The idea behind Prayer Spaces is to help young people explore prayer in creative ways, that is, to help the students find new ways to communicate with God, with whom some may have a very precarious relationship. The aim of the activity is not to sermonise, but to give students a quiet space and time where they can stop for a short while and reflect on important issues like injustice, gratitude, genuine friendship, forgiveness, modern idolatry…
We hold these sessions twice a year: in Advent for the fifth-formers, who would be leaving school in March in order to sit for their SEC (Secondary Education Certificate) exams, and in Lent for the rest of the school.
In our last (Lent) session, we organised the following stations:
- Prayer Wall: Here the instruction sheet told the students about the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where the Jews put their prayers into small cracks, because it is a place where they feel God’s presence in a special way. Then they could turn to their own Prayer Wall (a large board covered with a beige cloth) in order to ‘speak’ to God in the same way. They wrote their petitions to God on post-it notes, and stuck them on the wall.
- Be Still Gazebo: This station consisted of a “prayer tent”, which was the very quiet and peaceful area of the whole experience. The students were reminded that prayer does not even need words. They had a soft light inside the tent, and a beautiful picture of Jesus to help them experience the presence of God and reflect on his great love for them.
- The Potter’s Hand: This was the gratitude station. The students had play dough in different colours. They were asked to take a piece and mould it into something that represented them. As they did so, they were asked to thank God for all he had done in their lives, even through other people, and also ask him to continue working in them, until they became what he wanted them to be.
- Praying the News: This station consisted of a large map of the world in the centre of a board, with different newspaper pictures stuck around it. The students were reminded that Jesus wants us to care about people around us, especially those who are suffering. They were asked to read the captions beneath the different pictures, and then take a ‘speech bubble’ post-it note and write a prayer, and place it next to the news item that struck them most.
- My Treasured Friends: This station aimed to explore the central theme of our activities this year: that of friendship. The students were asked to stop and think of the friends who make their lives more beautiful. Then they had to take a slip of coloured paper and write down what they appreciate so much about one special friend – or more than one, if they wanted to. They then clipped the papers to lengths of string that had been suspended across wooden pallets.
- Forgotten: Here the students were presented with some items which had been in the ‘Lost and Found’ box for some time, and had probably been forgotten completely. They were asked to consider how sad and tragic it is when people are forgotten in this way. Then they wrote a prayer for people they could think of who were lonely and forgotten by others. They stuck the prayer in a large smiley face on a board, as a commitment to God that they would try to bring happiness in a world where there is so much pain and loneliness.
- My Idols: This was the “sorry” station. The students were reminded that idols were not only statues made of gold, but also anything that became more important than God in their lives. They were asked to take a slip of paper and write down any persons/things that had become more important than God to them. They asked for God’s forgiveness, and posted the paper into a box, also asking him for the strength to put him always first in their lives.
In a world where there is so much speed and noise, Prayer Spaces aims to provide the students with some time of peace and quiet to think deeply, and turn to God with the most important issues in their lives and in the world. There are some who have actually said that the experience changes their view of God and of prayer.
Moreover, having thought about and perhaps also written down issues that are troubling them, the students are sometimes more willing to talk about them afterwards. Some of our girls have been through a lot of pain in their young lives, and they need to share their burden with someone when things get too much for them. Above all, they need to experience an intimate relationship with the God who loves them so much, and who will never let them down.
The following are some of the comments left in the Feedback Area:
- I feel happy and relaxed. I was very frustrated, but now I’m happy.
- The thing that I liked most was that I could tell everything to God.
- It was a relaxing and lovely place in our very busy and frustrating lives which keep us away from peace and quiet.
- I loved it. It was so peaceful. I’m grateful for the time I had to spend with God.
- It was fun and relaxing. It made me realise how much I need to give attention to God.
- I really liked it. I felt that I am close to God and he loves me so much.
- The calm atmosphere really helped clear my mind from the rushing and fast world we have created. I noticed how much I need to press a ‘reset’ button.
- It is a place where you find God opening his arms to you, and where you find peace.
- I wish I could stay here forever.
- It was a beautiful time to reflect and see what God wants from you, and what you should do to make people smile. It was a time of peace, a time to reflect on what God wants from us. Here we had time to think. I feel so much better now that I have talked to God in a peaceful and quiet manner…just me and God.
Prayer Spaces involves a lot of planning and also a lot of time. However, it is worth every minute because of what it means to the students.