Prayer #1 – Quality vs. Quantity

In the first of our series of short thoughts on prayer, I want to start by cautioning against falling into ‘the time trap’. This is the fallacy which says that the more time for prayer we factor into a programme, the better that is. Or, more to the point, it”s about thinking that time makes up for the fact that nobody really feels that close to God.A while ago, I was doing some work for a parish and they used to begin their youth group evenings with a time of adoration.It wasn”t working.Adoration can be great, but sometimes it falls a little flat with young people. When it does, it”s important to respond to it and try something else. But, unfortunately the response of the leaders was to do a little more adoration. 10 minutes wasn”t working, so what was needed was clearly 20. Then presumably 30? 40?Prayer isn”t a matter of time, but connection. We don”t get credits for each minute we spend there and we don”t help young people by chalking up minutes. Prayer is about making a connection. Our hearts and God”s. Cor ad cor liquitur and all that: Heart Speaks unto Heart.One of the best pieces of advice I”ve ever been given is not to let good things run on too long. It”s far better for something to be too short than too long. If people go out wanting more, they”ll come back. If they go out bored, they won”t.Where prayer is concerned, our job as youth ministers is to find what makes that connection with young people. What works for their heart. It”s not about minutes; it”s not about being able to say you”ve done a certain thing; and it”s not about ”getting it out of the way.”It”s about arming them with a method they can use for taking time out each day. Time to reflect on their lives and to bring what matters to them before God. It”s also about finding a meaningful expression when they”re together. Something that expresses their group and lifts it up to God.One useful approach is to road-test a few different forms of prayer to see what works. This is the method we push in Three One and it works well. We try different ideas with young people – explaining each thoroughly – and then follow whichever ones work.Certain things are known to work often with young people: silence, free prayer, passing a candle, praise & worship… these are the usual suspects, but be prepared for them to surprise you.Just don”t give them even more of the things that don’t work!!

 

Editor Emeritus - Jack Regan

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