Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Few Things Our Youth Have Taught Us About Prayer

Trent and I love being in youth ministry.  We love mentoring, having fun with and attempting to teach these kids some things about God, life, the world...  But we absolutely love it when our youth end up teaching us.

Our group has taught us a few things about prayer.  Now, there is not one "correct" way to pray and how people go about it often varies and depends on what brings them closer to God.  But we have ended up settling into some habits that are pretty universal in Christianity, like closing our eyes and bowing our heads, beginning with "Dear God" or "Dear Lord" and ending with "Amen".    Well, our kids have thrown these habits out the window.

One of our 6th graders asked the question before a prayer one time "Why do we bow our heads and look at the floor when God isn't down there, he's up above us in heaven?"  He also asked "And why do we close our eyes?  Then we can't see anything and might want to fall asleep.  I like to pray looking up with my eyes open because God hangs out up there."   Rather than getting into a discussion about bowing in reverence to the Almighty God and closing our eyes in order to remain focused on Him...we were impressed that he had thought this through so well and we just rolled with it.   Now, most of our youth don't actually bow their heads.  Some still close their eyes, but a lot of them turn their face upward toward their God.

One of our high school girls once shared how she doesn't like to say "Dear Lord" or "Dear God".   She said it seems really fancy and not like real conversation.  Again, we nixed the tradition of reverence that  I'm sure this stems from and now our prayers at the end of each youth group night, led by a different youth each time, often begin with phrases like "Hey man, what's kickin' in heaven?", "Hi God, how's it going?", "Hola, it's me again."

I don't know which of our kids actually started this last one but there was pretty widespread agreement once the question was voiced: "Saying 'Amen' always feels like saying goodbye or putting an end to your prayer.  But I don't like saying Amen at the end because shouldn't we be always talking to God?"   We explained that Amen doesn't really mean goodbye, it means "so be it", etc, etc but once again...we rolled with it.  Now the same prayers that begin with "Hey dude" usually end with phrases like "alrighty, well, I'll catch ya later" and "later man".

Do you notice a theme here?  Our youth have turned the spiritual discipline of prayer, which can sometimes feel forced, stuffy and routine, into something that is real and comfortable to them.  When they pray to their Lord it's more like they are chatting with a BFF, face to face, no stuffy language that some ancient person said they should say.  They've made it their own.  And I think that is SO cool.

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