And a Child Shall Lead Them. . . in Prayer

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Looking for a simple way to engage children in worship? Recently a friend shared with me how the children in her church led the congregation in the Prayers of the People. It’s a simple idea that you can do with minimal preparation. 

Before the service, choose five different symbols that represent the different parts of the prayer, printing out one symbol per piece of paper. The symbols used for the Prayers of the People can include the following (at the end of this article we’ve included links to copyright-free photos you can use at no charge):

  • Raised hands to represent the things we want to praise God for
  • People with a cross, which symbolizes God’s people all around the world
  • A globe to represent our city, state, country, and the whole world
  • A band-aid to symbolize those who are hurting, sad or sick
  • A picture of your specific congregation, which represents asking God to work in your church and community. 

Before the service, create a path of these symbols around the front of the sanctuary, leading up to a cross or altar. At the appropriate time in the service, invite the children up to the first symbol, encouraging them to kneel around the picture, and ask what they see. Explain what the symbol represents and that this is part of our prayers to God. If appropriate, ask the children to share ideas of what you can praise God for. Then explain that you will lead the children in prayer. When they hear you say “Lord in your mercy and grace,” the children (and congregation) are to respond “hear our prayer.” 

If you have some older children who can read, write a prayer out on the back of the symbol, encouraging the child to hold the symbol up as he or she reads the prayer. When finished, walk to the next symbol, repeating these steps and continue praying together. 

If you have a large group of children, consider displaying the symbols on poster board or on a screen where everyone can see them. Gather small groups of children around the various symbols.  

One challenge might be that the congregation can see this as children “performing” in front of the congregation. To create a prayer experience, you will want to mention to the congregation that Jesus welcomed and loved children and remind the adults that a child’s faith is to be an example for all of us. To encourage an authentic expression of prayer, ask the congregation to enter into this prayer in a spirit of worship. 

Copyright-free symbol links:

Praise

God’s people

Globe

Sad face

Thank you to Lindsey Goetz at First Presbyterian Church in Aurora IL for sharing this idea. 

Mimi Larson is Faith Formation Ministries’ Children's Ministry Catalyzer. If you have questions or challenges about faith formation in children, welcoming children in worship, choosing curriculum, equipping volunteers, and more, contact Mimi at [email protected].

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The last paragraph says it all. Entering this time for all with an attitude of reverential worship is the key. The children also need to see their involvement as worship.

i would also add that the prayers the children read should be written by them. This requires sitting with them beforehand to discuss the prayer's focus, and construct a prayer in their own words.

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Great suggestion!  Your idea about discussing prayer focus and helping them construct a prayer in their own words will help teach children what prayer (and worship) is about and deepen their understandings.