One of my favorite times of prayer is on Wednesday evenings with our high school youth. At the end of our devotional time we gather in a circle in the front of the sanctuary and hold hands. We begin by sharing any answered prayers we have experienced since we met last.
Since we began doing this it has made an enormous difference in the way the youth pray and what they pray for. Before this practice we could barely get them to pray for anything. Once they began to experience answered prayer, they began to pray more and more fervently.
At this point we have to allow for at least 15 minutes for prayer. I suspect that they would pray for a good 30 minutes if we had more time. This is amazing to me considering when I pray with our elders it’s a stretch to get five minutes of prayer. We are so busy!
The youth praying will step forward toward the middle of the circle and bring a request. The group responds “Lord, hear our prayer.” They pray for upcoming exams and sporting events, for family and friends, for peace on earth and goodwill toward all, for challenges in the neighborhood, for spiritual growth, our church, etc.
We always pray for more youth to join us. This is one of my favorites because when it happens we tell that new youths that they are an answer to our prayers. They always beam. I love it.
Our high schoolers are a mix of children raised in the church and children from the neighborhood who came to us primarily through our Summer Hoops program. Every year we have a few new kids from the neighborhood. It always takes some time for a new youth who has never been a part of a church or a youth group to learn how to behave. Sometimes this poses a great challenge to both the leaders and the other youth.
One of our new kids this year has been particularly challenging. He was invited by another boy who has been very challenging himself. We had to suspend them both from coming for two weeks at one point. One of them said, “You can’t kick us out! This is church!” I said, “Exactly. Church is where we respect and love each other and you are doing neither. I want you to think about why you come here.”
We were not sure if we would see them again. After two weeks, there they were ready for more. I am not saying that they were angels, but there was improvement. Baby steps.
As we finished our devotion we began to circle up for prayer, our two trouble boys practically wrestled each other to get to the spot to my left to hold my hand in the prayer circle. The new boy won the spot. He took my hand and we all began to pray. I felt love and respect from both of those boys if only for a few moments.
I am not sure either of these boys can articulate why they come to youth night. It’s perhaps too deep for words. I think they want to belong.
Prayer has a way of including others. In prayer we belong to God. When we pray with each other we belong to each other as well.