Friday, 22 November 2013

Prayer Arrow: Walk

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The arrow that points down to your feet. 

Ask Jesus to help you to 'walk with Him' as you live your life. That means asking for the courage and the wisdom to do things His way every day and in every situation.

This arrow is also about needing exercise.
If you could walk, but then chose to sit down all the time and never walk, your legs would eventually become so weak that you wouldn't be able to walk even if you decided to.
We need to 'walk with Jesus' regularly to make our faith 'strong' and help us grow the way Jesus wants us to. 

Psalm 8:2a (TLB)
But grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

This arrow is about discipleship, growing in faith and living out our faith - it speaks for itself!

For the children's personal prayers this is about asking God to help them get closer to Him and understand more about Him, and to have the courage and wisdom to make right choices.

If you're using this arrow as part of a group activity, try having some footprints on the floor that the children can walk on whilst they pray.

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
More to come!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Use Me

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook

Use Me.

The Arrow that points around and out. 

God can use you, however old you are - whether you are a brand new Christian or an old and whiskery one... He can use you in many different ways at home, at school or at church.
You will need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you see where you can be used.

James 2:17b (TLB)
Faith that doesn’t show itself by good works is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.

When I do this prayer with children I 
talk through the different ways God can use them. Quite often it's just common sense - begin with doing what you should be doing. Tidying your room and doing your chores without complaining for a start!

Being used by God isn't just about being up front, leading hundreds to Jesus, or leading worship etc. It's also being faithful in other things - shopping for someone who can't get out, helping in the garden for some one who can't do it themselves. The list could go on and on.

Micah 6:8 tells us
The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God.  (NCV)

That says it all really!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
More to come!

Prayer Arrows: Listen

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


Lots of Arrows that point in. 

Prayer isn't just about talking... It's listening too.
We should try to 'hear' what God is saying to us today, and give time for His word (The Bible) to sink in.

1 Samuel 3:8-9 (TLB)
So now the Lord called the third time, and once more Samuel jumped up and ran to Eli.
“Yes?” he asked. “What do you need?”
Then Eli realised it was the Lord who had spoken to the child. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if he calls again, say, ‘Yes, Lord, I’m listening.’”
So Samuel went back to bed.

What we are aiming to do with this arrow is create the habit of being still for a moment, to reflect and give the Holy Spirit a chance to do what He does rather than giving a breathless 'shopping list' and then running away. Stillness is rare in today's world - especially in prayer!

When I do this prayer with children I often joke that this is the bit of prayer that grown ups are not very good at!

It's a scary one to do with children, but you can do it with almost any prayer station, as many of them require the children to think - to meditate.

There is a fashion for emptying the mind and seeing what drops in - personally I think approaching 'listening to God' like this can be dangerous.

I prefer the listening bit of prayer to be in response to something we have learnt, read or heard. Some would say that if we guide we don't give the Holy Spirit room...... Well, I'm please to say that the Holy Spirit is bigger than that and works beyond what is in the human mind. I am convinced it is better and wiser to start with something of God in our minds than with nothing.

Some folk will find this scary - "What if God doesn't speak?"

Well - to start with, we need to be careful in how we explain this. How does God speak? It can be in many ways - it can be in an audible voice, but that is rare. Often it's something that stands out in our minds from what we have heard, and as we meditate on it, we can be comforted or challenged etc

We also need to be careful to teach the children about measuring what we 'hear' alongside the Bible and talking to trusted Christians.

When we do this as a specific activity I make it clear that not everyone will hear something at that moment, but that it's good to take the time to listen. We use music, a phrase from what we have learnt that day, a Bible verse or a specific aspect of God to reflect on. We have been amazed at the response from some of the children - it's worth a go!

How do you do the stillness and listening part of prayer? It's one I'm still trying to master - a fibro brain doesn't lend itself to stillness!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
(More coming over the next few days)

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Sorry

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The Arrow that points around and in. 

