How can we help young people to pray? We all know that sometimes when we pray distractions come and it’s hard to stay on track. At other times we just end up with ‘shopping list’ prayers.
Here are four simple ideas or guides which I’ve used with young people who have wanted to be more effective in their prayers.
The first two examples are acrostics. Acrostics have been devised throughout history from the ancient Greek and Latin writers, through renaissance poets and medieval monks, right up to modern times. An acrostic poem is where the first letter of the line in the poem works together to spell a word.
In these examples each letter of the four letter word, forms the initial letter of another word or phrase to guide the direction and focus of the prayer.
THE 'ACTS' ACROSTIC
OK. Some of the words will be unfamiliar to young people, but a simple explanation of the words used in the ACTS acrostic can help them appreciate the flow of their prayer.
This means praise. We begin our prayer by praising God for who he is. We can praise him for his character i.e. a loving God, a holy God, merciful, just and full of compassion. Encourage young people to use a Psalm to help them find the words and thoughts they want to express. (Psalms 96, 98, 100, 103, 145)
This is about saying sorry for when we have not lived as we should. ‘If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong.’ (I John 1: 9) We need to admit our sin to God who is able to forgive us and help us begin again.
This is about saying thank you to God for what he’s done for us, and all that he continues to do in our lives. (I Thessalonians 5: 18)
This is an old word but it means ‘a humble request for help’. As we come to the end of our prayer, we can ask God to help us in difficult situations or times of need. We can ask him to work is someone else’s life, or pray for the big problems of the world. Nothing is too big or too difficult for him. (Philippians 4: 6-7)
THE 'PRAY' ACROSTIC
A Ask for someone else
Y Your own needs
A similar prayer pattern and guide to the ACTS acrostic, but it may be easier to understand and implement for young teens.
THE PRAYER HAND
Another simple way to remember to pray for others is by using your hand as a memory prompt or template for prayer.
This is your index finger or ‘pointing’ finger. Pray for the people who help you grow as a Christian, who point the way to be more like Jesus i.e. small group leader, youth pastor, and church minister. (Col 4: 2-4)
This is your strongest finger. Pray for all those people with power and responsibility i.e. government and civic leaders. (1 Tim 2: 2)
This is commonly known as the ring finger. Pray for those you love and who are close to you. Pray for your parents and friends.
This is your little finger. Pray for those who are weak or helpless, or who are old and infirm. Pray for those who you know who are sick. (James 5:13-15)
Pray for those who are furthest away from you. Pray for the church around the world, for missionaries and for Christians who are persecuted for their faith. (Ephesians 6:18)
Finally, pray for yourself. Admit the things you know you have done wrong (1 John 1:9) and receive God’s peace and forgiveness. Offer your hands to serve God through your life, at home, school or work.
THE LORDS PRAYER
These are the words Jesus gave as a model prayer to his disciples. It includes praise, praying for God’s will to be done, confessing sins and asking for forgiveness, help to forgive others, asking for daily help and provision and strength to overcome temptation.
Perhaps it’s the most obvious place to start, but it’s also the easiest prayer to repeat without thinking about its meaning.
Encourage your young people read Matthew 6: 9-13 and rewrite the prayer in their own words to use every day in the following week. Or, prepare a simple seven day guide to help them journey through the prayer in the coming week and beyond.
I’ve written a sample guide below for you to amend or add to. It includes something to think and pray about and something to do.
(Jesus said) Pray like this,
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured
How does it feel to be able to call God your Father? Tell him how you feel.
How can I honour God’s name today?
May your Kingdom come soon
How does your community need to change to be more like what God wants? Pray it happens soon.
What can I do today to help bring God’s kingdom to my community?
May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.
What can you pray for today for God’s will to be done on earth? Check out the news and pray.
What is God asking me to do today?
Give us our food for today
God provides for our day to day needs and gives ways for us to take care of ourselves. Thank him.
What do I need to do to trust God today?
and forgive us our sins
Why is it important to ask for God’s forgiveness every day? (1 John 1: 9)
Go on then, Ask!
just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us
Why is it important to forgive others who have hurt us? (Matthew 6: 14-15)
Is there anyone I need to forgive today?
And don’t let us yield to temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
God helps us recognise temptation and gives the strength to overcome it. (1 Corinthians 10: 13) Ask him to help you do the right thing today?
I will try to stay away from anything which tempts me to do wrong.
MORE ON PRAYER AND YOUNG PEOPLE
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