We’ve been working through things Christians do at Sojourn Youth, the youth ministry of Redeemer Fellowship. I purposely started with prayer because if I’m going to struggle with a discipline, it’s this one. The last couple of weeks we’ve discussed Matt. 6:5-15, 1 Thess. 5:16-18, and Phil 4:4-7. We started our discussion with the fact that we tend to complicate something that shouldn’t be complicated. We defined prayer as simply talking with God. As we discussed this topic I noticed 2 problems that would deter our youth, and I believe youth in general, from prayer. Throughout the conversation, my leaders and I were practically able to help our students through these issues.
Problem #1 - “I don’t know how to do it or what to say.”
Our youth seemed to struggle with prayer because they claimed they either didn’t know how to do it, or they didn’t know what to say. Because of this frustrating problem, they would give up and simply not pray. As we talked, we broke this problem down to 2 basic issues, (1) lack of practice and (2) lack of examples; and then dealt with each.
When something becomes too frustrating, people tend to want to give up. It’s human nature. It’s only through the struggle and practice that we are able to overcome what is frustrating us. We compared it to tying our shoes, riding a bike, and playing a sport. We won’t get better at something (anything) if we don’t practice.
Through our discussion of Matt. 6:5-15, we brought up the point of the need of practical examples. How Jesus taught and modeled prayer for the disciples as well as us. Beyond His example it’s also helpful to see prayer modeled by those around us; parents, leaders, and pastors can all help youth want to pray by simply modeling what it looks like.
Problem #2 - “Prayer doesn’t seem to always work.”
This is a question of effectiveness, and how can we pray more effectively. We spent quite a while discussing what prayer isn’t. It’s not a shopping list of our wants that we take to God. Nor is God like Santa, giving us what we want if we’re good. Nor is it right to only pray for the “big” things in life. We had to lead our students to see that effective prayer is.
- Effective prayer is always God-Centered (not self-centered). Some of the youth had the impression that prayer didn’t work because they didn’t get what they prayed for. We had to show them how self-serving and prideful that attitude was, while at the same time reminding them how God answers prayer and why.
- Effective prayer is not just a list of needs (or wants). Prayer must also encompasses concepts of adoration, thanksgiving (and the difference between those 2), and confession. We not only tried to define these terms, but also explained why they are important and why we don’t always like thinking in these terms.
- Effective prayer is an “all-the-time” lifestyle of worship and dependance on God. We had to show them (and remind ourselves) that prayer is not just for our personal devotion time, but is part of an all-encompassing lifestyle God calls us to. We should be praying constantly.
- Effective prayer is not based on our merits, but on Christ’s. God doesn’t answer us based on what we do for Him or how good we’ve been. He answers our prayers based on Christ’s work. This concept helps to see that prayer can be bold.
There was obviously more said and discussed, this is just some of the highlights and observations that I thought were helpful. As we continue this series, we will wrap up with what Bible reading and study look like and how to get past common stumbling blocks. I share this to encourage you to lead the next generation to deeper, more God-honoring, kingdom building, relationship with Him.