Prayer on the go

Beth Barnett experiments with praying anytime and anywhere, in the midst of everyday life.

If you grew up in a traditional church culture you might have learned the practice of bowing your head and closing your eyes to pray. When a group of grown-ups prepares to pray, this is often what they do. In many schools and churches, this practice is also taught to children.

There can be something lovely about closing our eyes and becoming still – shutting out the distractions and distresses of the day for a few moments.

But not all prayer is or should be like this!

In fact, to encourage children in prayer, it’s just about the most unhelpful thing grown-ups can do!

Our children are primed to learn at a fantastic speed through taking in lots of information via their senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) as well as their emotional radars. They use all of these senses to gather information and process it in order to make sense of the world, to work out how to go about living in this amazingly complex and challenging cosmos!

Our children depend on the external world. They are highly sensitive to what we do – how we ‘model’ our behaviour. They watch and learn and imitate our actions and ways of living and dealing with reality.

One of the key skills of parenting and coaching children is to be able to give them access to the information they need.

You can see, then, that it will not always be the most helpful thing to help children pray, if the ‘model’ is that we always shut down and internalise our prayers in quiet stillness.

Life is full of on-the-go moments in which prayers can happen. These occasions, where action and prayer meet up and do a quick high-five, grow our children’s confidence that God is with them constantly, that prayer is not too hard, and that prayer is part of their ‘toolbox’ of responses to any situation. Prayers on the go, in the midst of life, empower us. Often we are faced with confounding situations in which we feel we don’t know what to do, or are powerless to do anything. That’s never a good feeling.

A prayer – even a really brief prayer (and I’m talking those one and two word prayer as much as the twenty word prayer) – cracks the paralysis of powerlessness and gives us a way forward. At the very least, whatever else is going on, we can turn-out a prayer. And this can be the handle that begins to set other things moving.

On-the-go prayers

Try some of Beth’s examples of ‘on-the-go’ prayers. Have a go at making some prayer moments with your children – or even just for yourself!

A moment of panic when something is lost: ‘Dear God, keep us calm.’

A moment of confusion: ‘Dear God, help us think clearly.’

A moment of beauty: ‘Wow – your world is amazing, God!’

A moment of disappointment: ‘Great God, this sucks. But thank you that it’s not the end of the world.’

A moment of bad news: ‘Loving God, we are so sad.’

A moment of winning: ‘Great God, thanks for top times!’

A moment of sad news about friends: ‘Loving God – please bring comfort for our friends, comfort for us.’

A moment of friendship: ‘Thanks, God, for friends – help us to be loyal.’

A moment of stress: ‘Dear God – keep us on track.’

A moment of need: ‘Dear God – we are stuck. You can help. Thank you.’

A moment of regret or mistakes or wrongs: ‘You are the God of second chances.’

A moment of anger: ‘Great God – our feelings are really strong: we know you are stronger.’

A moment of disaster: ‘God – this is terrible. Show us hope.’

Beth is currently undertaking doctoral studies in the area of New Testament examining the constructs of maturity in the letters of Paul. She has held pastoral roles in Baptist and Anglican churches and been a long-term volunteer in the missions of Scripture Union, for whom she is a freelance resource writer and trainer. She teaches units in Children and Families Ministry and Biblical Studies at Stirling College, as well as guest lectures in other Melbourne, Australia, colleges. Internationally, she is a writer and facilitator in the Child Theology Movement.

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