OPENING UP: Invite the group to pray with you and say:
“Dear God, we come before you and give thanks for everything we have. We ask that you continue to bless us. Give us the things that we need and the things that we want. Help us get the best MP3 players, the best video game systems, the coolest clothes, the hottest sports car. Help us make good grades on all our tests and homework, and help us to win and be number one at whatever we try. Most especially, bless our country so that we continue to be more powerful and more wealthy than any other country in the world. Thanks God. Amen.”
Ask: If you heard this prayer in a worship service, how do you think you would react/feel? How is this prayer different/same as your idea of prayer?
REFLECTION: Go around the circle and invite each person to finish the phrase “Prayer is...” with one word. Do this three times, encouraging them to use a different word each time. Encourage them to consider action words, descriptive words, symbols, emotions, etc. Keep a written list of their responses.
Alternative: Pass out a handout with a variety of images on it related to prayer. The images might include folded hands, a person singing, someone walking in the woods, a lit candle, worshippers holding hands in a circle. Invite youth to share which pictures say something to them about how they understand prayer.
DIGGING INTO THE TEXT: Read Matthew 6: 5-17 together. Ask: How could the text help shape our prayer practice? How might we pray differently than we do now in church/in private?
Read Luke 18: 9-14 (The Pharisee & the Tax Collector). Ask: How do you think the Pharisee would define prayer? How do you think the tax collector would define prayer?
Read Luke 5:16. Ask: What do you think about Jesus' practice of praying alone? What do you imagine he prayed about? What does your own prayer practice look like or what would you like it to look like?
BRINGING TOGETHER SCRIPTURE & OUR STORY: Pose "The Big Question": Do you think God answers prayer? If so, how? What does a prayer sound like if it's not about asking for stuff? What part, if any, do we play in helping God to answer prayers (or own or those of others)?
Encourage the group to reflect on the different ideas and images of prayer that you have discussed. Invite them to create (perhaps in silence, as an act of prayer) a group mural that illustrates, without words, different ways of understanding prayer.
Perhaps commit as a group to pray each day for one week at a certain time and for a certain number of minutes. Then, report back to one another about your experiences.