Praying with Older Children

Praying with Older Children

from Living the Good News

Just as older children (ages 9, 10, 11) have varied learning styles, they also have varied reactions to church and religious education. Some like to come to church to hear the music or sing in the choir. Some like the beautiful surroundings of a traditional church building. Almost all of them are happier in a group that has a few of their friends there, too.

Their understanding of God is formed the same way an adult’s understanding is formed: by personal reflection on their own experience and by their participation in the faith community’s heritage of experience. Some older children have a rich spiritual environment; they hear age-appropriate faith stories, are invited to share in adult prayer, worship and ministry, and are encouraged to speak openly about their own beliefs. Others may have heard only an occasional story that confuses them, without the opportunity to talk about their feelings with a sympathetic and knowledgeable adult.

Sometimes children find the idea of a God who is always with them frightening: they worry that God is someone who will know when they’re bad and will be angry with them. Some find the ideas of a God who is always with them comforting: God is someone who will love them just the way they are.

Listen to their ideas about their faith. Rather than argue with their ideas and feelings about God, reflect their ideas and feelings back to them. For example . . .

  • Do you believe that . . .
  • You think that . . .
  • When you think about God, you feel . . .
Don’t stop there, though. There is a place for adult leaders offering to children the beliefs of God’s people. It’s one way they share in the Christian heritage. Use “I” statements when you share your Christian faith:
  • I believe that . . .
  • I think that . . .
  • When I think about God, I feel . . .
Using this model, leaders can offer participants both the solid foundation of Christian doctrine and a respectful ear for their personal experiences.
Offer children prayer experiences in the classroom setting will help them feel more comfortable at worship with the whole church family as well as with themselves. Use a variety of ways to pray as well as spontaneous prayer. Active prayer (for these are active learners!) can come in many forms:
  • Silent prayer with body movements
  • Prayer in sign language
  • Unfinished prayers (You begin by saying, “Dear God, today we prayer for . . . ” Each person then finishes the prayer by adding a person or request.)
  • Prayers that name people we love or things we like to do
  • Imaginative prayer, when we visualize ourselves with Jesus
  • Writing a simple prayer using such forms as the acrostic or two-word poem. (A two-word poem has two words in each line, does not have to rhyme and may be as short or long as you like – often only one sentence.)
When you pray with older children, keep these things in mind:
  • In the same way that you choose different activities to appeal to different kinds of learners, choose different kinds of prayer each week to appeal to different participants.
  • Some groups will want a special place in the room set up for quiet prayer. This place can have sacred art on the wall, fresh flowers on a small table or simply be a spacious, empty space.
  • Other groups will want to gather together in a prayer circle in the middle of a large, empty space. This arrangement allows for more whole-body movement in prayer.
  • Prayer time ends most comfortably with a ritual that’s repeated each week. The ritual can be as simple as trading hugs, high-fives, fist-pumps, or hearing the leader say, “I hope we have a wonderful week.”

How do you incorporate prayer in your classroom?

Living the Good News is a lectionary-based curriculum published by Morehouse Education Resources. 

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