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.
When 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!
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!
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.
One of our biggest responsibilities as adults is to teach and train our kids core principals from the Bible to give them a solid foundation in Christ as they grow. You don’t have to walk very far to see how important it is to pray right now. It seems like each generation gets a little more out of control than the last one. Here are 7 prayers you can pray for young people (ages 20 and under) and the next generation.
Father in Heaven,
I pray that You would raise up a generation of children that would fear You greatly! Lord, I’m scared about where our country is headed. Many bad decisions are affecting our kids. Abortion is not a scary word anymore. Father, our kids need to know to fight for what’s right and I pray that You would use me to help Your cause to raise a generation of young people that will continue to fight for You! I love You! Amen
“We know what’s right! We’ll stand and fight! It’s time to rise!” (We Know What’s Right, Whitecross)
You know the hearts of our young kids. I pray that you would grow a desire in them that some would devote a life of service to a ministry. We need honest preachers. We need passionate worship pastors. We need men that will take hold of these desires and run with them. You can do great things, Father, through us and I pray that You will use the Holy Spirit to speak to our adolescent children to grow a passion inside of them that wants to know You more and live for You daily! I love You! Amen
“And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”(Romans 10:15)
Your Own Kids
I love my children so much and I know that they are learning to love You more daily. Father, I am scared for them because everything around them says You are a lie. I pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them daily to know what is right and what choices they should make. I know that they are only with me for a brief time and I pray that I would be found faithful in Your sight with how I raise them. I will continue to pray with them and encourage them to read their Bibles daily. Lord, I believe Jesus! He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) I pray that my children will grow to believe the same way. I put them in Your hands, Father. Amen
“And when you feel like giving up, I will walk you through the pain. And when you feel like life’s too much, remember Jesus is your strength always.” (Always, Seventh Day Slumber)
O Father in Heaven,
My heart is breaking for the young men and women who are social outcasts. The news tells the same story every single night. Someone is being bullied or shot. Father, this is chaotic! Please, Lord, protect the ones who cannot protect themselves. Some kids are so emotionally traumatized that they have attempted to take their own lives…some have succeeded. Father, I pray that You would place men and women of faith in the paths of these kids to show them that they are special and they are loved. Until they see love they will only continue in the spiral of endless chaos. Father, use me to help in any way! I love You! Amen
“I will not turn my eyes. I will not ignore their cries…Orphans come home. The kingdom is yours.” (Orphans, Impending Doom)
I thank You for the men and women that lead teams of missionaries to help spread the truth of the Gospel of Christ. I pray that as our church is planning its next trip that our young men and women will step up and fill the need. I have seen You move on these trips in mighty ways! Many people who needed clothes, shoes and a roof for their head have come to know and love You because of people willing to go on a missions trip. Lord, I will encourage the young people to go, just as You have told us to go in the great commission. I love You! Amen
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
In The Womb
I pray for those yet to be born. There are thousands and thousands of little babies waiting to be born from their mommies. I pray that these little ones will hear the truth of the Bible as they grow older. I pray for Your protection on them in the womb. Without new life, we would be extinct and children are a huge blessing. Guide, guard and direct these little ones as they grow in You. They could change the world because of You! I lift them up to You in the name of Your precious Son. Amen
I pray for the young men and women who have left their faith behind to indulge in the desires of the flesh. Father, I pray that You would open their eyes to see the decay that is around them. I pray that they would understand their sin fully and repent. Lord, bring them to their knees in sadness and remorse for the terrible things they have done. Until they see the need for Jesus they are doomed for hell. Please, Father, draw them back to You. Use men and women of faith to love on them and show them truth in the midst of the deception they are living in. The devil is crafty, but You are Holy! All things are possible through You! I love You! Amen
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
These are only 7 of many prayers you could pray for our young people and the next generation. We need to be in prayer daily for them! So, please, take just 2 minutes of your day and say a quick prayer to God for a young person you know. It may be the very thing that launches that young person into a life of service to the Lord! May God bless you as you continue to live a life worthy of the calling!
More about raising up children: How to Raise A Child in A Christian Home
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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Looking for new ideas to incorporate into the Sunday Intercessions I asked a friend who teaches middle school Earth Science if she could find a way to ask her classes for insights. As these are public school teenagers (basically 13 years old) the question would have to be posed delicately.
