Prayer Lessons, Ideas, and Resources


You are welcome to add your ideas and lessons for teaching about or using prayer in Sunday School. In addition to this forum, you should also visit the Lord's Prayer forum which has additional resources, ideas, and lesson plans "about prayer."

The following topic also includes the article:

The Life Benefits of Prayer

Original Post

Recommended Resources for Teaching Prayer to Children

Here are a few good ones. Please suggest those you have used and liked.

52 Ways to Teach Children to Pray
from Rainbow Publishers.
Available at Cokesbury.com and Amazon.com, among others.  Nicely written, brief reproducible lessons full of life application. 

See the "look inside" on Amazon for a preview of the reproducible pages in this book.




Prayer: The Foundation for Growing Closer to God, by Karen Henley, Illus.-Ed Koehler, Standard Publishing, 2000, ISBN: 0784712166.  OUT OF PRINT - but copies available from various online retailers.

Description: It's hard to talk to someone you can't see! Why should I pray to God? Does God hear every prayer I say? What am I supposed to pray about? Why do I sometimes feel like prayer doesn't help? This 13-week course for students ages 8-11 will help them grow closer to God, discover God's plan for their lives, learn about the great prayers from the Bible, use prayer journals, participate in a prayer chain, and guide kids to pray on their own. Perforated, reproducible pages help kids explore God's Word with small group discovery center ideas, large group discussions, activities, maps, games and more.

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Videos

Little Things (Cherub Wings), Vision Video - Downloads, #500765D, 25 mins. ages 3-7.
Episode highlights being helpful and teaches self-esteem.  Preview You Tube link.

  • The Lord’s Prayer - a visualization of the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray which helps children understand its meaning
  • The Loaves and Fishes - an illustrated Bible story that shows how God used one little boy with a few fish and five loaves of bread
  • Little Things & Sing a Song of Joy! - two high-concept kid music videos that underline being helpful to others
  • We Receive from Him - a Scripture memory song highlighting the importance of our obedience in little things and based on 1 John 3:22-- “We receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
  • A Nail Tale - a comical object lesson about a kingdom lost that shows how little things are important, even little you and me!
  • A Personal Story- highlighting the true story of an everyday hero; how a young boy made a difference in his community.

Never Outta Sight (Cherub Wings), Vision Video - Downloads, #500773D, 25 mins. ages 3-7.  Ever feel a little "little"? You wonder if your prayers, your thankfulness and well just "you" are of any value at all?

  • Psalm 150 - a round of praise for the King of kings! A wonderful example of quoting the Psalm with the same enthusiasm, joy and thankfulness as it was probably written.
  • Stop, Listen and Say - a fun-filled visualized song that shows us how to treat God like the King He is! Teaches how prayer is more than just “the gimmes”.
  • The Heavy, Heavy Box - a comical object lesson that shows how we need God’s help in order to lead a good life.
  • The Watery Walk - a Bible story and awesome lesson on faith as Jesus calls Peter to step out on the water!
  • All Things are Possible with God! - a Scripture memory song based on Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Jesus Christ!”
  • Little Sparrow - a heart-warming visualized song highlighting God’s tender care for each of His children.

The Adventures of Prayer Bear - 3 Volume DVD Set, Featuring Steve Green, by Sparrow Records, 0724354465895.

Vol. 1 – Best Friends (each are 30 mins.)
Vol. 2 – How To Pray
Vol. 3 – Time To Pray

Additional note: At the time we did this we had just the Best Friends episode. Movie takes place in a garage where Steve, some children and prayer bear (a puppet) all visit and learn together. We used this with our 4-6 year olds.

Milo The Mantis Who Wouldn't Pray (Hermie Series), DVD by Max Lucado, Tommy Nelson, 2007.  Available on the 3-DVD Set entitled "Hermie & Friends: A Bug Collection #3 DVD Set", 9781400316632.

Meet Milo, the praying mantis. Only, Milo won't pray! Then a big storm destroys his Snack Shack. We’ll watch Milo’s crazy antics as he tries to get God’s attention only to realize God’s been listening all along. Recommended ages 3-7, although I've used it with kids ages 4-11, the ending scene showing a little girl ant praying for a house of her own, while her brother insisting she's been wasting all her time doing it, when suddenly Milo's shack drops from the sky and the brothers look of absolute amazement is priceless!  One of my favorite videos!

Children’s Story Books:

Am I Praying?, By: Jeannie St. John Taylor, Kregel Publications, 2003, ISBN: 0825437237.
Description: A field trip to the zoo sounds pretty cool. But then Erik's day turns beastly when his best shirt goes astray, his lunch drives away, he's teased at school . . . and he gets lost, too! Help your 4- to 8-year-olds learn how to talk to Jesus whenever things go wrong---and when they go right! 32 pages, hardcover.

