«

»

May 20

5 ways to get young people praying together

 

One of the essential elements of discipleship is teaching young people that they can have a personal, intimate relationship with God. He longs to engage with them and to talk with them. Sadly, too often we have made out that prayer is some weird, technically-challenging process that means only the most holy can really grasp it.

 

praying handsWhen we misunderstand what it means to have a personal relationship with God, we can fear praying because we think we may say the wrong thing or not be using the right language.

I have noticed recently in some children’s work, that instead of talking about praying, they talk about chatting with God. This dispels any strangeness of prayer, and communicates that it is more natural to chat with God. Chatting, of course, implying a two way conversation so we talk and we listen to what He might want to say to us.

Then there is the issue of helping young people be used to praying together in our youth group sessions. This can be a whole other ball game, often limited by the leaders’ experiences and expectations of praying out loud.

I have heard lots of reasons why we should not be too concerned with whether the group prays out loud or not, including that ‘praying out loud doesn’t make them more of a Christian’, and ‘prayer is a deeply personal experience not a shared one’. But the reality is these are just excuses for our fear of praying. It is clear from Scripture that Jesus prayed with people and we need to be encouraging our young people to do the same.

So here are five ways you can start to encourage your group to pray together if they have never before. Each one builds on the former so you might want to try them out over a period of 5 weeks, or longer.

 

1. Bowl full

Give everyone a piece of paper and a pen and ask them to write down something they would like to thank God for. They then fold this up and put it into a bowl. When everyone has done this, mix the papers up in the bowl and then ask people to take one out at random. Invite the group one at a time to tell God what is written on the paper using a structure such as, ‘Thank you God for….Amen’. Short and sweet, it builds up confidence that prayers don’t have to be long and it can be normal to talk to God together.

You might like to try this with other questions: Something you would like God’s help with this week, someone you know who needs God’s healing, a country in the world where they need God’s peace.

2. Pass the prayer

Stand in a circle and have an object such as a ball or a Bible, anything really! I’ve known some groups use a teddy bear! Invite people one at a time going round the circle to pray a short prayer. Like bowl full, it can be a prayer of thanks, petition, intercession or whatever. They can only pray if they are holding the object. Once they have prayed, they pass the object to the person next to them. If they don’t yet want to pray out loud,they simply pass the object on to the next person.

This activity encourages engagement but does not force anyone to do it if they are too self-conscious. You can do this different ways. I have done it by holding hands with the people either side of you in the circle and squeezing the next person’s hand to ‘pass on the prayer’.

I’ve also done it with a ball of string where you pray and then throw it to someone else in the circle (anyone), whilst you hold on to the start of the string. They pray, hold on to a bit of string too and then throw the ball to another person. It starts to create a pattern across the group, like a prayer web and people can pray more than once if they are thrown the string more than once.

3. Highs and lows

Invite the group to get into pairs and ask them to share a highlight of their week and also something which has been difficult or disappointing, a lowlight of their week. Then ask them to take it in turns to pray for each other, thanking God for the good thing and asking for help for the difficult. Keep it brief and as normal as possible. With one group I ran, we did this most weeks that after a while we just said find someone for ‘highs and lows’ and they immediately knew what to do and got on with chatting and then praying without any obvious direction from the leaders. Wonderful!

4. Trackers

Keep a track of prayer requests for the group. Purchase a prayer journal and at the end of each meeting ask the group what we should pray for this week. Ask someone to write the requests in the book and then invite a time of prayer, or chatting with God, about these issues. Next week, take time to look back and see where there have been clear answers and thank God for these. Where there have not been answers, ask whether we should keep praying for those things or whether to let them go. Then pray some more!

5. Huddles

Invite the group to get into groups of 3 and to stay standing. Encourage one person in each group to go first and to share how they are doing and what they would love God to do for them in their life. Then ask the other two people to stand either side of them, put a hand on each shoulder and to pray simple prayers to God for this person. When they have finished, one of the pray-ers then goes in the middle and they pray for them. Allow enough time for all three to share and be prayed for.

 

Prayer is a wonderful privilege which God offers us. The opportunity to talk with the creator of the universe. It is essential that we as youth leaders share this privilege with those we lead.