"I didn’t recognize it at the time, but these were times of prayer, times when I was filled with God’s love and presence."
When I was a young child my father would tell me to take some time everyday to be by myself. I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I thought I was with myself all the time! In fact, so much so that sometimes I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Daytime was time to be busy, spending time with my friends and involved in lots of activities. But I usually gave in to my dad’s strange suggestion and dragged my feet to the hammock in our backyard.
As I lay there in the gentle rocking of the hammock and stared up into the canopy of leaves above, I soon forgot that I was mad at my father for making me be alone. The voice of anger quieted and I’d begin to notice the quietness of the day and the warm rays of sun making their ways through the leaves. Soon, I noticed a voice inside of me and I listened. I listened to its goodness and love. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but these were times of prayer, times when I was filled with God’s love and presence. Today I yearn to recapture those long afternoons of listening.
Practical Suggestions for Prayer
Here are some ways to introduce youth to prayer (or quiet yourself):
Daily Devotions in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 137). Short liturgies that can be said in 3-5 minutes.
Silence: Find a quiet place and close your eyes and let your thoughts go. Really, as they come to you, imagine that they are floating by you on a river. Let them go. (You can even do this in school!)
Say a mantra: Repeat a sacred word or phrase over and over again. You'll be surprised how it quiets your mind and body. Try, "Come Holy Spirit, Come."
Count beads: The word "bead" comes from "bede," a fourteenth century word meaning prayer. You can make Anglican Prayer beads, wear a bead bracelet or carry a string of beads in your pocket. Count the beads with the name of people for whom you'd like to pray.
Color a mandala: If you're like me, I concentrate better when I'm doodling. Mandalas are circular designs that you can color and center yourself. (Search "mandala" on the internet for designs.)
There are many more ways to pray. I've kept the list short to remind you that prayer can be simple. Find your own way!
Jenifer Gamber has been involved in Christian formation since she began teaching Sunday school as a teenager. The author of My Faith, My Life (Chapter 7 of which these ideas come from) for teenagers and Your Faith, Your Life for adults, she is a popular speaker on the topics of spirituality, prayer, and teen faith formation. Her website, offers a wealth of resources for adults who work with youth.
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