What Did Jesus Say About Prayer, By: Helen Haidle, Zondervan Corp., 2001, ISBN: 0310700221.
Description: There are many children's prayer books, but this is the first book for children ages 4-8 that focuses specifically on what Jesus said about prayer. Each page contains a Scripture verse and a short explanation that give children the reasons why we pray and what is involved in prayer. By modeling their prayer life on Jesus' own actions and teaching, children will learn to have confidence that their prayers are heard and will be answered. Brightly-colored illustrations of children with Jesus and children in everyday incidents of life underscore the truth that we can bring every concern and every situation to our Heavenly Father in prayer.

Happy Day Books, Level 2: I Can Pray!, Standard Publishing, 2005, SBN: 0784716943.
Description: I can tell God anything. I can pray to him any time or any place. I can pray! Standard Publishing, 2005, ISBN: 0784716943.
Explore the world of Happy Day Books - filled with fun-to-read stories that teach Christian values. Level 2 features harder words, longer sentences, simple stories, and dialogue. Ages 3-7.

I have been working on teaching the Lord's Prayer and have found these resources very helpful:

Teaching the Lord's Prayer for children 7-9 by Delia Halverson
Publisher: Abingdon Press ISBN 0-687-06294-2

Teaching Prayer in the Classroom Experiences for Children and Youth by Delia Halverson
Publisher: Abingdon Press ISBN 0-687-06425-2

Learning the Lord's Prayer by Phyllis Vos Wezeman and Judith Harris Chase
Publisher: Educational Ministries, Inc ISBN 157438016-8

Try these two resources --

20 Prayer Lessons for Children
ISBN: 0896226891

20 More Prayer Lessons for Children
ISBN: 0896227367

Both by Phyllis Vos Wezeman and Jude Dennis Fournier. Both published by Twenty-Third Publications.

Moderator's Note:

Also, look for the "Worship for Life' curriculum developed by Phyllis and a team of volunteers here at Rotation.org and published by LOGOS circa 2007.

It is now known as the "God's People Worship" curriculum and is available at https://www.genonministries.or...-gods-people-worship   It has spiritual practices and prayer built-in to its curriculum.



Movie Clips from Bruce Almighty

"Bruce Almighty" has some great prayer scenes. His girlfriend gives him a prayer bracelet because she feels he needs it. There is a great scene of chaos after he says "yes" to all the prayers. Could be some great discussion on answered prayer! At the end of the film, there is a moving scene with Bruce praying for his girlfriend.

This would be a good movie to just use clips from, which would be easier with a DVD player.

You might also check Little House on the Prairie or Touched by an Angel videos.

Hope this helps!

Blessings,

Julie Burton

Song

Great Lord's Prayer Rock music on the "Scripture Rock 2" CD by Troy and Genie Nilsson - very "rock and roll" - our older kids LOVED it.  All their Scripture Rock Cd's are a big hit with our kids. We have used "Scripture rock 1" for 3 years and kids request the songs.

Prayer Wall
Our middle schooler's have a prayer wall - a painted mural of concrete blocks on the wall. The kids can offer prayers using colored post-it notes stuck on the wall.

Prayer Rope with Prayer Tales
We also have a prayer chain. A colorful braided rope that we hold during prayers (so we don't have to touch each other!!) We have prayer "tales" attached. Each youth made a macrame and beaded tale to clip to the prayer chain. At the end of the year they can take the tale home as a reminder to pray. wink

Hi Stacey!

I have successfully used a "prayer tree" (an idea I got from a workshop).

 

I attached a large paper tree to a wall. The "leaves" of the tree changed each month. (September was apples, October - pumpkins, etc).

 

I had the kids write their prayer on the "leaf" and date it. The leaves were stuck on the wall with tape. When the child felt the prayer had been answered, I had them write the answer on the back of the leaf. Then, I had them place the answered prayer at the base of the tree. After several months, they could see how many of their prayers had been answered, and in some cases, had not.

I used this with a confirmation class, and other classes that saw it wanted to take part in it also! Anything visual that is easy to track would work: ice cream scoops, build a sandwich, use clothing-shaped papers and fill a laundry basket, etc. A company called Shapes, Inc has note pads in a variety of shapes. That way you don't have to cut anything out!