Being truly sorry means:
I know I have done wrong, I will try not to do it again, I will ask for God's help when I am tempted, and I want to forgive others because God has forgiven me

The fantastic news is that because of Jesus - if we truly say sorry to God and mean it,
He will forgive us!

1 John 1:9 (TLB)
But if we confess our sins to him,[a] he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.

Psalm 103:11-13 (TLB)
11) for his mercy toward those who fear and honour him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12) He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. 13) He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence him.

When I do this prayer with children I use different activities - it depends on the age and stage of the children.

Some times I do 'Fizzy Prayers' (Click the link to see what this is)

Sometimes I get the children to write or draw their sorry prayers and we put the prayers through the shredder.

Occasionally we will write them on flash paper, get the children to fold them, and put them in a bowl...... and then I set light to them. (Flash paper does what it says - it disappears in an instant flash when lit). You may need to do a risk assessment on this!

With some children we get them to pin their prayers on a wooden cross - with the promise we won't read them!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
(More coming over the next few days)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Thanks

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The Arrow That Points Backwards. 

We are supposed to be thankful for everything. Even the things we may not like!
Remember to be especially thankful for Jesus and what He has done to make it possible for us to know God and have the Holy Spirit living inside us

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (TLB)
No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

When I do this prayer with children, I ask them what they are thankful for. The answers usually range from parents to sweets. Sometimes we get named pets or a favourite sport (Usually football)

I then start saying things that may not be on their list of things to be thankful for:  Brussel sprouts, the dentist, little brothers etc.
We then talk through the fact that these can be good things - we can be thankful that sprouts and the dentist are good for us. Sometimes we even look for the nice things about having a little brother!

Sometimes this will lead to a more in depth discussions about bad things that happen where it doesn't feel right to be thankful. Great sensitivity is needed during these time and I often agree with what they are saying - it would be cruel to tell them that they need to be thankful for awful things that may be happening to them, but encourage them to find something within those circumstances to be thankful for. It may just be "Thankyou that there are people who can help me". It can be a huge help to a child to see that they are not alone in the situations they face. (You may want to read a blog I wrote called "God's Will")

I like to use "Sweet wrapper prayers" to re-enforce this:

  • Have some bright, flexible but strong paper you can use as sweet wrappers, plus some small square bits of paper.
  • Get the child to write/draw what they want to say thankyou for on the square bit of paper
  • Scrunch the “prayer” into a ball and wrap it in the bright paper like a sweet
Drop the sweet into a glass/clear plastic bowl and pray/say amen

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
Use Me
(More coming over the next few days)

Monday, 11 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Praise

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The Arrow that points up. 

Think about who God is, and what He is like
.......and tell Him.

Psalm 8:2 (TLB)
You have taught the little children to praise you perfectly. May their example shame and silence your enemies!

When I do this prayer with children, I do 'Shouting Prayers'.

I ask them to think of a word that describes God and say what it is.

It could be a real word: Big, Awesome, Wonderful, Loving.......

It could be a made up word: Humunginormous, Fandabiedozie, Wonderbig......

We then turn those words into a prayer.

I start with "Dear God, we think you are..." Then all the children shout their word out - lots of different words shouted at the same time. We then close with a "Wind Up" Amen (Something quite difficult to explain here..... but it's fun!)

There's loads of songs out there that can back this up too!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
More to come!

Praying With A Foggy Brain - There's An App For That.

(Check out the preceding posts to this: "What Was I Praying?" and "Is Prayer A Duty Or A Joy?")

I’ve been looking for ages for a journal app I can use for prayer, notes and thoughts. 

I needed one that enables me to use larger fonts on a clear and uncluttered background. 

None of those from Christian app writers cater for people with vision problems, so that shrunk the possibilities a lot!  

I also wanted one I could use across all devices - not easy when your computer/tablet is Apple and your phone is Android! 

