Last Sunday we used prayer stations in worship, something we do every couple months. If you’re not familiar with prayer stations, they’re simply tables set up with different prayer ideas. People wander to each station as they like, spending time wherever they feel most drawn.
I like them because they lend themselves to intergenerational worship, giving both kids and adults the space to connect to God at their own pace. Like the labyrinth, walking prayer or prayer beads, they also introduce a physical element to contemplative practice, which is helpful for kinesthetic pray-ers of all ages. While they’re certainly not the only way to build participatory worship experience, they are one way of doing so.
For all of these reasons, I’m discovering that prayer stations are also a great way to “do spirituality” at home. Most of the time when I share ideas for family worship, it’s a project or litany that everyone does together. (Like the gratitude jar, New Year’s Eve ritual or the home Tenebrae service.) But since families include many of the same elements churches do: different ages, different ways of experiencing spirituality or different energy needs, offering a couple ways of praying can be an opportunity for the family to create sacred space while still respecting each person’s individual spiritual needs.
So, here are the prayer stations we used on Sunday, adapted for family use. Just copy and paste the directions for each station, print them for easy reference for everyone and set them near the appropriate prayer station. Try setting them up on each side of a kitchen table, with candles in the middle and dimmed lighting for a vespers-style family night. Or, take them outside for a completely different experience. Pre-readers will need help but can engage pretty well with a bit of direction. And the beauty of prayer stations is that even toddlers can join in. They’ll get the experience of family connection and begin to appreciate time set aside for prayer and inner reflection.
Legos (or Duplos if you have a baby or toddler)
Puzzle pieces (You know that old Elmo puzzle that’s missing three pieces already? This is your chance to put it to good use.)
Paper hearts—at least one per person. (Use that scrapbook paper you bought back when you were going to learn to scrapbook to cut out hearts of different colors and textures.)
1 or 2 small mirrors
Directions for each station, below
Directions for each station:
For preschoolers and younger elementary kids: Build a tower of legos. Count how many you have. Can you think of that many things you like about yourself? Thank God for giving you those gifts.
For older elementary and middle school kids: What kind of person do you want to be? As you build with the legos, imagine building your spirit. What would you add? What would you take away? Ask God to guide you as you grow.
For high school and adults: Think about your actions this week. What did you build in your life? Where did you put your energy? How are you building things that really matter, like meaningful relationships and time with God?
For preschool and early elementary: Choose a puzzle piece. What do you like about that particular piece? How is it different from the others? Thank God for making so many different things in the world, including you!
For older elementary through adults: Choose a puzzle piece. What do you notice about that particular piece? How would the puzzle be different if this piece went missing? What’s missing in your spirit? How can you find the missing piece?
Take a heart. On one side, write the name of someone who has hurt you. Ask God to help you forgive them. On the other side, write the name of someone you’ve hurt. Ask God to help them forgive you.
Look into a mirror. Study yourself. What’s it like to really see yourself? If you could see into your heart, what would you see? Spend some time praying over that idea. What do you think God sees in you? Ask God to help you grow into the person God created you to be.
(Kids in older elementary to high school may find the experience of studying themselves in the mirror to be uncomfortable. They may use the time to adjust their hair, comment on the size of their nose or simply avoid this station. This is true of both boys and girls. You can gently encourage them to refocus on the prayer if they get too sidetracked but don’t make it big battle. They’re thinking about the questions more than they let on!)
I’d love to hear from you if you try these at home! And if you’re looking for more ideas for building family rituals, take a look at Traci Smith’s blog and her new book Faithful Families, which is full of ideas. You’ll get to hear more from Traci when she stops by the blog in a couple weeks–I can’t wait to have her here.