Julie Burton, DCE
1st Presbyterian Church, Sapulpa, OK

More prayer resources and ideas:



Posted by JCarey:

Stained glass cross of prayers

I just thought that I would share an interesting prayer idea that came out of a brainstorm session with a friend. You create a large cross out of clear contact paper and ticky tac to a window (or wall and move it later). Peel the paper off. Offer colored cellophane pieces and permanent markers to kids to write their prayer requests on and then have them stick them on the cross. When the cross is completely filled in, hang it in a prominent window. A take-off of nailing your prayers to a wooden cross.
 

Reply by Lynn C Wood:

This stained glass prayer sounds like it would be beautiful!
We do something like this at our summer camp. In the chapel is a large clear window. We mark off a large cross. Each day the campers write prayer requests or praises or thanksgivings on post-its. We use the bright colored kind, 3-4 different colors. They stick the posit note on the window with in the cross outline. By the end of the week we have a beautiful multicolored cross and we are reminded of God's care in listening to all our prayers.

Peace,
Lynn C Wood
Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church
Charleston, WV




Posted by WestPresGail in 2016:

Deep Blue Rotation Stations published by Cokesbury has a Spiritual Practices station which often incorporates prayer stations.  You can order the Spiritual Practices station separately if you don't want to order the entire unit. 


Originally offered by member Cheryl...
I have a prayer file of ideas that I have collected from various places, some of them are:

1) Prayer Rocks
I lay out big baskets of calico fabric and let the kids cut their own fabric for their prayer rock using a square cardboard template. (about 5 inches square depending on the size of rock you have) make sure rocks are large enough not to pose a choking hazard. Laminate the poem or print on card stock, and have a hole punched in the corner. Kids place a rock in the center of the fabric square and tie it shut with ribbon, then add the poem and tie again. Kids also enjoy adding stickers to the edges of the poem, there are also small praying hands and small sun and moon stickers available.

2) Prayer Calendar
Create a calendar which I'll distribute each first of the month. This month is January 2001 and at the top left corner the date and year. Then the children have a place for their name and a prayer request they might have for the entire year. Under that in column format, there is an area for thanking God for what He has done for us. At the top there is an area for the children to draw or color a picture for that month and under that is the calendar with boxes for each day. The daily boxes is where the children will write someone or something they will pray about all that day. To get started, I have already written on the Sundays to pray for our church and church family and on Wednesdays to pray for Awana and World Outreach. Then, under all of that is an area to write where God answers prayer.

3) Formal, just talking and singing
There are several scripture passages to help reinforce these lessons. A few of my favorites are: Ephesians 5:20, James 5:13-16, Jeremiah 29:12-13, Matthew 7:7. You could tell the students that there are different ways to pray - first, formal prayer. Then teach them a prayer to learn at home and recite in class. Such as: "I love you, God with all my might. Keep me safe all through the night. Amen." The craft that day could simply be coloring pictures of a child praying. The second way of praying is just talking to our Lord. Praise Him and thank Him and simply talk to Him. Then have the student draw a picture of him or herself praying to God. I would then ask that they hang the picture in their bedroom to remind them to pray. The 3rd form of prayer is singing. The kids absolutely love this lesson, based on Psalm 100. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. . ." Play a cassette tape of Christian music and teach the children a new song. Then make your own instruments - we made ours out of toilet paper rolls that we decorated and filled with beans or rice. We then went outside and had a little parade in which we sang and played our instruments.

4) Types of prayer
Here is how I teach the children about the kinds of prayer. We make prayer beads. All ages can do this and learn from it. By hanging the beads in their bedrooms, they are reminded to say all the prayers.


For each set you need:
1 small wooden cross with a metal hanging ring
22" lacing cord
2 red beads - red is for praise - we praise our Lord
2 green beads - green is for thanksgiving
2 blue beads - blue is for repentance - we are sorry and want to do better
2 yellow beads - yellow is for asking - the colour of trust and hope - we
trust God to answer our prayers
2 white beads - white is for dedication - we dedicate our day to God so
that we may show His love in the world

Start by threading the cross onto the centre of the cord. Thread a white bead on each side, followed by a yellow on each side, then blue, then green and last red. Tie the ends together.

Tell the children to start their prayers with the red bead. God asked us to put him first. Then at the green bead, say a thank you prayer, at the blue ask for forgiveness for the things they did wrong, at the yellow say prayers for the people they care about. At the white, remember to offer their day to God and at the cross say the Lord's Prayer as Jesus taught
us.


5) Pray for other countries
I put up a world atlas on the wall and every time we come together I pick out a child and as we stand in one accord this child prays for a country and then we put a wall pin on that country.