But then I found and iPad/iphone app called ‘Awesome Note’ . (Christian app writers could learn a lot from looking at this very accessible app!)

This app is completely customisable - even down to what folders you want, what you want them to look like and how you want to use them. You can arrange the folders in any order and name them too. 
It also syncs with Evernote - my chosen note taking app, so I can look up stuff when I haven’t got my iPad. It's the best £2.99 I’ve ever spent on an app!

So why did I need an App?
It’s because of the tools I have found useful for my prayer life - with this app I can put them all in one place, and make notes as I use them. With a brain like mine I can easily forget.

These things are:
  • A Prayer Book - I love old prayers - they have ancient and beautifully crafted words, and much thought has gone into what is in them. My favourite is the  ‘Prayers of the Reformers’ book. I bought a similar kindle prayer book and often ‘screen shot’ prayers and drop them into Awesome Note to use more frequently - especially if one mirrors how I feel I should be praying for a specific person or circumstance.
  • Written Prayer - I have those moments where I start to pray for someone or something and then think “I don’t know what to pray”. (Yes I know about tongues - but not everyone has that gift….). I think it's helpful to write specific prayers and drop them into this app. I don’t think God minds us doing that. Somedays I'll read it as my prayer, but on other days it may be the catalyst for more. 
  • Bible verses - There’s some great examples of praise in the psalms, there’s also some great examples of pleading with God. The Epistles give us some lovely examples of praying for others. I like to drop these into my journal too so I can pick them out to pray with. 

For example:
Ephesians 1:15-19(MSG)
“That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

  • Music - I sometimes find it a distraction, but sometimes it’s something that draws me to prayer. If I come to prayer agitated I find it often ‘resets my soul’. I can't drop the actual music into the app, but I can write in a part of my journal if a song has helped.
  • Devotions - More often than not, my daily reading will set a conversation going with God - so I have my journal in Awesome Note too. A good place to look back when I need reminding of what God is saying to me

Using all these things is a help, but I am also aware that change is crucial. This app is useful for this too - I can have lots of ways to pray in there. If I'm having a bad day I can use a more guided/prescriptive approach (Written prayers and Bible verses). On my better days I can be freer - rewriting prayers as circumstances change or the Holy Spirit reveals more.

Using something completely different to pray on some days is good - I sometimes use my prayer arrows book to focus on the different aspects of prayer. (That’s another blog!) I've dropped all the pictures from this book into Awesome Note so I can recall them, because on my bad days I won't remember all of them (If any!)

Others use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide, or an acronym such as A.C.T.S (“Adoration, Confession. Thanks and Supplication” Lots of big words there, which is why we wrote the prayer arrows). If you go for this approach to quiet times - you may want to use these and drop them into a journaling app..... or even a hand written journal if you prefer!

I hope this is helpful.

Be blessed in your praying.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Is Prayer A Duty Or A Joy?

As I was growing up, prayer was sold to me as a chore. Something I had to do as a duty. It felt as though having a good prayer life was the thing to be worshiped, rather God. No one told me it could be a joy. No one gave me the tools  to enjoy it or be effective - I was just told to do it, do it for a long time everyday and always do it in the morning. Not helpful!

From the reaction to my last post, it seems I am not alone in this. Many have sent private messages saying that they have the same problems with prayer, and thank you for saying what I said. (Anyone who doesn’t agree hasn’t commented)

It wasn’t until I moved churches when I was 17 that I realised how much more prayer could be. I went to a youth house group meeting and heard someone pray in a normal voice using normal language, as though Jesus was sitting right next to him. It sounded as natural as breathing to him. I’d never heard anything like it and it bowled me over.

That was 30 years ago. For over 20 of those years I’ve been in full time kids work and I’ve been determined to give kids a much better experience of prayer than I got - getting them excited about praying, but also facilitating kids with additional needs who find the whole traditional approach to prayer almost impossible.

