For: Lower, Middle School
Pathmaps Points: Awe and Mystery, Values and Beliefs, Transformative Experiences
Summary: A range of activities to help students begin to explore ways of praying. The suggestions given come from the Christian tradition, but some may be adapted appropriately for other traditions.
Middle school students are learning how to express themselves clearly through developing their writing skills. Drawing a prayer allows students to immerse themselves in a situation and prayer for a much longer period of time. Students share with each other what they would like to pray for. After all students have shared their intentions, each student “draws” (no words allowed) a prayer for 15 minutes using markers, colored pencils or crayons. Middle school students love doing this type of prayer. They are always amazed at how fast the time goes, that they prayed for 15 minutes (instead of the typical 2 minutes!), and that they could think about the many aspects of one situation. Often the students want to show their prayers to each other, which is also very meaningful.
Each child may have a loose leaf binder for prayers. One suggestion is to have three sections: one for copying and illustrating liturgical or formal prayers, one for recording prayers written by others (even others in the class), and one for personally written prayers. The binder may be kept in or near the space for group worship.
A journal may also have a section for “blank page” exercises. This term comes from the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and refers to the idea that our time in history is a blank page and that God has been behind the unfolding of creation and history, with each stage contributing to the whole story. In this story, it is our turn now as human beings to contribute as history moves toward its fulfillment. A child can write about commitments he or she wishes to make or values and beliefs that will be guiding principles.
Many children enjoy calligraphy or other age-appropriate embellished writing. They may enjoy copying favorite prayers or single lines from prayer or scriptures. These may be decorated with borders or other illustrations. Touches of gold or silver paint may be added. They may be framed, backed on wood, or laminated.
An open notebook or box near a prayer place provides a way for children to record their prayer requests. More elaborate ways of leaving prayers include hanging a curtain with pockets to hold written prayers, having a string or tree onto which prayers may be hung, or inviting children to leave small stones or other objects in a sacred place to represent their prayers (see the activity for sacred space in this collection). Votive candles may also be lit.
Write a prayer on poster board. Cut it into sections by phrases or sentences. Laminate each section. A child who is memorizing the prayer may enjoy putting it together as a puzzle. The group may enjoy choosing one of the strips or sections for discussion during their prayer time.
Make origami envelopes and fill them with blessing quotes collected from a variety of places (many are available online). Each student gets one and then different individuals can read theirs, memorize it—or contemplate it—and then pass it on. During that week they are encouraged to notice when someone else might benefit from the blessing they received.