Monday, February 09, 2009

    Yes! More Creative Prayer Stations

    This past weekend I attended a workshop on Contemplative Youth Ministry led by Marc Yaconelli (more on this event to come later this week.) As part of the event, some colleagues and I set up an evening worship experience involving interactive prayer stations. Below you will find descriptions and images for each of the prayer stations. Some you have heard us describe before on this blog. Others are new or have been adapted from a variety of sources including the excellent website Creative Prayer.

    WORD: This prayer center uses old Scrabble-like game boards and game pieces:

    "How have you experienced God’s presence in your life? What words come to mind as you reflect on who/what/how God is for you? Use the letters here to create and meditate upon the words that come to mind. Feel free to connect your words to those of others (Scrabble-style!) as a symbol of how we each have experiences of God to share with one another."

    THE JOURNEY: All you need for this prayer station is a large sheet of paper and some markers:
    See our other prayer station and creative worship ideas here.

    "What words, images, or symbols express your journey of faith? Meditate on your journey so far – the ups and downs, twists and turns, the spiritual companions who have walked alongside you, the questions, doubt, and fears, the mountain top experiences, and the challenges of ministry with young people. Use this wall to express your spiritual journey in image, symbol, or word. Take time to consider what others add to the mural. Where do their journeys intersect, parallel, or diverge from your own?"

    IDOL WORSHIP: This prayer station requires Play-Do and a safe surface for sculpting:
    "The Lord said to Moses: Thus you shall say to the Israelites: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. 23You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt-offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. (Exodus 20)

    What are some of the idols in your life – possessions, activities, attitudes and relationships that get in the way of your relationship with God? What worries or challenges in your personal life, work, or ministry seem to loom bigger than your trust in God? Use the PlayDo to create a symbol of those items, then smash this idol as a sign of your desire to move closer to God’s center."

    FORGIVENESS: For this prayer station, provide a large bowl or dish filled with sand:
    "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3: 12-14)

    As we look into our hearts, there are times when we need to be forgiven and God forgives us. There are times when we need to forgive. God gives us the strength to forgive. How will we respond? By a prayer of thanksgiving? By promising never to do it again? By praying for the person we have forgiven? Reflect on this. Is there something you wish to bring to God to ask forgiveness? Write or draw it in the sand. Ask forgiveness. Then pass your hand through the sand, obliterating the words or images as a symbol of receiving God’s forgiveness. Is there something which you should forgive? Write or draw it in the sand. Ask God for the strength to forgive. Smooth the sand. Now, what will be your response be to God’s forgiveness working through you? Write or draw your response in the sand and leave it for the next visitor to see."
    CONFESSION: For this station, set up an area with paper, pens, and a paper shredder. This one is noisy, but we found that the noise added to the experience:

    "Confession is not easy. We are called to confess those things that separate us from community and contribute to the brokenness of the world. As Christians, we often call those things sin. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 32: "While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up* as by the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Let us confess by writing on paper the broken places, attitudes, and relationships in our lives and in our world. As you write, you are invited into a time reflection. Feel God’s mercy. Consider what it might feel like to let go of guilt. Consider how you will work to repair broken relationships and broken systems. As you feel comfortable, you are invited to shred these confessions as an act of release and transformation. As you shred or after you shred these pieces of paper you are invited to pray your own personal prayer or this prayer: Eternal God, we pray that you will change the grief of our guilt into the joy of forgiveness, that we may be delivered from sin and set free to serve Jesus Christ, Amen."

    REFLECTIONS: Create this prayer station by setting out a collection of mirrors. In this instance, we set small mirrors on chairs and taped various sized craft mirrors to the wall:

    "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

    Choose a mirror and gaze into it. Examine the reflection that stares back at you. Mediate on God’s abundant love for you. Are you able to give thanks to God for the amazing creation that is you? As you consider your reflection, perhaps use this centering prayer, praying it over and over, meditating upon and sinking deeply into the meaning of the words: Thank you God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

    H20: For this station, set out a larger glass pitcher of water and a large ceramic or glass bowl:
    Think about how every prayer offered mixes with the prayers of all of God’s people around the world. Prayers do not know the boundaries of time or space and so all become one. In this way, each person’s joys should be the joys of others. And every person’s concerns should be our concerns. Consider a person, place, or situation you want to lift up in prayer. When you are ready, pour some of the water from the pitcher into the bowl to represent those prayers. Watch as they mix with the water added by others, representing your prayers mixing and becoming one with those of the whole group."

