Leading From Within – Prayer
When teaching teens to pray, how do you go about doing so?
Have you ever had a teen ask you how they should pray? Or tell you then can’t pray because they do not know how? I have. And I am guilty of brushing off these very serious questions and issues posed to me. Sure, I have thrown out such sage advice as “Just speak. It doesn’t matter how we pray” and “Use the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) Model for prayer.” I have been quick with some replies, but I have also spent much time in discussion with teens about their prayer lives. How do we pray? Why do we pray?
Simply, prayer is our communication with the God of the Universe. It is more than just our way of telling God what we think or how we feel. He already knows. He doesn’t need us to tell Him. But He wants us to converse with Him. He desires for us to spend time intentionally building relationship with Him. How do we build relationships with anyone else? By speaking with them. What is at the foundation of every good marriage? Open, honest, two-way communication. When we do not communicate with others, the relationship suffers.
The same is true of our relationship with God. If we do not spend time conversing with Him – and not just talking at Him, but spending time listening for Him as well – our own relationship with Him will fall apart. How can someone who has a horrible marriage truly instruct others in how to have a successful marriage? Who would listen to advice on friendship from someone who has no friends? Sure the argument could be made that this is the perfect man (or woman) to listen to to learn how to do everything opposite of what they did. And there is great benefit in learning from the mistakes of others.
But I believe that most people learn best by seeing the right way modeled. That is why I seek to model a life of prayer that is not just me talking to God when I screw up or need help, but also when things are going right. I do not boast in how often or how long I pray. But I try to teach our teens how to pray by showing them how to do it. We work in regular prayer times together. I invite and challenge them to lead times in prayer. And I encourage them to spend time in prayer on their own.
We as leaders need to model true lives of prayer. We need to seek out every opportunity to pray. Remember that prayer is still a broad topic, and there are as many methods as there are people in the world. Look to the Scriptures. Ask others. Read Richard Foster’s thoughts. Find a copy of Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God and give it a whirl. But ultimately, go openly and honestly to God, ready to listen and to be taught.