“Dear God, thank you for being the best father ever to me!”
This prayer jumped out at me as I unwrapped at least a hundred thank you prayers wrapped in sweet papers following our prayer space week at St John the Baptist Primary School.
We ran our prayer space during the 2nd full week of the school term, taking over the school library with various prayer activities. Having mentioned the 'prayer spaces in schools' initiative to the school RE lead a year ago it was amazing to see the idea come to fruition and the children really engaging with the space. In a nutshell a prayer space is a room or area in school which is designated as a focussed place where children (& staff!) can come to reflect or pray in many different ways. We were able to decorate the room, hiding books with flowing material, hanging fairy lights, using cushions, along with setting out various interactive prayer activities. We also had to man the space with volunteers so that there were adults from church available to facilitate the activities and support children who came in.
The week began with visit from our early years children in nursery and reception. Despite their young age these children found ways to connect with God, from making play dough models to say thank you to writing their sorry prayers in sand. They said sorry for making a friend sad, thanked God for Daddies and pizza (especially the pepperoni) and prayed for baby sisters, cats, teachers and each other.
We set up a prayer wall which grew bigger and bigger each day. Children wrote their thoughts and prayers on post it notes and stuck them to the wall, some wanted to continue saying thank you, but most prayed for other people; their family, friends, teachers. Some children prayed for grandparents who had died, others asked for help with school work, or that brothers or sisters would be nicer to each other, and there were lots who prayed for the poor and the homeless
A ‘Big Questions’ board was included later in the week as the older children came to visit. This proved really popular as they were able to write questions they would like to ask God. Their questions ranged from ‘how old are you God?’ to ‘how did God decide what personality would be good for us?’, ‘how many times have you forgiven people?’ Along with quite a few questions about heaven, hell and what happens when we die. My personal favourite was ‘Dear God, why did you create wasps?’ I’ve often wondered that myself!
One activity which really captured the children’s thoughts was ‘Pray for the world’. The children covered an inflatable globe with prayers; for countries they had heard about on the news, the place their family are from, or somewhere friends or family members are visiting or living in. There were also many prayers for friends or staff members who had recently moved away from the UK. One prayer I loved was stuck right on the bottom of the globe, praying for Antarctica “I pray the ice would stop melting so the penguins will be ok”, another prayed for Ghana “that the mosquitoes would learn to control themselves and not bite people”, and there was a prayer for America “Dear God, please tell Donald Trump to be good”. These prayers show how straightforward and honest children are when it comes to prayer; they pray for things which are in their recent experience, or which they’ve heard about that cause them concern, they also pay quite a bit of attention to what the adults around them say!
Here are some comments from the week:
“I felt like all the pressure was falling away”
“A lovely calming experience”.
In the sorry area a number of children commented that they liked being able to wipe away their prayers either from the sand or whiteboards as a reminder that they are forgiven. One child said how much they loved the thank you area because it helped them to feel more positive about things, and teachers commented that children were coming back to class with a real sense of calm and peace.
Thank you to all the volunteers who helped to make the week a success; Tanya, Mondli, Bosede, Graham, Zoe, Sandra, Claire, Maria, Vera. And thank you to St John the Baptist primary school for embracing the idea and giving all of the children the opportunity to visit the space. It was such a success we hope to make it an annual event! If you’re interested in finding out more about prayer spaces in schools check out www.prayerspacesinschools.com.