    THE WORLD: Items needed for this prayer station include a world map, colored glass beads or rocks, and current news magazines or newspapers:

    "In the beginning when God created
    the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day." (Genesis 1) Take some time to silently focus on the many needs of the world. Perhaps use the surrounding magazines and newspapers for inspiration. Consider how your prayers, offered in this moment, move out and meet at God’s center with the cries for release from those in need around the Globe. When you are ready, take one or more stones and place them on the locations on the map that have stirred your prayers today."
    LISTEN: For this station, we set out a bunch of cd players, each with a different cd of meditative music. Some of it was Celtic chant, nature sounds, Christian pop, classical, and so on. You could create the same idea using mp3 players:

    “The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert . . .” Take some time to just stop, relax and listen. Choose a cd player and let the music or sounds help to center your thoughts and prayers. Resist the temptation to rush the experience. Perhaps close your eyes, lie on the floor and just experience the moment."
    DRAW-A-PRAYER: The simplest of prayer stations. Simply set out paper, markers, and crayons and invite participants to express their prayers through the created image.

    BURDENS: Create this prayer station by taping out a cross shape on the floor with masking tape (in this case we had a wooden cross on hand so used it), and setting out Post-it notes and something to write with:
    "Matthew 11.28: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Are you willing to let God help you rest in this moment? First, consider what burdens you are carrying around – those doubts, fears, obligations, worries, feelings of inadequacy that are weighing down your spirit from experiencing God’s spirit. As a gesture of prayer, asking God for release, write your burdens down on the post-it notes provided. Your prayer might be a word, a name, a symbol. Then, place those burdens inside the cross on the floor before you. As you do, focus on an image of God taking those burdens for you and carrying them for awhile, as you seek rest and peace."

    FACES OF JESUS: For this final prayer station, we set comfortable chairs in front of a screen and projected a PowerPoint loop of images of Jesus throughout history:

    "Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14.6) Take a few minutes to sit and meditate on the projected images of Jesus, drawn from art throughout the ages. Think about your own understanding of Jesus and your call as a disciple of Christ. Consider: Which images affirm your understanding of Jesus and his life? Which images challenge your understanding of Jesus? What about your understanding of Jesus still surprises you, pushes you, invites you out of your comfort zone? Offer a prayer, recommitting yourself to walking the path that Jesus has set before you. Covenant with God to help you continue to see the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus as a radical challenge to journey in faith."


    Nathaniel Dame said...

    Very interesting. Can I ask an honest question? Have you ever seen this type of prayer station setup become more about the religious stuff than the person of Jesus and His grace and work in our lives?

    I've had bad experiences with them in the past and would love some perspective.

    J.D. Eddins said...

    I really love the world map idea. Personally I use a map from Voice of the Martyrs that helps me focus my thoughts on places where Christians are persecuted.

    Brian said...

    J.D.- Thanks for commenting. The world map idea was well received and was a good reminder to spend time focused on the problems beyond our front doors.

    Nathaniel - I appreciate the question though I'm not exactly sure what you might be getting at with the term "religious stuff." If you check back here, maybe you can clarify. I will say that in my experience sometimes these prayer stations really help folks sink more deeply into prayer and oppeness to God than they would ever do just sitting with folked hands. Conversely, some people seem to just into the activity of it all miss the deeper purpose. I suppose it depends on the individual. I think one way to keep a check on this, particularly with youth, is to have a time afterward to debrief and find out how the experience affected them.

    Brandon said...

    We used several of these great ideas at our HS Prayer retreat. Thanks for sharing them. I posted some pictures if you'd like to see them on our youth website or go directly to the post .

    Thanks again!

    Brian said...

    Brandon, thanks for sharing. I think the idea of a whole weekend devoted to prayer is great. Appreciate you sharing your images.

    Celia said...

    you guys are really really awesome.. great help. thanks so much~!!!

    Jeneille719 said...

    Hi! I'm a DOC minister in east Texas and am very excited to use some of these stations at our high school church camp! We have been using various prayer stations in worship and I was in need of fresh ideas. I'm so glad I googled my way to your blog ;)

    Jeneille LaGrone

    Brian Kirk said...

    Hi Janeille- Glad you found us! There are lots more prayer stations ideas here if you'll click in the link under our list of post labels.

    Br. Paul Ciaran said...

    Thanks for sharing. I think this could be a really cool, powerful experience.

    I think it is the "religious stuff" that sets our minds on the Holy, opens us up for conversations about Christ's grace and work in our lives, and open our hearts to receive His gifts.

    So while the activity may be more focused on "religious stuff" than the person of Christ, the activity can result in creating a deeper spiritual place in our hearts for Christ. At least that's how I look at it.

    sinead said...

    Hi, I used a few of these ideas for a public prayer room in my village and also in a school.
    Thanks so much for sharing them! They really helped people to enter into prayer! :)

    Chris said...

    Hi a big thank you for sharing I have choosen a few of the stations to do a session with youth this Good Friday, Due to work pressures I had not been able to spend long preparing and your post was so helpful. We have used this type of station before with our small group session and I works well, not least to remind them to take time in this busy, self centred, loud world we, and certainly they, live in to 'Be still and know that I am God'

    Thank you for your generousity.And Thank you God!