We recognize that this is an unusual and even unprecedented time to be doing ministry. This post pertains to more normal times, and you may not find it relevant in the next few weeks. However, we are also aware that, with many of us working from home, some people may have more time to read blog posts now than they usually do. We hope that you will be able to read this now and use its guidance at such a time as our activities return to normal.
Every day I find new ways to pray, and I spend a lot of my face time with youth encouraging them to do the same. Most youth are used to praying in church—prayers that are prewritten, read aloud, and repeated Sunday after Sunday. They might seem monotonous or pass our lips without much thought.
Camps are excellent at finding creative and fun ways to pray: a whisper prayer, shouting prayer, dancing prayer, and so much more. These prayers are physical and imaginative, helping children and youth connect to God in ways they maybe aren’t used to from Sunday worship. This deconstructs what a prayer could or should look and sound like.
During Sunday school I invite young children to lead us in prayer. Sometimes they don’t volunteer right away, but I allow for the awkward silence until someone feels nudged to pray. It’s always worth the wait. I remind them that there is no wrong way to pray. We shout, “Prepare your hearts for prayer!” and the children added a clap, rather than bowing our heads and folding our hands, which could reinforce that there is a correct way to pray.
Sometimes we light candles and say a prayer at a prayer station. Other times we use play dough or color with crayons. We have an entire blank wall in our youth room that we cover in prayers and call our prayer wall. I dim the overhead lights, light candles, and the youth bring their sharpies to the wall. I play soft music and guide them in prayer for the world, for their enemies, for their friends and family, and lastly for themselves. It is beautiful to see how they slow down, quiet themselves, and focus on this intentional time of prayer. I give each youth a stack of Post-it notes and ask them to pray for anyone in need. They place the notes on the table, stacking prayer on top of prayer, watching the prayers build up visually. Sometimes we watercolor our prayers—there is no limit to creative ways to pray!
I think this is one of the most important things I can teach all my youth from preschool to high school. They may not remember all the Sunday school stories or all of Jesus’ miracles, but by the time they finish high school they will have prayed in lots of different, creative ways. My hope is that this practice of creativity and a deconstructing of prayer will help them grow in their connection to God, strengthen their faith, and teach them that there is no limit to the ways in which we can pray to God.