a reflection by Cristina Adams, Student Minister for Children and Youth
Prayer can be hard. It is hard for me to know what to pray and remember who I want to pray for. Then, trying to teach kids to pray can be a daunting task. This school year, the preschool class has been making prayer chains as a way to close our time together. Each child picks a strip of paper and tells us what they want to pray for. Then, we write it on the paper and add it to our chain. Once we all have shared our prayer requests, everyone touches part of the prayer chain and does a simple, repeat-after-me prayer that goes something like, “Dear God, Thank you for all of these things. Please bless them and watch over them. Amen.” Sometimes I try to guide their prayer requests by giving a prompt, and other times I let them say whatever they would like. One week our story talked about joy, and I said, “Let’s thank God for things that give us joy,” so we thanked God for donuts, cake-lolli’s, and hugs. The most popular prayer request is always for family members.
When I started this practice, I was unsure how it would go. I have come to love it because it is a tangible way kids can see and begin to understand prayer. The kids look forward to it and ask about it when we don’t do it. They are very careful and respectful when they handle the prayer chain and know something holy is happening. The Godly Play room now has several colorful prayer chains that bring a smile to my face every time I see them. They remind me that young children love and care for things deeply, that they can talk to God about them, and that God is listening.
Recently, I have transferred this practice into my own prayer life. I spent time cutting out small strips of colorful scrapbook paper and wrote out the people and situations I want to pray for. Then, almost every day, I hold my prayer chain touch each chain as I pray over that person or situation. Sometimes I don’t pray over every chain individually, but hold them all in my lap and pray over them together. Doing this has helped me focus when I pray because I am looking and touching a specific item, which makes it harder for my mind to wander. It also lets me pray for those I love regularly and as I think of a new prayer request, I add it to the end. When I tell someone I am praying for them, I add their name to the chain and it reminds me to pray for them daily instead of depending on my own mind to remember. I can also send a picture of their link to let someone know I was praying especially for them. When I am done using my prayer chain, I have a sense of peace and gratitude for all of the wonderful people in my life and feel more ready to start my day.
Do you have any tangible ways to help you pray or remind you to pray? I have some friends who have prayer bracelets and rings that remind them to pray. Another friend lights a candle and does not blow it out until she has prayed. Others keep lists, journal, or use a phone app. I would love to hear what you do!