As religious people, prayer is something we engage in on a regular basis. Whether in our worship together, in small groups, before meetings, or at home, we pray to call God into our midst and call upon God to help us in what we are doing. However, some struggle to use prayer from a book and others struggle to pray without a book. As the year begins and as we head toward Lent, now is the time when many are looking at their prayer practices and wondering how they can do it more, try something new, or begin a new practice. Here are a few ideas to get you started. They can be used with many different age groups and in a wide variety of settings.
Whatever you are used to, try doing something different.
If you are used to always grabbing a book to pray (like myself and many other Episcopalians) that is a great practice since those prayers are rich and meaningful for many reasons. However, now might be a good time to simply sit with God and pray what is on your heart. Do not worry about words, do not worry about it being perfect, and do not worry about it being “complete” because prayer is never complete. Prayer is about calling on God, being with God, and about listening to God.
If you are used to not praying by using a book, try looking for a book that is rich in prayer that you can use once a day. There are many great books from the Iona community, pick up a worship book from another tradition, and there are a wide variety of daily prayer books that can help you with this practice.
When you are with a group, invite them to use a creative prayer.
Often when gathering in groups, we open or close in prayer. Find unique ways of doing prayer together for example:
- One word: One person begins by saying one word, followed by the next and so on around the circle. Everyone in the circle says one word as it moves around the circle thus creating a prayer together. Usually it will move around the circle two or three times before someone thinks the prayer is complete and says Amen.
- Gathering prayer scrabble: As a group is gathering have a sentence for the group to complete such as, “I ask God for…” or “I give thanks for…” or “God, help me to…” Have a scrabble board out and invite them to complete the sentence using the scrabble tiles and building off of one another’s words. Once you are gathered, have someone read the beginning sentence and the words from the scrabble board.
- Prayer Tree: As people are gathering, have an old branch or a board with nails or something you can hang things on. Invite them to write a prayer on a piece of paper and hang it on a branch for the meeting. Before the meeting ends, invite them to take a prayer (other than their own) with them and pray it for the week. This practice brings the group closer together and helps demonstrate that prayer is both individual and communal.
Close your day with prayer and gratitude.
This may seem simple, yet it is something that helps you close your day, find good in even the worst day, and wake up feeling ready to begin again. Busted Halo has a great instruction sheet on the Examen which invites you to find a quite place, identify a moment of gratitude, ask for freedom, review your day, talk with God, and finish your prayer.
If nothing else, start a journal and list five things you are grateful for each day. Prayer and gratitude have a profound way of effecting our lives and helping us continue our journey with God in a humble, grateful, and honest way.
Originally posted at the Faith Formation Learning Exchange, January 2014
Written by The Rev. Shannon Kelly