We’ve put together three ways you can pray with teenagers. We used these during worship at Animate, our summer program in worship, theology, and the arts, and we found ourselves in meaningful conversations after worship based on the words we prayed together.
1. Pray through a Taizé service. The Taizé tradition comes from a community in France. A typical Taizé service includes sung and chanted prayers, meditation, periods of silence, and liturgical readings. We held our worship gathering at 9pm in an old, historic, chapel, and one of our students said after, “I felt like I was part of a much larger tradition in these prayers.” See a copy of the worship service we used here.
2. Pray the Headlines. Prayers are written specific to recent world events. Here is an example of how we prayed the headlines with teenagers in June 2016, when the world was not as it should be:
Headline // Orlando Mass Shooting
On June 12, 2016, a mass shooting–an act of hate and terror–occurred inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, resulting in 50 deaths, including the gunman, as well as 53 additional injuries. It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history.
Let us pray,
God, we cry out to you for the pain and suffering experienced by the victims, their families and loved ones, and Orlando’s LGBT and Latino communities. We pray for the day when God will be all in all, when righteousness and peace will flourish. For those who love us, we pray. For those who hate us, we pray. Lord, have mercy.
Headline // Alabama State Government Corruption
Currently in Alabama, the state’s three most powerful public officials—the governor, the house speaker, and the chief justice—are each embroiled in scandals of corruption, mismanagement, and dishonesty. Although citizens depend on elected officials who will act in the public’s interest, Alabama suffers because politicians are seeking their own personal gain.
Let us pray,
God, we lament that our world has been trapped by our fall, with governments entangled by human pride and greed. We ask for public leaders who labor for the welfare of the people, for justice among the poor, for mercy toward the prisoner, and for freedom of the oppressed. For governments who claim their policies are heaven-blessed while seeking their own gain, Lord, have mercy.
Headline // Alligator Attack in Florida
On June 14, a toddler was dragged into a lake at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort by an alligator after dark. In spite of the boy’s father’s best efforts, the boy was unable to be rescued. Orlando officials scoured the lagoon and recovered the boy’s body on June 15. The victim’s family has expressed their shock and grief as a result of this horrific event.
Let us pray,
God, when senseless tragedy occurs, we rarely know how to respond. We pray for this toddler’s family, and for all people whose lives are filled with meaningless pain, loss, and sadness. Hear our lament as intercessory prayer, and give us your grace to make us hopeful again. For the brokenhearted, Lord, have mercy.
Headline // Treatment of Migrant Workers
Every year migrant workers come to the U.S. on H-2 visas to perform low-wage jobs such as picking fruits and vegetables. Last year over 175,000 workers came on these short-term visas. However, the U.S. Department of Labor rarely requires employers to leave the program after exploitation, human rights violations, or labor law violations surface. Earlier this month a migrant worker, who had sustained a serious head injury on the job, died after being sent back to Jamaica where he had no labor rights or access to health care.
Let us pray,
God, we lift in prayer all those who must leave their homes to find work. We pray for their protection from exploitation. We pray for those who pass the laws and those who monitor the regulations that ensure safety for these people. May the image of God found in these migrant workers be protected and valued. For those who are exploited and abused, Lord, have mercy.
(The first three prayers were written by Emily Andrews, our Assistant Director. The last prayer was borrowed from the CRCNA Office of Social Justice.)
Pray in Color. During Animate, students participated in an exercise from our friend Sybil MacBeth’s book, Pray and Color: A Coloring Book and Guide to Prayer. In this book there are thirty-two coloring pages designed as templates for prayer, which includes fourteen different prayers:
Prayers for Others; Prayers for Myself; Disgruntled Prayers; Gratitude or Gruntled Prayers; Praise or Adoration Prayers; Confession or Regret Prayers; Spending Time with God Prayers; Blessing Prayers; Praying for Your Enemies; Praying a Passage of Scripture;Praying Your To-Do List; Daily Inventory Prayer–Examen; Hodgepodge Prayers; Praying in Calendars
To hear more from Sybil on praying in unique ways, you can watch our interview with her here.