«Prayerful prayer Prayer should be created in a ‘prayerful’ or ‘worshipful’ context. The act of writing or creating a prayer can be considered ...»
Developmental Prayer November 2014
Prayer is a form of expression which has a long and complex history. The language of prayer (and
prayers) and the ways in which prayer plays a part in worship and personal devotion have varied and
developed according to era and context across a wide span of time. This language and role of prayer
is something which we grow into through praying for ourselves, sharing our prayers and using the
prayers of others in worship. As children (and adults) develop their understanding and expression of faith a growing appreciation of the breadth of prayer, including the writing (creating) of prayer, is essential in their development as worshippers and leaders of worship.
There is a difference between saying, or creating prayers and experiencing prayer. There is no reason why children should not hear and participate in prayers of all kinds at any age.
Prayerful prayer Prayer should be created in a ‘prayerful’ or ‘worshipful’ context. The act of writing or creating a prayer can be considered as worship in itself. It is always a response to a person’s understanding of God (or the numinous) and the needs of ourselves and our community.
Prayer should be linked to action.
There are many ways in which prayer is a vital part of the work of the school:
Prayer can accompany the raising of money and in blessing the final gift;
It may be appropriate to pray for staff and pupils who are sick... and send them a card!
Prayer at birthdays or baptism anniversary Creative approaches Throughout the pattern of development opportunities should also be found for ‘wordless prayer’— silence is commonly used but also consider prayer as image, movement, sound...
Such ‘creative’ dimensions to prayer such as ‘Prayer Spaces’ or ’Experience Easter’ will serve to enhance children’s (and adults’) understanding of prayer. Opportunity should be given to children to reflect on their experience and to explore ways in which this can enrich their own prayer lives and contribute to the role of prayer in the school community and worship.
Links with the local church can provide a range of creative opportunities and experiences.
Conversations with Clergy, Children’s Leaders and Youth Leaders might be a source of useful ideas.
Worship and belief Any form of prayer needs a context. At its simplest, when we say ‘thank you’, what are we saying ‘thank you’ for? Who are we saying thank you to? Worship or ‘liturgy’ gives that context. It lays out the beliefs of the school and the expectations of its members.
It is important that we do not assume the ‘beliefs of the school’ and the ‘beliefs of its members’ to be the same. It is the expectations that should match. So, it is expected that at times the school will be ‘prayerful’ or ‘at prayer’ but within this the expressions will depend on both the faith of the individuals andtheir experience of the nature of prayer and praying.
Developmental Prayer November 2014 Care should be taken to consider the role of prayer in your community. Strong multi-faith communities may engage very positively with prayer activities. Though care needs to be taken with the way that prayers are made. Some ideas (such as the Teaspoon or TUM prayers) can be used by adherents of practically all faiths. Those for whom prayer is alien will need some special care contemplative approaches often work well here.
Sources of prayer There are many anthologies of prayer, these include the prayer books of various churches but also historic prayers and indeed hymns, many of which are prayers in origin or intent. However it is (in Christian prayer) essential that the Bible is maintained as the principal source for prayer alongside the experiences and ideas of the children.
A Note on Confession The idea of confession is an automatic aspect of prayer for Christians. It reflects an understanding of the ‘fallenness’ of the human condition. This, as far as it goes, seems all well and good for Christians themselves, but it is not quite so simple - even within Christianity. There are a multitude of understandings about ‘the fall’ in Christianity and the whole is bound with the concept of sin, its origin and the work of Christ in ‘saving from sin’.
For people who are not Christians - or have no familiarity with the very complex issue of sin - the idea of little children having to ‘confess’ or say ‘sorry’ to God is very difficult indeed. No one disagrees with the idea of ‘apologising’ if some wrong has been committed, but why if you have said sorry to the friend you pushed in the playground do you have to say sorry to God as well? NonChristian adults (and even some Christian ones) find the whole idea of confession challenging. Not usually in itself, but because it implies that children are somehow ‘sinful’ or ’wrong’ in themselves.
While this may be a misunderstanding of the Christian position it is prevalent among some who work with young children. In fact the very idea that Christianity suggests that little children are ‘sinful’ can be a reason for some to reject the tenets of the faith.
There are, of course, very good reasons for encouraging children to be morally reflective and for including this reflection in their prayers. Indeed the Lord’s Prayer has a confessional aspect, but it is very direct. It avoids ‘sorry’ as such and binds God’s forgiveness to our own willingness to forgive.
The Lord’s Prayer also has as its context the words of Jesus concerning forgiveness.
There is no reason to avoid confession altogether but it is essential that we allow children to develop their understanding of confessional aspects of prayer as they grow. Part of this will be to encourage exploration of confession through Bible stories and other tales.
What we must avoid at all costs is the coercion of children into a Christian confessional - this moves, critically, from collective worship to corporate worship which is inappropriate in a school setting.
Developmental Prayer November 2014
Some thoughts on Prayer - adapted from F. Heiler
Secular Spirituality: a surprising modern phenomenon, in the face of the decline of organised religion, has been the steady persistence (or even growth) of secular spirituality, a kind of worldly mysticism in which the one ‘praying’ proceeds by immersing their life with the world. This secular prayer may not include God at all, but instead be the effort to connect with nature. Secular prayer may also simply be a type of meditation.
Primitive Prayer: The most basic petitions to higher beings derive from felt needs and fear. The basis of these prayers focuses on deliverance from misfortune and danger. This type of prayer can be found in all facets of life, from ‘primitive’ cultures to superstitious ‘western’ societies. When such prayers seem to be heard, and even answered, the culture is likely to progress into ritualistic prayer.
