Basics of Prayer Time
This section includes descriptions of types of prayer and flow found at One Heart~One Fire Ministries prayer groups.
This may vary depending on the group itself and the ages of the young people in a given group.
Praise and Worship
Prayer time with the children usually begins with praise through song. Typically, the first one or two songs are lively and engaging praise songs. Then there is usually a more meditative song to help the children/youth transition into quiet prayer. There may be live music or a CD used. It may be simplest to choose one or two songs to use for the first few weeks so the children/youth become familiar with them. When they become comfortable with the songs then it is good to add a new song each week.
Opening Prayer/ Prayers of intercession – We provide time for the children/youth to name whatever is on their hearts that they would like to place into Jesus’ and Mary’s heart to care for as they enter into their prayer time. This can be very simple. We ask the children to silently place their intentions into Mary's Immaculate Heart, or they can be given the opportunity to offer intentions verbally.
During each prayer time, the children/youth listen to the word of God through Scripture.
The scripture for the first three weeks of a One Heart~One Fire prayer group are geared to help participants enter into the silence of prayer and grow in their relationship with Jesus as their Good Shepherd.
Each week after the first three weeks, the scripture used will be the Gospel for the following Sunday liturgy.
During the prayer group, the scripture is read out loud two times. The scripture can be read by the leader, by a teen servant or by a student. The scripture can be read two times in large group, or once in large group and again once the groups have moved into their smaller groups.
We ask the participants to listen for the word or phrase that sticks out to them. We ask them to write that word or phrase in their journal.
Other options for sharing the scripture, especially with younger children:
It may be helpful to present the scripture as a play. The children/youth can participate in the play/skit no matter what age level. For example, very young children make excellent sheep for the scripture passage of God as the Good Shepherd.
With preschool aged children it can be helpful to tell the scripture with story pieces. The children enjoy retelling the story with the pieces.
After hearing the Word of God, the children/youth are invited to meditate upon it. Before beginning the time of meditation, we ask them to get into a space where they are comfortable and not touching anyone else. For the younger children, we can ask them to lay down on the floor and make a "floor angel," similar to a snow angel on the carpet. If they touch someone while making their angel, they need more space.
The time for meditating on God’s Word might consist of:
reflecting on the scripture shared by inviting the participants to ask God what he is wanting to teach them through the word or phrase that stuck out to them. Give them time to ponder God's words on their hearts.
entering into the scripture by inviting the participants to imagine they are in the story. Reread the story, pausing to lead them through the experience. Ask them to pay attention to who they are in the scripture, how do they feel about being there, what are they thinking, etc.
reflecting on a shared prayer based on the scripture.
There is a guided meditation available with each week's scripture provided in the leaders manual.
We are patient as the children/youth learn to pray in this way. We ask them to be respectful of us and of others, but it may take them awhile to be silent during this prayer time. It is helpful if the adults remain attentive. If a child is having a more difficult time that others, have an adult helper or teen servant sit next to that child quietly to model how to be still. We want to be gentle, yet firm and ask them to try to listen.
Praying with the journal
After meditation, the children/youth have time and space to pray with a journal that the adult leaders provide for them. The journal is representative of our hearts. In this kind of prayer, we are simply inviting them to let Jesus write a letter from His heart to theirs. Here, the children/youth are invited to write down what they feel the Lord is speaking to their hearts during their prayer time (this is externalizing their meditation prayer). The younger children will have the option to draw instead of writing. The children are always welcome to start with whatever is on their hearts (what they are thankful for, or are struggling with), but there is also a question available if they need a question to get them started. There is detailed information on this heart prayer, as well as how to teach the children to pray with the journal, in the appendix of the leaders' manual. Play some prayerful music as the children journal.
Adults leaders can be proactive during this journal time, especially with the younger children. If young children choose to draw in their journals rather than write, ask them what they are drawing. Ask them where Jesus is in their picture. If He hasn't made it into the picture yet, ask them where He might be in that picture. Just as in our daily life, they may need encouragement to be aware of where He is. As they tell you about their picture, write their description, or key words of their description, somewhere on the page.
If older children or youth choose to draw rather than write, the encouragement would be to ask them first to write in words what they feel God is speaking to their hearts. If they are having a difficult time understanding this concept, sit down with them and ask them to imagine what they think God might say. If that does not help them, ask them who they know who loves them the most. They may respond a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, teacher; whoever that person is, tell them to imagine that person was talking to them and what they would say in response to their question. Ask them to simply begin to write, that this is prayer and not a test ... they cannot fail or get a bad grade on this. Encourage them to not worry if they feel like it is their own words, but to simply write. Sit with them, and pray silently, until they feel comfortable.
