Teaching young people a daily way to pray

Brad M. Griffin | Feb 19, 2021

As youth ministry leaders, we all want to encourage students to pray. But when it comes to actually teaching them to pray, we might find it hard to guide young people in practices that aren’t awkward at first or don’t involve a lot of talking (usually by the extroverts).

In many churches, Lent is a season of six weeks leading up to Easter when we make time and space to widen our understanding of sacrifice, have honest conversations with God, and notice more of what God is doing in and around us. Whatever the season, we can all agree that these practices are valuable ones for young people to nurture as they develop lifelong faith. And as anxiety and despair continue to increase among young people, engaging them in practices of reflection and prayer can provide a much-needed lifeline.

At the Fuller Youth Institute, our team would like to give you a free tool that can help you encourage students to pray.

When we were developing the Faith in an Anxious World high school curriculum, we talked with mental health experts about some of the best practices to teach teenagers how to manage their stress and anxiety. Aaron Rosales, the psychologist who most helped us shape the content, emphasized that ministry leaders need to think not only about response and prevention, but also about the promotion of positive mental health habits.

Mental health experts like Aaron recommend regular reflection—like practices of mindfulness—as a productive way for most people to manage normal levels of anxiety and promote mental health. That’s why Faith in an Anxious World offers you pointers to teach young people an ancient prayer practice. The Daily Replay is based on the Ignatian Prayer of Examen and adapted for teenagers today. The Examen is a helpful tool from our faith tradition that roots mindfulness in prayer.

Our 3-minute Daily Replay video walks young people through 5 simple reflection steps. Share it with young people in your ministry as you teach them this practical way to pray.


The Daily Replay Video


How to lead the Daily Replay prayer

Every young person is going to have their own comfort level when it comes to prayer. When introducing a new spiritual practice, consider the unique qualities of your group of students, and plan your prayer time according to what is going to be most helpful for them.

Start by introducing the video. Explain that you’re going to try a prayer that people have been using for hundreds of years. Some people go through the steps of prayer daily, and others use it to refocus when they feel like life is getting a little out of control. Either way, we can follow the prayer’s five steps any time we want to spend some moments listening to God and aren’t sure how.

Then let our team set up the practice for you as you watch the video together.

Next, invite the group to try the prayer for themselves. Here are a few different ways you could guide your students through the Daily Replay for the first time:

  • Create a quiet, reflective moment as you lead students through the prayer, and ask them to write down their responses to each prayer prompt in a journal. Maybe light a candle or two to set the tone and provide a focal point.
  • Use a video liturgy (FULLER studio offers a series of Examen videos online) to help students embrace and enter into concepts such as presence, gratitude, or forgiveness.

Then walk students through these five steps. You might use the following prompts, giving space for silence between each (1-2 minutes if your students are comfortable enough with silence):

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

Take several moments to breathe, relax, and invite God to be present with you.

Sometimes settling our body and mind is really difficult, especially when we have a lot going on.

One trick is to focus on our breathing. When we breathe slow and deep, we let our body and souls know that it is okay to relax and rest in God’s presence. Slowly take three seconds to breathe in through your nose, making sure to fill your belly with air . . . and then take three seconds to slowly breathe out through your mouth. Pause, then breathe in again. Repeat that a few times.

As you continue to breathe deep and slow, acknowledge God’s presence with each breath.

(Pause for a few moments)

2. Review the day with gratitude.

Look back through your day as if you were watching scenes from a movie. What happened? What were you like? What were others doing around you?

What are the good things that have happened today? What can you give thanks for?

(Pause for a few moments)

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

Ask yourself about how you felt at different points during the day.

What moments throughout your day have been difficult or tense?

When did you feel happy, excited, or at peace?

(Pause for a few moments)

4. Forgive, and ask for forgiveness.

Who are you angry or frustrated at?

Are there things you can forgive and let go in order to have peace?

What would you like to be forgiven for?

(Pause for a few moments)

5. Look toward tomorrow.

How might tomorrow be different?

What would you like to ask God to help with?

(Pause for a few moments)

Take some time to silently wrap up your conversation with God, and in a minute we’ll open our eyes and come back together.

Share

It’s often helpful to talk about what we’ve experienced during quiet meditation and prayer, especially if we’re trying something new. We may have loved it … or hated it. We may have sensed God’s presence … or nothing. Create a few moments of space for students to share, asking:

What was that like?

What connected for you?

What didn’t connect, or even was frustrating?

It can take practice to get comfortable with contemplative prayer like this. Try this again on your own. You might find it’s a helpful way to look back at the end of the day before you go to sleep.

Bonus tip: If you find apps helpful to remind and guide you through your own practice of the prayer, search your app store for Ignatian Spirituality’s “Reimagining the Examen,” or “Examen” from FULLER studio.

Tweet this: Teach young people to pray with 5 simple reflection steps. Get the Daily Replay, a free video from the Fuller Youth Institute!


Faith in an Anxious World

We don’t need to look far to see that our teenagers are hurting. Faith in an Anxious World is a 4-week research-based multimedia curriculum that will equip you with the tools you need to guide young people in your care, linking anxiety and depression with conversations about discipleship and faithful living. Together you’ll reflect on New Testament stories, watch Jesus enter into anxious situations with his disciples, and explore life in an anxious but hope-filled world.

Visit fulleryouthinstitute.org/anxiousworld to explore our curriculum and help young people find hope when they’re facing anxiety.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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