6) Thanks
Create a box containing small items representing things we can thank God for - I've used a stethoscope (thank God for doctors/nurses), a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a musical note, a picture of a snowflake (things in nature), a toy police car (thank you for policemen), a pocket Bible (thank God for his Word), another tree ornament that's a church, etc. Have each child choose one item from the box, then when they bow their heads and hold their chosen item in their hand, each one takes turns thanking God in prayer for the item they've chosen. (Adapted from The magazine, "Evangelizing Today's Child.")

7) Handprint prayers
Recently my church celebrated a national prayer day for kids and I wanted to share with you some of the things we did. When the children arrived I got them to put handprints on a banner. Later on in the morning I asked the kids what they think they could change in the world with prayer and we wrote those on the banner with markers. We will keep this as a reminder each week. They came up with some great things like, people who are sick, on drugs, wars, saving people for Jesus, helping our church grow etc. We also made a plaster handprint of each child and when it was dry we decorated it and wrote on it our prayer creed: Prayer - Anywhere, anytime, anything.

8) We use actions:
With both hands raised: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.
With arms crossed in front: Your kingdom come.
With arms stretched out at sides: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
With arms stretched out at sides everyone joins hands: Give us this day our daily bread.
Shaking hands with one next to you: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
With hands folded in prayer: Lead us not into temptation,
With both hands raised: but deliver us from evil. Amen
Alternate: Lord's Prayer in sign language...just
search Lord's Prayer in American sign language on the net, print it out and make
copies.

9) Construction paper chain links.
Each Sunday each student writes a name on a chain link and it gets stapled onto the chain. If they want to keep it private they just draw a heart (meaning it's known in their heart only). When we say our opening prayer at the beginning of class we include all those on the prayer chain, both old and new additions, as a special part of our prayer.

I personally just started the paper prayer chain last week, and it is about 8 feet long. We will do this for at least a month, then go through and take out them answered prayers, so they can see that prayer really does work.

I hope this is helpful! -- Cheryl

Sounds of Nature

Originally posted by member "LLL" (Lisa Lehne from New Prague, MN)

We just did a rotation based on pray and in the storytime room we did about 10 minutes of just listening to the sounds of nature on a CD. We had to skip around to different tracks but all the sounds were at the beginning and we had 10 different sounds, and we used this as a form of meditation. The children loved it and they listens so quietly.

We encouraged them to close there eyes and picture the sound in their heads. We would let them say what they saw only after the CD was stopped. Even the older children loved this, and you wouldn't believe we had 30 children in the room when the CD was playing, EVERYONE was quiet.
(I now use that experience as a reminder, as to how quiet everyone needs to be)

We also did a labyrinth out of room dividers and posted pictures along the way to give them ideas of what or who to pray for. At the end there was an adult ready to pray with the child.
Kids and adults loved it!!!

Here are some things I've used successfully:

Prayer Wall (good for Lent)


Materials needed:

  • 1 sheet of paper in these colors: yellow, blue, green, lavender.
  • Sticky notes in the same colors

Procedure:
On the yellow sheet, write the word "adoration"
On the blue sheet, write the word "confession"
On the green sheet, write the word "thanksgiving"
On the lavender sheet, write the word "supplication."

Explain the definition of each word and how they are used for prayer. For example, "adoration" is for praising God, and the yellow reminds us of God's power. "Confession" is blue, because we have to repent of our sins, and sinning makes us sad. (Blue is a sad color). "Thanksgiving is green because it reminds us of happy things; and lavender is to remind us to pray for other people's needs.

Provide sticky notes and pens/pencils on a nearby table. Invite children to write their prayers on the sticky notes, and put in on the wall in the corresponding section. Continue this process for several weeks and watch the prayers grow.

Optional: make a fifth section and label it Answered Prayers (use any color paper, or pre-cut letters). If children feel their prayers have been answered, have them move the sticky notes to that section. Invite children to share their prayers with the group if they desire.

Adaptation: make a prayer chain.
Cut strips of paper in the same colors as above. Be sure they are wide enough to print their prayer on. Invite children to write their prayers on the appropriate colored strip, then connect it into a chain. The point is not to see who has the longest chain, it is to show them how our prayers grow, and that our prayers "link" us together in the Body of Christ.

