While it seems like a simple concept, there are actually several different types of prayer. When teaching children about the different types of prayer, it's helpful to guide them in developing prayers that are meaningful to them. While children may be familiar with some forms of prayer, others may be new to them. It is important to go slowly and use their suggestions to guide some of the discussion.
One of the easiest type of prayer to teach children about is the prayer of adoration. Remind children that God is the greatest, most wonderful, most powerful being in the universe. What would somebody that wonderful be like? Have each child take a turn making a suggestion. Write down the suggestions. Then assemble all these mighty descriptions into a prayer that can be said one after another: "Dear God, you are more powerful than a thunderstorm," and so on.
Penitence is also called confession or expiation. Invite each child to describe something he did this week that he was proud of and then something that he did that wasn't so good. Compliment the good deed, and ask how the he might have done other things differently. Let others add helpful suggestions. Then invite the child to say this as a prayer: "Dear God, I am sorry I did that and next time I will (fill in the blank). Thank you for your help."
Petition or Intercession
Ask children what they would like to pray for. Let each contribute her thought without judging. Then say something like, "What could we all pray for for the whole world?" Combine suggestions and do that. Then what could we pray for for our country? Say that as a prayer. You could then include the city or school. Next let each child say what she would pray for on behalf of her family and perhaps take a moment of silence after each child has spoken so everyone can pray for each family in turn. Finally have a time of silence together for each child to pray for something for herself. They don't need to share this part.
It is important to live in a spirit of gratitude. It defeats envy and other sins, as well as reducing fear and worry. Go around your group and ask each child what he is most thankful for. Go around again and ask each child what else he is thankful for. This time make it into a prayer that all can say together with each child about the two things he has identified so far. Keep notes if you need to. "Dear God, John is thankful for his mother and his new puppy. Thank you, God." You can continue this with younger children, or have older children make lists. Suggest that each child thank God for things every day.
Meditation may be the most pure form of prayer. It has no agenda. You may have to use guided meditation with younger children. Have the children sit in a circle and close their eyes. Slowly have them imagine themselves as a drop of rain (pause for this), falling into a stream (pause again), giving water to a flower that grows along the bank (pause and imagine the flower and how happy it is that it has a drink of water), move on, flowing with the stream into the big river where it goes, joining the big river and flowing to a bigger river, then to the ocean. Include pauses to imagine and feel each stage. Then there is sunshine and drops of water evaporate into the sky and form clouds and come back as rain again. Talk about how God is with them all through the cycle, from a drop of water to the ocean, and that God is nourishing like water to a plant. Explain how this thinking is a kind of prayer.
Cheryl Card is based in Denver, Colo., and has been writing seriously since 1993. Her specialties are government, health care, human potential and international studies. Card holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from Cornell University and a Master of Arts from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She has made numerous contributions to eHow.
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