We once again hosted a "Night of Silence" at camp this year. For this activity, small groups of youth work with counselors to create interactive prayer stations. These are then positioned throughout the campgrounds. During the "Night of Silence," groups of youth move about the camp, experiencing the prayer stations together in total silence. That's right. No talking! We hope the experience allows youth not only to see prayer in new ways, but to connect prayer with the setting of God's creation. Taken individually, these prayer stations might not seem so profound. But in the context of an hour or more of silent meditation and as a group experience, they open up many possibilities for prayer. In fact, at the end of our week of camp, when asked when during the week they most sensed the presence of God, many of the youth said it was during The Night of Silence.
Here a few examples of the prayer stations the youth came up with:
SMELL #1: For this prayer station, we gathered together bits of things from around camp that had a particular smell -- cedar bark, grass, mustard, honey, a flower, a paper towel saturated with hand soap, etc. Instructions: Smell is a powerful way to experience God's created world. Take each item, sniff it, and pass it among your group, experiencing them together. What are they like? Stinky? Calming? Funny? What memories do they bring back? Consider how these different smells represent the diversity of God's world. Offer a silent prayer as you feel led by the Spirit and the scents.
LISTEN: In a quiet space, put out a set of personal-listening devices (we use a collection of portable cd players but of course Mp3 players or Ipods would work, too). Set up each listening device to play a different style of music, such as classical, Taize, contemporary Christian, nature sounds, African drumming, etc. Instructions: Music and sounds are a gift of God. They can be a way of praying without speaking. Pick a cd player and listen. Resist the temptation to skip around on the cd and just listen to the music as it comes to you and see where the Spirit leads you in prayer.
WORD: Here's an oldie but a goodie. We set out several old game boards and an assortment of letter blocks from old board games like Scrabble. Instructions: Reflect on who/what/how God is for you. Offer up a prayer of thanks for God's presence by using the letters to create words on the game board that describe God for you. Consider connecting your words "Scrabble-style" to the words added by others, symbolizing the way in which our different experiences of God come together in community.
WATER: For this station, simply set out a large bowl full of water. Instructions: Water is a source of life. Reflect on the importance of water in your own life? Think about how it might represent God's presence. In pairs, pour water over each other's hands, experiencing the water together and offering a silent prayer for the other person. What memories come to mind as you feel the water? Baptism? Jesus washing the feet of others? Washing your hands before a special meal?
QUESTION: This group based their prayer station on a story we'd studied about Bartimaeus, the man who was blind and then healed by Jesus. They set out a large sheet of paper, play dough and a question that Jesus asks in the story. Instructions: And the Lord said "What do you want me to do for you?" Take play dough and sculpt YOUR answer.
TASTE! Similar to the first smell prayer station above, for this one the youth collected items with a particular taste -- crushed mint leaves, lemon juice, sugar, salt -- and placed each into a separate small bowl. A cup of coffee stirrers was also provided. Instructions: Use a coffee stirrer, one per taste. Dip it in the dish, taste, and discard the stirrer. We don't often think about taste when pondering God, but taste and memory are strongly connected. What do these tastes bring to mind? What does God taste like?
See here for more prayer station ideas.