Jesus says, “You must become like a little child if you are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Embracing this truth, we know that it is the childlike spirit, trust, hope, love and imagination that the Holy Spirit works through. During One Heart~One Fire prayer groups, if a child/youth chooses to express their prayer in drawing, we desire to help them connect with Jesus, and in some way strengthen their Christian belief system.
Next, the participants will spend time in silent prayer/contemplation. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.” (CCC2724) Therefore this time of prayer is set apart and we make this clear as we turn off the music which played during journaling time. This helps them know it is time for silence. Here the children take a moment to be still and soak in all that God has shared with them through His living Word: both from the scripture and from within their hearts. The amount of time spent in silence will depend on your group. If they enter into the silence easily, allow them to relish that time for up to ten minutes. If the children seem uncomfortable in the silence, start with one minute. Add one minute each week.
If young children have a difficult time being quiet the first week, we can bring clay the second week. Give them each a piece of clay as they begin the time of silence. Explain to them that we are going to practice being still. If we are having a difficult time being still, instead of moving our mouths, we can move our hands in the clay. It allows them a space for physical movement while they practice allowing their minds and hearts to rest in Jesus.
Just as with the meditation, we are patient as the children learn to pray in this way. We invite them to be respectful of everyone during this time, but it may take them awhile to be silent during this prayer. It is helpful if the adults remain attentive. If a child is having a more difficult time that others, have an adult helper or teen servant sit next to that child quietly to model how to be still. Be gentle, yet firm and ask them to try to listen.
Prayer for/with one another
After the first few weeks, each person, including the adults, will have the opportunity to have someone pray with him/her.” We place our hand on the shoulder of the person we are praying with, because we are giving Jesus permission to move through His Mystical Body (us) to love, encourage and heal His children. It is important to encourage, allow and empower the children to pray with one another, to participate in the Mystical Body of Christ. As Blessed Theresa of Calcutta said, "Jesus has no hands now but yours."
When we first begin praying with each other, there may not be time to teach the children/youth how to pray with one another and there may be a need to begin more simply.
Here is a possible format for prayer in the first few weeks:
Ask the children to hold hands, if they are comfortable with that.
Tell them that as you lead the prayer, each person will pray for the person on their right, asking God for every grace they need.
Leading prayer. If you are comfortable, pray a spontaneous prayer. Begin your prayer by inviting the children to pray, "Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit." Then end the prayer with something simple like: “We thank you God and pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
If you are uncomfortable praying spontaneously, maybe pray something like this:
"Dear Jesus, thank you for your love. Thank you for each person here today. We know you love us and you love our friend sitting next to us. Jesus, today, I ask that you send your Holy Spirit to lift anything from each of us that would keep us from receiving your grace for us today. I ask you Father, in Jesus' name, that you fill each person here, especially our friend on our right who we are praying for, that you will fill them with everything they need today. I ask you to help them to feel your love and that they know you are here with them now. Come, Holy Spirit. (pause) Come, Holy Spirit. (pause) Thank you Jesus for your Holy Spirit, and please continue to help us to listen to and follow you all week long. Amen."
Within 2 - 3 weeks, teach the children/youth how to pray with one another in the following format:
Before praying over each individual, ask them if they are comfortable with people nearest to them placing their hands on their shoulders. The leader may place their hand on the child's head if they are comfortable with that; however, the children tend to get squirrelly if they place their hand on the head of their friend. Therefore, have the children stick to shoulders, arms or hands.
Each person in the small group will take a turn leading a prayer for someone else.
The adult always leads first to model how to open and close the prayer. This prayer time is simple, yet profound, as we are asking the Holy Spirit for his help, hope, and peace for one another.
An example of this would be:
Open: Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of your son/daughter. We ask you to fill them with your love and all they need at this
time….come Holy Spirit…come Holy Spirit…
Take a few seconds of silence
Sharing: the older children’s groups may share words from scripture, or other encouraging thoughts or pictures that may come
to them during the prayer time
Close: Lord, thank you for your (name). We ask that you bless them throughout this week. Amen.
The younger groups may need a few months before they can be still for the amount of time it requires to pray for each individual in a small group. In that case you may try the following option:
Right after the God’s letter to my heart prayer (using the journal for prayer and/or drawing) - have the children continue to rest wherever they are before you break into small group. Turn on some light worship music and the adult leaders simply move about the room and pray with the children where they are seated. Each leader can pray over each child.