Sunday, January 23, 2011
Pray Any Way
Today Mr HIWWC and I were leading an event called Pray Any Way for Scripture Union Scotland. Do you like the name of the event? About 6 months ago, three children from my church (aged 10) came up with the name at a planning meeting I took them to with SU staff. Pray Any Way nails it exactly - we did lots of different types of praying and whatever kind it was, I'm sure it all pleased God!
How did we get here?
Three and a half years ago I was sitting in a board-type meeting with leaders from many organisations and churches discussing ways to increase prayer for the nation and amongst and with young people. The highly successful Strictly Come Praying was being discussed, which is for secondary aged pupils.
Yours Truly pipes up in the corner: why can't we run an event for younger children to come to alongside their families?
(at that time, in my previous church the children were praying for anything that moved whenever they got the chance and I was leading smaller events of intergenerational prayer and worship). Long story to where we get to today but after more practice in local church settings I've really just come up with a pretty simple formula:
worship with a clean heart + a desire to pray + listen = presence of God = increased prayer and more worship of God.
Sung worship is an important gateway to prayer with kids (errrr, and not just kids....) - there are other gateways but this one is a biggie. I think the church can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if we do some all age songs (be honest: how often has your church half-heartedly sung "Our God is a great big God"?)we're there, all is cool in the world of the child.
Children need to be engaged - why am I at this event/service? what's it for? what are we doing? where are we going in it? Therefore couple your all age (NOT kid!!) songs with some clear direction from the Bible and from the event/worship leader as to where we're heading. We can't assume that children will know what to do as the adults waft along on a wave of LIWLP (Lost In Wonder, Love and Praise). Kids who don't understand what the worship's about end up pew-sitting, disengaged, DS-playing, hair-twirling or Match Attax-examinin' i.e. disengaged. We've got to bring them on the journey!
After some time to say sorry for stuff, we started with Psalm 95 today - so we were ready to understand that whatever tradition we came from, there were MANY different ways to worship God....but not (m)any of them involved sitting on your bum in a pew.....
An event like this isn't just about the ::::gasp:::: praying (I'll get into trouble for saying this). But it isn't. It's about real life intergenerational discipleship, and that's one of the main reasons I do it. Don't misunderstand me, the prayers are very important and in my pastoral and teaching role amongst the young I never understate the need to pray anywhere, anytime, about anything. But today was also about giving families the chance to BE together, to BE in the presence of the One who made them that family! So mums and dads and extended family and friends who are included as part of that family can share their faith together and hear of the amazing things that God has said and done in their lives.
The biggest encouragement in the email so far has been a mum who said their children didn't want to come and had a stinky attitude when they came in but ended up with their mood transformed and hearing God speak to them and going to write it down on the prayer wall! Isn't that so like Father God? He wants to transform us and children respond so quickly that you can see them opening up like flowers opening their petals up to the warm sunlight.
And so I honour the guys at SU who trusted "an outsider" and if we might work together. We presented today together - and we were a team together. We, the team, were from Salvation Army, Baptist, United Free church and Church of Scotland and God loved it. I know he did as we worked together with an ease and a flow.
One of my kids leaders from my home church observed a parent being prayed for by their child - she guessed by her reaction that it was perhaps for the very first time. The mum was moved to tears. We watched the adults pray some precious promises from the Bible over their child(ren). We brought intercession for local and global issues with some very large dice. We learned how to quieten down, fix our eyes on Jesus and listen to him to hear what he had to say to us; what he wanted us to pray for. And we saw children change, before our eyes.
Dear Lord, bless the families tonight who invested an afternoon to be together seeking after you. And thank you for Scripture Union, I constantly love what they do and their deep desire for young people and families to know more of you and about you.And thank you for my home church who love me enough to let me go, releasing me from my pastoral duties to have one of the best (but tiring) afternoons ever!!