During Lent we place a priority on prayer and finding time to connect to God. I have loved the ways that our children experience prayer through writing and sharing prayers in their Sunday school classes. Several years ago we expanded our Sunday school curriculum to explore prayer through prayer centers. We set up centers for coloring, building with blocks, lighting tea lights, reading children’s Bibles and books, and even creating a sand and rock Zen garden in a tray. Each center had a guided prayer with it to encourage play and exploration of the blocks or sand or crayons as they thought about, and prayed for, many different things.
One of my favorite centers is the block building center. In that center the kids feel free to build anything they want. It is always a hit with the architects of the group. The prayer that we share at that center is for all people to have safe shelter for living. The kids are encouraged to pray for those who don’t have shelter that is adequate or safe. They pray in thanksgiving for their own homes and the homes of their friends and family members. This fall there was a devastating storm that damaged many homes in our area. Our prayer this Lent is for those who have lost their homes due to storms, and we pray that God will be our steady shelter in times of trouble and sadness.
At another prayer center the kids enjoy interacting with candles and light. For older children in middle elementary grades, lighting a real candle may be a first-time event. We staff the prayer center with an adult and safety measures like a small bucket of water and a cup of sand to extinguish trouble if something goes wrong. The kids are fascinated by the light and fire, and the prayer is often one of sharing the light of Christ with all in the world. We pray for those who have died, those who are newly born, and those who love us. The candles represent the light in each other. If there are younger kids, we offer LED tea candles with a slight flicker. They are also beautiful and provide a lovely visual of the light of Christ flickering in each of those whom we love.
I enjoy finding new ways to teach children to pray with their hearts, hands, and minds. Be creative. Any activity can be used as an opportunity to talk to God.