Hint: anything "progressive" can be used to learn about prayers. Here's a fun one I did with confirmands:


Prayer Tree


Materials needed:

  • An artificial tree, like a ficus
  • Shaped notepaper or cutouts for each month
  • clothespins
  • A small basket or inexpensive bin for each child. (or, you could have children decorate a shoe box)

If you begin with the new school year, then start with September and go through August.
The shaped notepaper/cutouts become "leaves" on the tree.
Suggested shapes for each month (may substitute other shapes, if desired)
September: apple
October: pumpkin
November: turkey (or other Thanksgiving symbol)
December: star (The star the Wisemen followed)
January: snowflake
February: heart
March: shamrock
April: cross (or other Easter symbol)
May: flower
June: American flag (for Flag Day)
July: sun (or other summer symbol)
August: sun or book shape (some schools start in August)

Have children write their prayer on the appropriate shape, then clip to the tree. When that prayer has been answered, they should remove the "leaf" and put it in their basket. At the end of the designated time, have children show their baskets and see how their prayers have multiplied.


Prayer 101 (for 9-12 year olds)
Use this model to begin discussion on prayer:
What is prayer?(if is communicating with God in silent or spoken words, in verbal, written or musical expression.

Why do we pray?(to confess our sins, tell God our joys, fears, etc.)

How do we pray? (reading a devotional book, scripture passages, etc. There is no special form - it's just talking to God).

Where do we pray?(church, doing dishes, riding the bus, etc).


Rebus prayers (for age 4-6)
For children who are beginning readers, the use of rebus chartgs can make learning fun and effective. To make a rebus chart use descriptive pictures in place of some of the words in a prayer.

Older children could write prayer litanies, or could trace the path on a tabletop labyrinth. Or, have them look up prayers in the Bible.

There are tons of ways to teach prayer, just find what works best for your group.

Hope this helps!

And a couple more ideas...

For younger-/non-readers:
I have used a computer program called "Say Your Prayers, Angelina". I don't know if it's still available, but it's good.

Also, for non-readers, you could use the A-C-T-S model with colored craft sticks. Explain what the colors mean, then have them select a colored stick. Invite them to say the prayer, then when all are finished have them put their sticks in a basket so they can be used again.

Older students:
Pray the Newspaper. Have students find articles that correspond to the A-C-T-S model. Make a collage of the articles.

Cool Prayer Lessons: Labyrinth & Yoga

  1. "Jesus Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane - Prayer Labyrinth Station Workshop" by Cathy Walz posted here at rotation.org link.
    Summary of Lesson Activities: You will be doing 2 activities with the students—walking a prayer labyrinth and stopping at 4 stations along the way.  You will also be creating a prayer bead craft.
  2. "Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane - Prayer/Yoga Workshop" by CreativeCarol posted here at rotation.org link
    Summary of Lesson Activity: Children will hear the story of Jesus praying in the garden. Then they will follow along with 25 minutes and 30 seconds of a video which demonstrates praying with yoga. The focus of this workshop is on body/kinesthetic prayer in the form of yoga, as a different way of bringing prayers to God.

A good article with 10 different ways to pray with children and to teach them about prayer.

"Discovering ways to pray with children offers them space for connection with God and, not surprisingly, has been shown to improve well-being time and again. Consequently, we give our children an invaluable and timeless gift when we teach them how to pray. Additionally, it’s a gift they can carry with them throughout all of life."  https://www.illustratedchildre...s-to-pray-with-kids/

 

Article includes a pdf for a bookmark for teaching about the five-finger prayer.

A graphic from my files. Don't know where I got, but it would make a great teaching activity and memory device. See my Lord's Prayer idea below.

hands-for-prayer



To adapt it for teaching about the Lord's Prayer, you could have the kids decide which line from the Lord's Prayer most closely matches each finger, then write that line on their printed graphic.

You could also write the Lord's prayer in "ten lines" -one for each finger/thumb. Yes, actually write it on their hands. But instead of writing the full line, use abbreviations as a memory device and space-saving device. Discussing certain appropriate abbreviations is also a teaching moment.

  1. Our Father who art in heaven
  2. Hallowed be thy name
  3. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
  4. on earth as it is in heaven.
  5. Give us this day our daily bread
  6. And forgive us our debts
  7. As we forgive our debtors
  8. And lead us not into temptation
  9. But deliver us from evil
  10. For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory Forever. Amen  

For line 10, write "KPG Amen."  (To this day that's what pops into my mind --the way I was taught to remember the correct order of the last line. Kingdom, Power, Glory = "KPG."

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Post-it Note Prayers

post-it-crosspost-it-4post-it-2balloon-prayer

Kids like post-it sticky notes *and balloons) and they can be used in a variety of ways to encourage students to pray and think about prayer, create dialog, and prompt discussion.  Different colors of post-its can be a great way to represent and encourage different categories of prayer (intercessory, thanksgiving, praise, confession). The act of creating the note is somewhat private and anonymous and feel less like we're putting kids "on the spot" to pray in front of others. 

