Praying with Children and Young People

            On this page...           
  What is prayer?
            Prayer Ideas
            Definitions of Worship

Creating a space
Worship leaders create a space in which we can encounter God.
The shape of the space - physical, emotional and spiritual -either helps or hinders that encounter taking place.
The ancient Celtic church called this "Tuning the five stringed harp” - Focusing the five senses of sight smell hearing, touch and taste helps us to engage the whole of ourselves in worship.

There's more than one way to skin a cat! Some ideas... try them yourself BEFORE you use them with the children. You can't take people where you haven't been.

Be Still
Use Your Imagination
Word Games
Praying In Action
Set Things Right

Most children will be used to being still and reflecting in school - It is something teachers increasingly ask them to do as part of their collective worship. So, don't be afraid to use stillness. Make sure though, that you are still yourself.

1. Your Amazing Body.
Sit comfortably or lie down – children love this –and close your eyes. Breathe gently and relax. Scrunch your toes up and let them go, then your legs etc.... repeat with the whole of your body.
Think about your body. What can you feel with it now? Can you feel the breath going in and out? Lots of complicated things are happening in your body -your heart is beating and your brain is working - and all without you having to do anything. Isn't it clever? As you lie still, thank God for making you.

2. Still Hunting
This Native American technique is explained more fully in an excellent book "Sharing Nature with Children ' by Joseph Cornell (Exley Publications. ISBN 1-85015-137-7).

Find a place - preferably out of doors - where you can be undisturbed. Just sit still - absolutely still. Don't rootle around. Let the life of the place find you. Notice what is there - don't try to think about it or be holy about it. Just experience it. This is harder than it sounds. Imagine what it is like to be that leaf, that insect, that rock ... Imagine what has happened to them and what their view of the world is like. This is very suitable for older children, but even tiny ones can do this for a while.
Use this activity to be aware of the world God has made. You might like to use Psalm 8 ' When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers ... what are mortals that you should be mindful of them...?'
Back to Prayer Ideas

Imagination is a gift of God. It is one of the things which make us truly human. Imagining is something children naturally do, but of which adults are often suspicious, having been told to 'stop daydreaming' once too often In their own childhood. The techniques taught by Ignatius Loyola are easily adapted for use with children.

3. A Place to Pray
Sit still and relax. Imagine a place you would really like to be. It can be somewhere you know or a made up place. Imagine you are there.
What can you see?
What is straight in front of you?
What is around you?
Are you inside or outside?
What can you hear?
What is the weather like?
What can you feel?
Are you on your own or is anyone with you...
add questions as appropriate, but let the children have space to imagine and see what they like. When they are ready, continue…
Now imagine that Jesus comes into your place to be with you - What does he look like.
What is he wearing?
You can say hello to him and talk to him.
What does he say to you?

Allow a few minutes for them to think. Children are often very good at this. It is sometimes easier especially with younger ones if you let them tell you about their place as they go along. You could also ask them to draw their place, or to tell one another about it.
Emphasize that this is their place and they can go back to it when they like.

4. Praying with the Bible
When you have told a Bible story spend some time helping the children to imagine themselves as a part of it. Let them be still and relax. Ask them to imagine what the place looks like where the story is? Where are they? Are they one of the characters, or in the crowd? Ask them to imagine watching what happens in the story? How do they feel about it? What do they want to do or say?

5. Praying for others
As in the suggestion above - tell a story, but choose in which people are brought to Jesus - e.g. the paralyzed man lowered through the roof (Luke 5) or the children brought to Jesus (Mark 10). Then ask the children to imagine they are bringing someone they know, or someone the group wants to pray for. Ask them to watch and see what Jesus does. Or ask them to imagine God writing their names on the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16).
Back to Prayer Ideas

Word prayers don't have to start 'Dear God, bless my hamster....'

6. Lectio Divina
A posh name for a simple technique with its origins in the monasteries founded by St. Benedict.
Take a Bible verse or short passage. Read it through several times. Learn it and say it aloud together. Then give the children time to repeat it again to themselves and think about it for a minute. Tell them it is a bit like sucking a sweet - in fact, it will probably help if you give them a sweet to suck while they think, if you think their parents won't mind Then ask them to share any thoughts they have had. Perhaps they will come up with a picture in their minds which they could draw. Perhaps they will be reminded of something that has happened to them. Perhaps they will be able to say how it makes them feel. Try to gather their thoughts in some visual way. Verses from the Psalms are a good choice for this.

