Teaching Teens to Pray
Disclaimer – I write “Leadership Moments” for the volunteers at my church who work in the youth ministry. Each Leadership Moment is meant to equip the everyday youth worker with the knowledge and skills they need to help teens as best as they can. Because these articles are for people I know personally and meant for my own church and city context, they may not always be relevant to the wider public. However I put them here for anyone who might benefit from their content.
Prayer is one of the most essential elements of the Christian life. As a result, it should be one of the things we emphasize the most in youth ministry. Especially for teens who did not grow up in church, prayer can feel like a mysterious thing that only religious people do. Yet this is not true at all! Prayer is simply talking to God.
In a youth group setting, it can be hard to get teens to pray out loud. They may feel weird doing it, or that they don’t know how, or are afraid of saying something stupid in front of everyone. It’s our job as leaders to do everything we can to create an environment that encourages them to pray out loud. Here are a few practical tips on doing that.
Pray short, simple prayers. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 (a prayer commonly known as the “Our Father”), his example prayer was only four sentences long. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t spend long periods of time in prayer, but it is good to go easy when teaching others to pray. We also should avoid using fancy, religious language. At prayer time, the youth leaders should pray short, simple prayers. The idea is that when a teen hears you pray, they think to themselves, “I can do that!”
Don’t take all the prayer requests. Before praying, it is good to take up prayer requests. What is not good however is when a leader prays for multiple prayer requests during their turn. The reason is because it leaves nothing for the teens to pray for. When a teen is just learning to pray out loud, it is nice for them to have a topic ready rather than having to come up with one on the spot. As leaders, it’s our job to pray for one thing and leave lots of stuff for the teens to pray about. They will be much more likely to take a chance.
Don’t just ask God for stuff. It’s okay to ask God for help and to provide for our needs. But if all we ever do is pray to God to ask for stuff, we’re basically treating him more like Santa Clause than a friend. In addition to making requests, we should also thank God for all he has done for us. When leaders pray out loud, we need to model for teens that prayer is more than just asking God for stuff. It is a relationship.
Keep these tips in mind next time you have prayer time in youth group!