If you look back through my posts you will see quite a few of the ‘object prayers’  I love to use with children, to spark an interest and an excitement in prayer

With the onset of disability in my own life, I’ve had to work through a lot when it comes to prayer. It’s given me a whole new perspective when it comes to cognitive ability and the process of prayer.

I’ve learnt that I can shout at God - but still worship.
I’ve learnt that it’s ok to say “it’s not fair” but still trust His wisdom.
I’ve learnt that He understands when I’m bone tired and soul weary and struggle to find the words to speak to Him - and yet on those days find I’ve had the best wordless conversation with Him ever.
I’ve also found out that God doesn’t mind if I sometimes read my prayers rather than relying on memory….. but more of that tomorrow!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting some short posts on things I find helpful for personal prayer - a post per suggestion. Later in the month I’ll post some things that may be useful to any age group in encouraging a habit of prayer

Be blessed - in the truest sense of the word!

Monday, 4 November 2013

What was I Praying?

Let’s be honest - we all find prayer difficult at some point in our lives, and for many different reasons.

If you were like me, you were brought up in a church where great value was placed on how long you prayed for in a morning - to rise early and spend at  least 30 minutes with God. (Subtext to that - “but an hour makes you a better Christian”)

Prayer meetings all had a similar flavour, where ancient worthies would pray for over 10 minutes using beautiful language - but some of which I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t listen/concentrate for that long and I couldn’t live up to this expectation.

I did pray out loud once as a teenager: A bunch of us who played badminton on a friday night with our church youth group would take ourselves off for half an hour to pray for our “non Christian friends”. I prayed for a guy I’d met through my Saturday job - apparently my prayer didn’t quite hit the mark. It took a very long time to pluck up the courage to pray out loud again! No one seemed to place any worth on the fact I valued prayer enough to actually be there rather than stay and play an extra game of badminton!

Whilst we’re being honest, we probably need to say that some of us just don’t have the concentration to cope with praying long public prayers or trying to pray for 30 minutes at a time (especially in the morning). And it’s not just those with Attention Deficit Disorder!

There are some who can do all this - but I suspect that this is often more down to personality than it is to being an uber-amazing Christian. It’s at this point I usually get shouts of ‘Heretic - burn her’! (Or the modern-day evangelical equivalent)

I totally agree that without prayer and without time to study God’s word our faith would just sink. It is vital to our survival.
But if you have one of many chronic illnesses, it can be quite hard to do what well meaning Christian teachers tell us we should do.

There are many conditions that make first thing in the morning the worst time to pray and read, there are conditions that make concentration hard  too.

For example, one of the conditions I have has an associated problem that can affect concentration, memory, the ability to put sentences together and being able to remember exactly what you were saying by halfway through that sentence. You can blank out very quickly too!

I’ve chatted to others with similar issues who not only struggle with quiet times/prayer, but also the guilt laid on them because they can’t ‘do prayer like they’re supposed to’. They are adults, teenagers and children. And it is for them I’m putting together a series of blogs on praying when you can’t concentrate for long. I hope that some of the info will also be useful for Children’s leaders who want to do more praying with their groups.

The truth is, over many years the 'church' has added to the rules of praying. We've put these rules on to new Christians for all the best intentions - we want to make sure the habit of prayer is formed early. 

It's a great aspiration!

But we forget the God has made us all with different personalities, and not all of us can follow this prescribed way of praying.

I was really helped by a comment by a friend in my home group. He said "Prayer is about my relationship with God, not what I ask for". If we pray, and our relationship with God grows, does it really matter how we get there?

For me, I am so thankful to now have people around me who just ‘get’ how I have to function. They appreciate my ‘constant conversation’ approach to prayer. Plus I’m grateful for those who work with me and never judge me if I don’t pray during those necessary early morning prayer meetings at camps and conferences - just because my speech jumbles in the early morning. 

I love those early morning prayer meetings…. I’d just rather not try to pray out loud!