I am not really getting that religious these days, but I feel that it is just timely to share this one with you guys.
Ok, a quick show of hands of “good Christian folk” who have nodded off while praying. Come on get those hands up! Well, I’m guilty too and as a youth volunteer, this can be your demise unless you can make some aspects of being a Christian exciting. Here are 5 techniques that I’ve used to get youth focused and excited about talking to God.
1. Prayer is an ACTION! This is a good way to give some structure to a prayer if someone feels intimidated or unsure of what to say to God.
“A” stands for adoration. Think about when you were a teen and you needed money from your parents. You didn’t just go up to them and say, “Hey, can I have some money?” NO! You “butter them up” a little first and brag on what a great parent they are. God wants that same kind of attention. I like opening prayers by establishing our relationship. God is first and great and mighty, so spend the first few moments lifting Him up.
“C” is for confession. Let’s go back to the money analogy from above. After you praise your parents, then you would often interject something like this, “I know I didn’t keep my room very clean this week, but I promise I will do better.” God wants to hear what you have been doing wrong and what you will do about it. Sure he already knows what you are doing, but it’s all about your recognition and what you are going to do about it.
“T” stands for thanksgiving. Offer some thanks for your health, friends, family, freedoms, mentors, luxuries, etc.
“I” is for invitation. Invite God into your life. This is the time to ask God to help you with that “big thing” that might have been the whole reason you decided to pray in the first place. But take it one step further. Invite Him to not only help you with whatever you are praying about, but to be your friend, guide, and savior.
“O” represents other’s needs. Now it’s time to think of all those special people in your lives and offer up some good thoughts about them. I think “other’s” could also mean places, events, or other things.
“N” is for next step. This is the most forgotten part of any prayer. We ask God to do this and that, but we never wait to just listen for a response. We need to give God a chance to respond back, and it may not happen immediately. However, finishing a prayer with some quiet, thoughtless meditation gives God the chance to tug on your heart and tell you what to do next.
2. The CSI Prayer – Have you ever seen one of the 14 versions of CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) on CBS? Well, I admit I don’t watch it regularly, but I do like this one type of scene that shows up in every show. Here’s what happens: two investigators walk into a room where a murder was just committed and one says to the other, “Hmm, Looks like a murder. I wonder who did it?” and at that time the camera zooms down to the floor to show a hair follicle left by the killer. The camera focuses you on the one piece of evidence they will need to solve the crime. Focus is the key to the CSI prayer.
Too often our prayers are too big and global. We want to always pray for world peace and the millions who are poverty stricken. Those prayers are great, but sometimes it's good to focus on the smallest detail of what’s really troubling you. I used my father’s forearm as an example with our youth group. My dad is a skin cancer survivor, but he has had multiple surgeries on his left forearm.
He lives about 3 hours away, so for my CSI prayer, my mind zoomed across the miles and I could picture him sitting at the kitchen table and I was only focusing on his left forearm. Don’t be afraid to be too specific with your prayers.
3. Popcorn Prayer – Here’s a fun way to add some randomness to your prayer life. You may have several thoughts or concerns that you want to pray about, but your just not sure how to put them in order. Let chance be your friend. Write down on slips of paper 5 people you really care about (a different slip for each person), a couple of your favorite verses, maybe a favorite quote or saying, 2 or 3 big issues in your life, and anything else you want to pray about. Now take all of those slips and toss them into a hat or cup. Start your prayer and every few seconds pull out a slip. This is also a good technique to add to the “O” (other’s needs) part of tip #1 from above.
4. Make it funny – Whoever said that prayer always has to be serious has never worked with youth. It only takes one “gas release” or gurgly stomach to make the most serious moment a real laugher. Understand that you can be funny without being disrespectful. After all, God gave us humor and if you ask most people, it is the number one thing they look for in potential friends.
Humor also gives us an easy way to be true with ourselves. Have you ever noticed how crying and laughing are closely related to each other and they can often occur in the same setting? Often our short comings and problems that cause us sadness can be better coped with if we can laugh about them. The other day, I was driving down the road and praying (my most frequent praying time) and I just blurted out to God, “Wow, God, sometimes I really stink at my job!” I immediately laughed at my honesty with myself and it was a great stress reliever from my hard day.
My wife was raised Catholic and when we first started dating, she was amazed at how I made-up prayers. We laugh about it now, but there is a certain ‘improvisation” to praying that can be intimidating. Relax! It is ok to laugh when you pray.
5. Change your location – This is a no-brainer! If you always pray in the same place at the same time with the same words, then an easy way to spruce up your prayer life is to change your environment. Some of my most memorable prayer times have been outside taking in all of God’s great creation. In fact, maybe my most memorable was by a river in Tennessee.
Mountain TOP (Tennessee Outreach Project) is a special mission trip that our church does every year. One year, I had an opportunity to lead a prayer for about 30 youth and adults down by the river at one of our evening worship services. I told everyone that they would pray many times in their life with their eyes closed and heads bowed, but tonight was going to be different. I said to look at the stars above and to look out over the river and to look into the eyes of your neighbor while I prayed, because we wouldn’t be in this place together again. I received a letter a few weeks later from one of the youth talking about that prayer and I will cherish it forever.
When I pray.. I make sure I have these diptyque candles that gives the good feel of being able to communicate with my savior. I love the scents too!
And I hope this is a cool way to end my article! I hope you have enjoyed it and that these tips can have an impact on your relationship with God. Shoot me an email if you found it helpful.