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Activity 4: Prayer as Presence — Holding in the Light (7 minutes), Session 6: The Power of Presence

In "Sing to the Power," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Bell or chime
  • Optional: Computer with Internet access

Preparation for Activity

  • Optional: Preview the YouTube clip of Kit Holmes performing her song "I'm Gonna Hold You in the Light" (4:00). Adjust the volume and queue the clip so you can press "play" during this activity at the time you choose.

Description of Activity

People encounter many painful situations that are beyond our ability to fix, from friends' and family members' health and relationship issues to violence and natural disasters around the world. Children experience prayer as a way to offer compassion and care—a ministry of presence—whether or not there is any action we can take to change difficult circumstances.

Ask participants what they think prayer is. Use these questions:

  • What do you do when you pray?
  • Do you have to believe in God in order to pray?
  • Do you pray for other people or for yourself?
  • How is praying like wishing? How is it different?
  • Why might a person want to pray?

Say in these words, or your own:

Prayer can be a way of expressing caring and good wishes for someone, offering your caring presence, whether you are in the room with them or not. One way of praying for a person is a Quaker tradition called "holding in the light." When you hold someone in the light you picture them in your mind and imagine that they are surrounded by a warm, glowing, healing light. You can think of this as the light of God, or the light of love, or the light of hope and good wishes.

Gather the group in a circle. Explain that you will now hold those you love in the light. Ask participants to think of someone or a group of people who might be going through a hard time and whom we can hold in the light. Suggest: It might be a family member who is ill, a friend with a difficult family situation, or someone who has been treated unfairly. Say it is fine to choose someone we do not even know—for example, someone in another country where there has been a natural disaster or a war.

Give the group a moment. Then explain that each person in the circle will have the opportunity to say who they are thinking of. The group will then repeat together "We are holding [person's name] in the light," and then share silence in which everyone imagines that person (or their name, if they don't know what they look like) surrounded by warm, healing light.

Say that if they prefer not to say a name aloud, participants may say "Someone" when it is their turn. The group will repeat "We are holding someone in the light," then share the period of silence.

Have a volunteer begin. Lead the group to respond "We are holding (person's name) in the light." Wait 20-30 seconds, then sound the bell or chime and invite the next person to share a name, until everyone in the circle has had the opportunity to choose someone whom the group holds in the light.

To conclude, invite participants to reflect on the experience with questions such as:

  • Are there times you can imagine you might want to use this practice of holding in the light? Could you do it by yourself? Do you think it is easier, or more powerful to use this practice in a group?
  • Does our congregation or your family use any similar practice? What about lighting candles of joy and concern?
  • Are there other ways our congregation, or members of our congregation, practice a ministry of presence?

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Monday, October 20, 2014.

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