Examples:

1. A Post-It Prayer Design --students or teachers can create or select prayer subjects, starter lines, or their own actual prayers and put them in a display, such as the prayer cross seen above. 

Instead of a simple cross, you could engage your students in a discussion about  "what shape(s)" our prayer wall should take to reflect something about the particular story or content they have been studying or want to pray about. The shape can be created by placing tape on the wall (as seen above) or using the post-its themselves.

For example, if you are praying about the Prodigal Son, kids could use blue masking tape to create an outline of the "older brother" or "father" or the father's "home" into which the teacher or students could place prayer starters about that person or subject in the story. For example...  what should the Older Brother be praying?  Or, what should you be praying for if you are jealous or envious of someone?

2. Students create a "prayer station" that invites others to read a verse or a short "prayer prompt" and then post a prayer to the wall. Seeing what others are praying about, and what words they are using is a great way to encourage kids to pray.  Write starter phrases on post-its and put them on the wall ahead of time for the students to pick, complete, and re-post.

Sometimes a "post-it prayer station" can be the last of several tasks or stations students are working through. Seed the stations with starters and post-its you have created in advance. Create an inviting shape to encourage students to want to be part of the "post into" activity. Conclude the class by gathering everyone around the prayer station and reading a few of the notes. Send them home with a note of your own.

3. Post-It Prayer "Games"

To encourage kids to pray and make it memorable, you can create simple "post-it" games with the sticky notes. 

Examples

Back Post Game:  Studying Abraham, Jacob, and Esau story? Have each student write two "blessings" that would be worth having (and of course, discuss what blessings are worth having), then place the sticky note on the students' backs and tell them that when you say "go" to try and steal the blessing from each other's backs by placing other people's blessings on your own back. (Play this in a confined space.)   Now play the game in reverse -trying to share your blessing with others. Are blessings in limited supply? Now have a student place blue post-its on players player as soon as they see them give away a blessing. See who collects the most blue post its (This is an example of the many ways you can play a post-it game to demonstrate a point. You fill in the details.)

Prompted Thankful Post-its: At the end of class, have students place thanks" and "blessing" and "reminder" notes each others' backs. A yellow note can be a note of thanks about that person. A blue note can be a blessing. A green note can be a reminder about the lesson you want them to remember. (Obviously, you will need to discuss and make some suggestions!)  Don't know what to say about someone? Talk about how we can appreciate other people and be thankful for them even when we don't know them or can't come up with something specific. Finish by letting each person read what others have placed on them.

"Poser" Post-Its: Pick people from the Bible story you are studying and have a student 'pose' against a wall as one of the characters as you create an outline of them on the wall with blue masking tape. Create a tape outline of one person that represents the class as well.  Create a list of keywords (prayer starters) and write them on the board, then have students write their intercessory prayer for that character in the story, and one for themselves. ("Older Brother, I hope you will...." "God help me to....")

post-it-3

 

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Attached to this post is an article I wrote a few years back about Teaching "About" Prayer, and Teaching "How-to" Pray.  It has many teaching techniques for teaching about prayer and praying with your kids. Includes a teaching philosophy, and some do's and don'ts. I originally wrote it for my software website, so you can ignore those references if you like. 

Excerpts from the article:

Prayer Goals for Sunday School:

  1. We need to teach “about” prayer, -what it is, why we pray, and the power of prayer.
  2. We need to demonstrate how to pray, ...the posture, the language, the subject matter, what to expect.
  3. We need to practice praying with children.
  4. We need to teach children how to remember to pray on their own.
  5. And we need to remember to pray for and with our children

A Starter List of Guidelines for Classroom Prayer:

 Prayer in the Sunday School should not be left to the very end of every lesson.

 It should be participatory, -without putting students on the spot.

 It should feature age-appropriate language and concerns.

  Prayer should include time for personal silent reflection. (After all, that’s how most of us pray).

  Prayers should be offered through a variety of creative approaches and expressions. (see my techniques below for ideas about this)

 Prayer should be prepared for and discussed. This includes pre-prayer briefing and de-briefing the prayer. (ex. “What should we pray for today?” “How would you say that in a prayer?” and “I noticed in your prayer that you said….”)

In the attached article you will find MORE techniques and ideas.

Ideas for Encouraging and Practicing Prayer

In one church where I served, we had families create colorful plastic prayer jars filled with all sorts of prayers, including prayers from other families in the church. These were very popular at the dinner table.

For a home clock, we created a sign on clear sticker paper that read, “Any time is a good time to talk to God.”

