Using the glue, have them stick the clippings onto the poster board, forming a collage. The collage should fill the poster board, and the newspaper clippings can overlap each other. It doesn’t matter if the collage looks rather disorganized and chaotic. Give participants about 10 minutes to create the collage.
Once everyone has added newspaper clippings to the collage, ask people to pray for these situations. As they do so, have them paint over each of the clippings with one of the bold colors. This is not to obliterate the stories, but to symbolize their prayers for God to cover the situations with grace and justice and bring about transformation.
You may need to ask people to take turns in the praying and painting stage. Allow four or five people at a time at the poster board; you may give each group about three minutes. Those who aren’t painting can be watching and praying, on their own or in small groups.
During the painting, have someone read aloud Ephesians 3:20-21 to inspire people to be bold in prayer.
If students go to the collage and find their chosen subjects have already been painted over, they can pray anyway and add more paint. Or, they can choose new situations to pray for. Continue until all the situations have been “covered” in prayer.
Ask everyone to stand back and appreciate what’s taken place-color has replaced the black and white. The collage could be left up in the church or a room for a few weeks to remind people what they’ve prayed for, so they can look for answers to prayer.
Jenny Baker is a 15-year veteran youth minister and writer. She’s a leader at Grace, a creative worship community in West London, England. This article is adapted from her book Transforming Prayers (Group Publishing), due for release this December. Copyright 2003, Group Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481.
Copyright Group Publishing, Inc. Nov/Dec 2003
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