Did you hear? Were you aware? The children and youth of St. Matthias were doing some pretty crazy stuff duringLent. And all in the name of prayer! OK, now that I’ve gotten your attention, let me fill you in on the details.
Wanting to provide a Lenten program to help guide our younger parishioners on their journey to becoming closer to God, I thought, “let’s do a series on prayer.” Let’s get down to some basic knowledge about this thing called prayer. Throughout the Bible, believers are called to pray. But what is prayer? What does it mean to "pray without ceasing?" And does prayer really make a difference? Before delving too deeply into the topic of prayer, I thought it would be beneficial to first define the term, as well as the focus of our prayers—God.
And so, we began our journey called, “Finding Joy Through Prayer” together each Wednesday evening during Lent. During the first evening together we discussed who, what, why and how we pray. We ended the session by making pretzels to remind us of arms crossed in prayer, which were also used for the Eucharist during the service that evening.
The next week was spent studying the Lord’s Prayer. We examined what each word means and how it was Jesus himself who gave us this prayer as an example of how to pray. To celebrate this gift, we made a lengthy prayer chain using the words to the Lord’s Prayer. And it was the young people who recited the Lord’s Prayer for all of us attending the service that evening. It was a beautiful unison of voices in prayer! The kids continued to add their prayers to the prayer chain each week during Lent.
Our third shared evening taught us about the many different objects, articles of clothing, artifacts, etc. that help people pray. We discovered how some use prayer beads, spinning spindles, engravings on a wooden tablet with a picture, or incense to pray. We learned what a tallit, a kippah and a kusti are. Then we hammered nails onto a piece of wood, in the form of a cross and strung yarn around the nails. And we used this art to help us pray by touching each nail and saying a part of the Lord’s Prayer together. Each young person presented their art work during the Prayers of the People at the service that evening.
As Holy Week was approaching we turned our focus to the Last Supper and Jesus’ time spent praying in Gethsemane. We discussed why Jesus would even need to pray. And we touched upon the many ways this scenario has been interpreted. We read the Bible interpretation. We watched a musical interpretation with parts from Jesus Christ Superstar. And then we made our own interpretation of the Last Supper and Jesus praying in Gethsemane in Lego form! The young people participated in the service that evening by reading the Prayers of the People.
Our final evening devoted to Finding Joy Through Prayer was spent leading four younger children and eight youth through the stations of the cross. When we had finished, we came together in a circle. A basket of polished stones with a cross engraved upon each stone was passed around. Each person chose a stone for the one standing next to them. They placed the stone in their neighbor’s hand and said a prayer for them. It was a beautiful and memorable event to be a part of. And again, the young people read the Prayers of the People during the service that evening.
I love providing a program such as this because Christian formation really matters. In fact, nothing happens if it doesn’t happen. St. Paul said as much in Galatians 4:19, “My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Christian formation is about Jesus Christ being formed in our lives to the point that our lives begin to reflect his life, that our love begins to reflect his love. His way becomes our way. That we love like Jesus, and give like Jesus and forgive like Jesus and do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God like Jesus; Christian formation is about Christ being formed by the power of the spirit of God in us and when that happens the world changes because we’ve changed. Christian formation matters, in fact nothing else happens until it happens.