Create a Prayer “Mezuzah” for your bedroom doorposts. It's both biblical and fun. Cut a 4" piece of 1" PVC pipe and buy caps for each end. Decorate the tube with prayer encouragements/scripture/symbols. Write and place a special prayer inside. Add a small piece of double-sided tape to fix to the doorpost.  Alternately, search online for inexpensive mezuzahs for children and DIY mezuzahs.

Pillow Prayer Pal:   Create a tiny book of blank pages and tie with string to a stuffed animal. Write prayer prompts on the pages: "I'm thankful for..." "Lord, help me to..." "Keep _____ (person) in my prayers."  Parents can add encouragements, gratitudes.

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How Spiritual Americans Practice "Spiritual Self-Care"

...and how spiritual practices in Sunday School could encourage such self-care.

Barna, the respected research group, publishes a lot of interesting surveys and stats about American Religion and Spirituality. Here are some conclusions from their 2018 Spiritual Practices report. https://www.barna.com/research...-practice-self-care/

In their 2018 survey, How Spiritual Americans Practice Self-Care, they found some interesting similarities between how "Christian or spiritual" adults of different generations feed their sense of spirituality, i.e. practice "spiritual self-care."  The similarities between the generations should tell us that these forms of self-care will also be true of children and youth in our Sunday School (at least, eventually).

  1. Spending time reflecting in nature
  2. Reading books on spiritual topics
  3. And notice that "Journaling" was the biggest spiritual practice reported by Millenials. 



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These spiritual self-care practices should be encouraged and taught by the church.   

For example, how do we teach silent meditation? Star-gazing? Creation as a restorative. How do we help children sense the presence of God under a canopy of trees or their life in the ebb and flow of the tide? What meditative books is your church making available to people?

One thing we need to do with children is to help them DEVELOP the ability to think in metaphors and analogies so that they can see the messages of God around them, ...the metaphors of life in trees (roots and branches) and stormy skies, in cool breezes on hot days, in sunsets.  These things are more difficult to do seated around a table in a classroom.

The Psalms are full of such imagery and metaphors. Years ago, it was common to see quotes from Psalms on classroom posters of waterfalls and oceans.

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Isn't it interesting that Jesus himself often retreated to nature for "self care."  What can Sunday School do to promote "retreating." 

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For Parents and Educators

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The Life Benefits of Prayer

At the risk of sounding crass about praying to God and listening to the Spirit, it should seem obvious to all of us that "prayer is a life coping mechanism" that produces real physiological effects, as well as spiritual ones. Decades of research confirms what most praying people have experienced and what the Bible has been trying to teach us -- that mind and body, heart and soul are intertwined. We are indeed, "fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). 

Given the many physical, social, and mental health benefits of prayer, not to mention the spiritual ones, you'd think parents and churches would be doing a better job of developing the prayer-practices of children and youth. But alas, what passes for "prayer" in many churches and homes sounds more like MAKING LISTS* than contemplative listening and soul sharing. (*Lists = "God bless grandma and grandpa, thank you for my dog, etc.)  Pastoral prayers in many churches are often not much better. Many are little more than thinly-veiled mini-sermons and "cause of the day" petitions reeled off at unlistenable speed with lofty vocabulary. (But I digress).

In order to get to "how" most people need to know "why," ...so let's start there.

Here's a summary of the "life" and/or "physiological" benefits of prayer and/or meditation from the Care2.com website which provides supporting links for each assertion.  This list is similar to what you can find in other scholarly articles and research.

Prayer can help us...

  1. Increase self-control 
  2. Cope with stress
  3. Improve our relationships with others (people you pray for, forgive, empathize)
  4. Combat Depression
  5. Control Pain
  6. Activate the body's natural defenses and healing processes 
  7. Promote physical and mental health
  8. Live longer


I would add "Develop Humility" as #9. 
Seeking a relationship with a higher power puts "YOU" into proper perspective. Humility breeds grace and tolerance. It builds self-esteem by taking away the power of fear and guilt, replacing it with love and acceptance. And we know from 12 Step programs that submitting yourself to a higher power through prayer can help control addiction. 

What "benefit of prayer" would you add?

Relief, Clarity, Joy, and Resolve are not only things which humans need and God loves to give, they also release wonderful chemicals in the brain and body (God's original healing gifts).

All of these things have benefits to families and parent-child relationships. So much so in fact  that you have to wonder WHY many parents aren't actively encouraging or modeling an active prayer~meditation life to their children? As Jesus said in Matthew 7:9, "what parent knowing their child needed bread would give them a stone."

