Activity time: 5 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- Optional: Paper and pencils for small groups
Preparation for Activity
- Decide whether to conduct this discussion as a whole group or in small groups. If you prefer small groups, each will need an adult facilitator and you should reserve a few minutes to reconvene the entire group to share.
- On a sheet of newsprint, write the title "Why Do People Pray?" Post this sheet where you can write on it.
- Optional: On another sheet, draw two columns, "Once" and "Regularly." Set this sheet aside.
Description of Activity
Gather the group where all can see the posted newsprint. If using small groups, form groups at a good enough distance so conversations will not disrupt one another. Provide each group an adult facilitator and a pen/pencil and paper to record ideas.
Invite the children to share their ideas about why people might pray or meditate. Begin with the possible purposes of prayer or meditation. To start, suggest the purposes identified in the story, "Letter to Nancy "-to express thanks, regret or hope.
Then, elicit possible goals of praying or meditation. Ask, "What do people hope to get when they pray or meditate?" / "What do you think people expect as a result of their prayers or meditation?" Another helpful prompt question might be, "What do people mean when they say something is 'the answer to my prayers'?"
Affirm all answers and sum them up on newsprint or paper. Goals and purposes of prayer may overlap; it is not important to make a distinction. If these are not mentioned, you may like to add:
- a sense of personal or spiritual strength
- an experience of wonder and awe
- access to deep creativity
- a feeling of inner peace or contentment
- the courage to be an activist
- the comfort of solitude
- a feeling of connection or community with others.
If you are using small groups, give groups at least five minutes. Then gather the entire group. On newsprint, compile responses to the question "Why Do People Pray?" You might like to have each group contribute one idea at a time, to avoid the first group "covering all the bases" and leaving little for subsequent groups to add.
For Further Discussion
If you have time, you may wish to explore differences between praying or meditating once and using a regular prayer practice. Post the sheet of newsprint with two columns ("Once" / "Regularly") to record comments. You might ask:
What might make someone who has never prayed before decide to try it one time?
How do you, or would you, know if your prayer or meditation was successful? How can you tell what the results are? What if you did not see or feel a result right away?
What might be a reason someone might decide to meditate every morning? Say a prayer each night, like Nancy in the story we heard? Light a candle and say a particular blessing every Friday night?
Another avenue to explore, if you have time, is children's reactions to the story "Letter to Nancy ." You might ask:
How do you think Nancy got started with prayers, in the first place?
I wonder why she asked her minister about praying?
Do you think the minister left out anything important in his advice? What other thoughts about praying would you share with Nancy , if she were your little sister or your friend?
Thank everyone for their observations and sharing.
Including All Participants
Adults who are present to lead a prayer station (Activity 4) may be included in this activity. However, make sure adult voices do not lead or overpower the children's explorations and comments.