So she showed them a short film about a town that had been leveled by a tornado. An elderly woman was interviewed who had survived by hiding in the bathroom of her home with her dog in her arms. After the tornado came through which lifted her up and threw her outside, she was found lying in the wreckage, calling for the dog, but there was no response.
But during the interview the camera woman saw the dog trapped underneath the house-debris. When the dog was freed and given back to the owner she said, “God already answered my prayer that I’d survive and now has answered another prayer, that I’d find my dog alive.”
After the film the young people formed groups to discuss the woman’s response to surviving and having her dog returned alive. In one group there was a Muslim boy wearing a round cap, a Sikh boy wearing a turban and a Hindu girl. These are the American-born sons and daughters of immigrants from India, Pakistan, Philippines, China, Vietnam, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Jamaica West Indies, Puerto Rico, Mexico and even one from Romania.
The teacher asked: “If you were going to pray, what would you pray or wish for? Write what you want, but don’t pray that your favorite team will win. And no one else will know what you’ve written.” Some of the teens have a larger world view already while others see the world smaller, more immediate and close. We might read between the lines and detect school fears and learning issues, depression, distraction and anxieties. Here are their prayer-concerns.
- for happiness in my family
- for people who are sick and who will never get better
- for cures for diseases
- for a cure for cancer
- for terrorism to end
- for no more bombings
- to see my family again
- for people who have no food
- to keep my family safe and together
- for world peace
- for friendships to last
- for the people whose house burned down
- for people not to talk behind your back
- to be happy
- for wars to end
- for kids in hospitals
- for people with autism
- to feel safe
- to be a good person
- for people to be nice to each other
- to stay in one place
- to feel normal
I think these prayer concerns are amazing in their sensitivity and awareness. Some people ask if prayer works. That sounds magical to me. For me, the first thing prayer does is it awakens the heart. That’s all I care about – that our hearts come out of the alluring coma. We hope that each generation will somehow be better than the one before. I feel hope here.
LYON, France, December 7, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — For the fourth time in recent months, a group of youth singing the rosary interrupted an ecumenical service at a Catholic church.
Young Catholics gathered last Friday as faithful witnesses to pray at St. Irénée Church in Lyon duirng an interfaith service attended by the local Archbishop, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.
A video capturing a brief portion of the incident shows the young men kneeling and singing as armed policemen assemble to remove them from the church.
The ecumenical service was the conclusion of commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, La Croix reported.
The Catholic Youth Movement of France and France Jeunesse Civitas conducted the disruption to “publicly repair this offense to God and his Church.”
“Catholic activists could not let this scandal go unpunished,” a translated post on the Civitas website said. “So we gathered in this church to denounce this sacrilegious meeting and pray to the rosary saint.”
“What a sad fact,” they said, “the religious authorities have abandoned almost all Catholic doctrine and let error invade our sacred places.”
The group’s post said all of the ecumenical participants had left before the rosary concluded, attributing this to the strength of the prayer. The report said some members of the group distributed an explanatory flyer while most sang the rosary on their knees, enduring “insults and mockery.”
“In 2017, when French Catholics pray in a church,” they said, “the police are sent on the spot to expel them with HKG36 machine guns.”
The La Croix article called the young people “nationalist and traditionalist Catholic youths” and reported that they had “shaved heads and black clothes” and “were shouting ‘Hail Mary’ loudly and repeatedly.”
According to La Croix, a representative from the Archdiocese of Lyon is considering reporting the incident to the French Bishops’ Conference for advice on how to respond in the future.
It was the fourth such incident in France and elsewhere in Europe in the last three months, Church Militant reported.
In October in Brussels, Belgium, a dozen Catholics also prayed the rosary to interrupt a Protestant service at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. That service was a commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation as well. Police removed the rosary protesters, most of them young people, after they delayed a Protestant minister’s sermon for 40 minutes.
Also in October, Catholic young people praying traditional Catholic prayers interrupted a Reformation celebration at Our Lady of White Mantles in Paris.
Video of the Paris incident shows hecklers harassing the prayer protesters, including making physical contact with them as they were kneeling and praying.
A fourth protest involved a Catholic church hosting a Muslim religious leader in November in the Archdiocese of Bordeaux. Catholics prayed the rosary to interrupt an interfaith gathering that included a speech from Imam Hassan Belmajou. According to Church Militant, the Imam has alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
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