Looking again at that list you might also realize that it addresses key aspects of MENTAL HEALTH -- a concern throughout our society these days. As we know, mental health is not a guaranteed right or even "easy" to get and maintain. Rather, mental health is the product of genetic inheritance and brain chemistry, your upbringing, formative relationships, and life experiences, ...AND healthy practices like prayer or meditation, worship and exercise.

I found that the above list is very similar to other such lists easily searchable and found on reputable health websites and research-based resources, including the National Institutes of Health which has studied the measurable positive effect of prayer on patient health. 

It should be noted that these are "non-denominational benefits." People of other religious and non-religious persuasions also experience them -- proving the point that we are ALL God's children in need of bread, ...and God has not given us stones.

MIndfulness

Here in 2019, "meditation" has been expanded to include what some are calling "mindfulness." There are some differences between meditation and mindfulness, but also many similarities, such as the use of silence, stillness, breathing, awareness. 

Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.  (Wiki)

Some Christians may be afraid of meditative and mindful practices because they sound "foreign," but one simply has to read Psalm 23 to see the same techniques at play. Emptying (I shall not want), Green pastures, still waters (stillness, calmness), contemplating (darkest valley), visualizing (table before me in the presence of enemies, my cup runneth over), Recentering on the goal (dwell in the house of the Lord).

According to Psychology Today... 
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we carefully observe our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness can also be a healthy way to identify and manage hidden emotions that may be causing problems in our personal and professional relationships. It means living in the moment and awakening to our current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. Mindfulness is frequently used in meditation and certain kinds of therapy. It has many positive benefits, including lowering stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating, improving our overall health, and protecting against depression and anxiety. Research even suggests that mindfulness can help people better cope with rejection and social isolation.  

Mindfulness reminds me of life moments that feel similar to prayer and often have the same effect:

  • a walk in the woods
  • a conversation around a campfire
  • comforting a child at night
  • sitting with a sick friend
  • soaking in the ocean
  • a song that transports me
  • discovering a burning bush
  • receiving unexpected good news
  • visiting Jesus at night with questions almost too deep for words
  • walking to Emmaus and back

When I experience these things, I often feel renewed, repurposed, and grateful to God. And isn't that the purpose of prayer? Which is to say, there's more to prayer than words. Indeed, Paul said as much in Romans 8:26 when he wrote: 

"when we don't know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways (groanings) that cannot be put into words." (CEV)

Somewhere, there's a parent or teacher murmuring, "mindless is more like it." I've met adults who don't think children have much of an inner life, which is probably why they don't encourage it. The disciples didn't either until Jesus told them in Luke 18 that "to such" belongs the Kingdom of God. 

So our task is before us -- to encourage the inner life of our children, their prayers, their mindfulness, and yes, even a sense of humble emptiness. And like everything else they need to learn, it must be taught, encouraged, and practiced as an example before them.

We Should Teach Our Children to 

Be comfortable by themselves in quiet time.

Put away or turn off distractions.

Take walks, preferably in natural settings.

Talk about important things.

Share their feelings, even the empty ones.

See meaning that's too deep for words.

Fill their minds with uplifting thoughts, literature, scriptures, music, and conversation.

Surround themselves with positive people who have depth of heart and character.

And if you are going to ask for anything in prayer, think NOT of what God can do for you, but what you can do for God.

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Keep in mind, that sometimes what you can "do" for God is to simply be QUIET. Remember Elijah and the still small voice? 

In addition to being taught and demonstrated in Sunday School, all of the above are things should be MODELING at home, in worship, in Sunday School -- because the life benefits of prayer are gifts from God for each of us.

Your comments welcome.

In case you need to know, this was written for Rotation.org by Neil MacQueen, a Presbyterian minister specializing in Christian education. 

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A Meme and a Music Video about Prayer

(for older kids/youth/adults)

A friend posted this terrific quote about prayer on their Facebook page. I searched to find out who originally said it but couldn't find a name. It would make a great discussion starter.

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Unfortunately, there are an over-abundance of Bible verses about prayer that suggest we are supposed to bring our shopping lists to God. "Ask and it will be given," etc etc.

But this quote reminds me that there is a strong tradition of prayer NOT being a shopping list of the things I "need" to be free, or better at, or need "fixing." Rather, prayer is an unburdening, a rest for the soul.

(Jesus said) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30  (NIV)



Many people don't know how to approach prayer or feel worthy enough to do it, and not surprisingly, there are songs about that! Here's a newer one from David Crowder (aka "Crowder") --a popular Christian contemporary artist here in 2019. This earlier hit of his still gets a lot of airplay. I find that his appearance and style also serves to break expectations.

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