7. A letter to God
Let them write a letter to God. It might express their hopes or fears. It might be a way to tell God about something which is important for them. If they cannot write let them draw a picture and talk to them about it so that you can write for them what it is they want to say to God. Establish a place in your meeting room where prayers like this can be displayed if the children want them to be.

8. Other people's words.
Explore the traditional prayers of the Church. Just because they are old and perhaps use odd words doesn't mean that they won't mean something to children today. Children often like to learn by heart things that are 'grown up' and it gives them a vital sense of being connected to the church of the past. Try to explore them creatively, perhaps finding out about the people who wrote them and the times they lived in. Explore the images and picture language in them. Use them in your worship often so that they sink in. Don't waste time learning things you find trite - the children will too.
Back to Prayer Ideas


God can see as well as hear. What you do can be a prayer.

9. Art and Craft
Art and Craft can be a form of prayer. Icon painters always regard the actual painting of the icon as an act of devotion, and believe it is this which makes icons more than just beautiful artworks.
Think about what you are asking the children to do. Try to ensure that they can express themselves through it. What will happen to it after they have made it? Will they take it home as a reminder of what they have said to God? Can it be displayed somewhere, not as a decoration - "look at us, aren't we clever” - but as a visual prayer.

10. Patterns
The drawing of patterns has long been used as a way of meditating. Celtic Knotwork, Indian Mandalas, Islamic tiles are a way of calming down and helping to focus on God. The emphasis on symmetry and repetition help to sort out cluttered minds and lives. Books of patterns ready to colour are easy to get hold of in shops like WH Smith, which many children and adults find helpful. Perhaps the children could be encouraged to draw or colour in silence as a prayer with some quiet music playing.

11. Collage
Use newspaper photos or drawings to make a collage of your collected prayers for a particular issue that is currently on your minds.

12. Symbolic actions
Light a candle against the darkness - or blow one out to symbolise acceptance and trust.
Wash your hands in a bowl and then throw the water away as an act of confession and forgiveness. Fly a kite, or make prayer flags - imagine the wind taking your prayers away.
Imagine you hold a bird in your hands which will take your prayers to God. Feel it fluttering then act out throwing it into the sky. Let it go and watch it fly away.
Give each child a shell, conker, or glass nugget and ask them to hold it as they think about what they want to say to God. Then invite them to put it into a basket, saying aloud their prayer if they would like to The traditional rituals and ceremonies of the Church are a good resource. Talk to your priest about the possibility of enriching your group's worship with appropriate actions and rituals which will form a link with what happens in your church. Examples might include the lighting of advent candles, an Easter garden, the use (with care ) of incense etc.

13. Dance
Make up a dance together - circle dances are easy. Perhaps the children can make up some dances or ways of acting out a prayer and show them to God in the context of your closing prayer. Make sure these aren't performances, but rather prayers.

14. Posture
Let the children decide how they want to pray. Talk about whether the kind of things you are praying about would be better expressed while standing, sitting kneeling, lying down, running around... or whatever. What should they be doing with their hands - are there more expressive ways of using their hands than just putting them together?
Let them see if they can pray just using their bodies and not saying anything.
Back to Prayer Ideas

15. SET THINGS RIGHT Prayer does not end when you say 'Amen', and rise from your knees. True prayer is action as well as words. Your relationship with God is continuous and is expressed in joining in his work of setting right what is wrong in the world.
If you teach children to spend hours with God in a state of gooey bliss but don't also help them to take action to feed the hungry and house the homeless you are not teaching them to pray, but rather teaching them to miss the point. Teenagers and older children will soon spot this and vote with their feet.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God “ (Micah 6:8)

A campaign undertaken for the sake of righteousness is more of a prayer than a thousand words or the most imaginative meditation in the world.
Back to Prayer Ideas


These are taken from a school Collective Worship policy - but I think they apply just as much to Sunday school and Youth Group worship. They were the result of extensive discussion with staff and it is the process of finding out what worship means for you in your context which is important.



Sacred Space
Children's spirituality