Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Leading Youth in Prayer

Part of how I see my mission with SPIRITUS is really leading youth to an encounter with Christ and helping them to learn how to sustain that relationship. We often compare talking to Jesus through prayer to talking to your best friend: How many times a day do you talk to your best friend? (Youth often can't count)... but what if you only talked to them once a month or once a year? Or only when things were going poorly? They wouldn't really be your best friend. You wouldn't really have a relationship with them. Same thing with Jesus. If you don't talk to him, you don't have a substantial relationship with him. Prayer is such an important part of faith and I love helping students learn to pray!

Most commonly on retreat, students experience 1-on-1 prayer with a SPIRITUS team member but there are many other ways prayer enters into our time with youth. There are many powerful instances of this as a youth ministry intern, adoration being first and foremost. Unlike adults who may be able to occupy themselves in adoration for an extensive period of time, youth especially while learning how to pray, need direction and a lead in to that encounter with God in prayer. I often use meditations, music, and journaling to help youth enter into adoration time. Students need this silence and reflection time as does everyone. I can't remember the last time I didn't have a student ask if their class was doing adoration that week for faith formation!
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Spending time with Jesus in the Chapel
Although we aren't always able to have the blessed sacrament exposed in adoration when we lead students in prayer, substantial time in the chapel is irreplaceable. I have seen this especially as we work with the middle schoolers at St. Mary's Catholic School. Bi-monthly we have an after school program at the middle school where we build community, read the upcoming Gospel, and pray together. Each week has a theme and we have been talking a lot about authenticity. We had the students make paper masks writing all that others see on the outside and then we entered the chapel and reflected on the thing we don't show others. The students wrote these things in black on the other side of the mask. This was a sobering moment as even the silliest and most rambunctious middle schoolers were serious and reflective. We finished this prayer time by playing a song, "Remind Me Who I Am" by Jason Gray, and inviting each student up to the foot of the tabernacle to write in red over all the things they don't share, "Beloved Son" or "Beloved Daughter". What a powerful experience to lead lead these youth in such a prayer experience. Students walked away with greater peace and joy but we as faith leaders can't make students dependent on the time we offer them for prayer alone. We must all develop a personal prayer life that is our own.

Recently, in our high school core leadership team, each student received a small prayer book called Following Jesus Christ. Each of the 11 high schoolers were asked to commit to prayer for each day of the week from the book: morning and evening reflections, meditations each day on Christ's passion, or 1 decade of the rosary with reflection. At our weekly meeting, we checked in about how prayer was going and if they wanted to switch to another form of prayer from the book for the coming week. Most recently, many students reported that even though they seemed to be praying with the book less, they were praying more on their own. Developing their own personal prayer life! Praise God!

Prayer is our lifeline to God. Not only must we invest daily in prayer but we must also help others strengthen that relationship with God. I am so thankful to be able to do this work! All for the greater Glory of God!!

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Praying together while laying our hands on the tabernacle

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