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Praying with children and young people

Prayer is such a vital part of our relationship with God, but if we’re being honest, if often gets squeezed out at the end of our session. If we’re doing a face-to-face Sunday session, we could get called back into the service at any time. We get the nod that the sermon is finishing, and we rush to say a one-line prayer to round things up before herding the children or young people back to rejoin the adults. Even online, we can run out of time, with everything taking longer to organise remotely.

But what does that say to the young people and children we work with? If we don’t encourage our groups to pray – both together and individually – or demonstrate it ourselves, then it won’t seem important to them and their faith development will be severely hindered.
Now, not everyone connects with God in the same way, so it’s important that we provide lots of different ways to pray so that children and young people can find the best ways for them to chat with God. At this point, it might be good to read about the spiritual styles research done by Canadian theologian David Csinos. He lays out that there are four basic styles – word, emotion, action and symbol – and that people express their faith in a combination of these. Providing children and young people with different spiritual styles different activities to try will help prompt meaningful prayer, laying the foundations for a vibrant prayer life when they move on from our groups.
Here are some ideas to explore further:

Liturgy

Many churches use a liturgy or service structure that includes prayers and statements of faith. It can be helpful to use these with children and young people, not only to familiarise them with the practices of your church, but perhaps more importantly to help those for whom words or symbols are important to connect with God and talk to him.
Familiarity brought about by repeating prayers over different sessions can help children and young people find the words to pray when they’re not in church or one of our groups. Working on the same principle as learning Bible verses, children and young people can bring to mind prayers when they need them.

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