Ritual Prayer: While primitive prayer may come from the heart, once it is recognized that it might produce ‘results’, efforts are made to replicate the effects. Ritualistic prayer derives from such pragmatism in which superstition leads to formulaic prayer. In this case, the form, instead of the content, is thought to produce the results. Many Christians can fall into this superstition by ending all prayers, “in Jesus’ name” this formula is derived from Jn 15:16 and further in Jn 16, though many forms of prayer (such as the Lord’s prayer Matt 6:13 / Lk 11: 2 and examples in the epistles) use no such formula. The next progression is recognition of the importance of content over method.
Cultural Prayer: In the developing western cultures, more emphasis was placed on moral needs than physical needs. So historically the refined primitive prayer developed to seek endorsement and support from gods for cultural (moral) needs instead of individual needs. This type of prayer was often the duty of the elite (priesthood) and soon became associated with the distribution of power (hegemony). Within this there has always been a stream of ‘votive’ prayer with individuals praying for such things as healing or fruitful marriage.
Philosophical Prayer: The progression from cultural prayer leads into a consideration of the relationship between creation and creator. At this point, the person praying recognizes that naïve and realistic prayers may not affect the order of the universe. At this level the question “Why pray?” is first is introduced. Any communicative prayer for petition becomes misguided as it seems the immutability of God precludes his intercession or such prayers are merely just beggings in the face of a fickle and capricious deity. Prayers then turn only to thanksgiving. At this point prayer meets a fork in the road. We can continue to build up banks of thanks or, through prayer, seek to enrich and deepen our understanding of (and relationship with) God. This latter leads to a development of prayer which, though its diversity, enables us to encounter God in a variety of ways and thus provides an opportunity to understand ourselves in the context of a relationship with God.
Mystical Prayer: At this level of prayer, the person praying recognizes that God is outside them, but capable and willing to indwell and unite with them through conversation and transformation.
Mystical prayer contains such elements as petition and revelation. The major difference between Mystical and Prophetic prayer (below) is the motive of the prayer - Mysticism seeks an illumination rather than intervention.
Prophetic Prayer: The highest form of prayer, according to Heiler, is that of the Biblical model. In this model relies on the ability to speak directly to God without formula or meditation and (symbolically) began when the veil was rent on the day Christ was crucified. Prophetic prayer allows for all the earlier forms at any time. This encourages prayer which is unrestricted by external factors but is sensitive to, and able to use, those factors including patterns of language commonly found in churches. This is clearly spelt out in St Paul’s comments in 1 Cor 14 where understanding is paramount.
These forms omit some cultural expressions beyond western Christianity. Some notable exceptions being danced prayer, some forms of yoga, various meditative practices and even the use of drugs.
Developmental Prayer November 2014 Developmental Prayer This Prayer file has 3 bands which form a ‘progression’. The bands do not correspond to ages or Key Stages and progression from one band to another does not imply that the earlier stages are abandoned.
It is suggested that schools create a constant thread through which prayer can be expressed. This allows for progress to be recorded and even ‘monitored’. The examples for this are the use of prayer letters or beads. As progress is made through the bands some evidence of increasing sophistication should appear in children’s letters or bead prayers.
Band 1 ‘Mnemonic’ prayers Me, you and us Silence Band 2 Prayer with purpose - thanksgiving, offertory, peace Bible prayers Intercessory frames Silence Band 3 Collects Intercessions Litanies Pronouns The Trinity Silence Threads These provide linking activities which allow the children to create prayer regularly. These should be gathered so that the developmental path can be seen.
Prayer Letters (journals) Prayer Beads Extras : Classic prayers Developmental Prayer November 2014 Writing Letters to God When we write a letter we start with words which tell who the letter is written to.
When we pray we begin with words which tell us that the prayer is to God. This gives us a chance to explore ways of addressing God...
Our Father, Almighty God, Heavenly Lord...
Does the address for God link to the content of the prayer?
The letter itself says things about our relationship:
If we have done things to upset God or our friends we might say sorry;
We might want to ask for something, Or share some news - sometimes to say thank you, sometimes to tell of trouble There could be something to celebrate ...
At the end of our letter we write some closing words. Often this is just ‘amen’ but might also include something like ‘in Jesus’ name’, a common ending used in response to words from John’s Gospel
chapters 15 & 16. There are many other ideas:
Through Jesus Christ our (my) Lord Lord of life, hear our (my) prayer Lord graciously hear us (me) With thanks to you, O God The only limit to the possibilities here is the imagination of the writer. The Bible, of course, can provide many ideas for closing prayers.
A variation on the idea of letters might be a prayer (reflective) journal or diary.
Developmental Prayer November 2014 Prayer beads Each bead can remind us of various things to pray for, or reflect upon Our relationships Friends, Family, School, Community, Ourselves Creation Forests, Seas, Mountains, Deserts, Sky The needs of the world – Hunger, Lack of water, War, Disease, Poverty … A fashionable variation on the beads is the use of Loom bands… http://www.faithinhomes.org.uk/praying-with-loom-bands/ Developmental Prayer November 2014 Band 1 Mnemonic prayer Mnemonics give a simple structure to the creation of prayer. They provide a form around which prayers can be developed, but they can become limiting frameworks. The teaspoon prayer for example has led to an automatic beginning to all prayers: ‘Dear God, Thank-you….’ This is so much so that when working with other forms of prayer (such as Collects) children have had to literally unlearn the formula. When using mnemonic frameworks children should be encouraged to use a variety of ways of addressing God and finding other ways to say ‘thank you’! When working with such rule driven prayer structures it is often the ones that break the rules which are the best - resist making the framework more important than the child’s imaginative engagement with the process.
Teaspoon Prayers (TSP): Thank-you, Sorry, Please A quite intimate frame for prayer. Some care needs to be taken over ‘sorry’, who are we saying sorry too? And why? See the ‘note on confession’ above.