Children are innately spiritual and created with a desire to know God. They do, however, need encouragement and guidance when it comes to developing an awareness of the presence of God in their lives. Modeling a variety of prayer styles will allow children or students to develop a closeness with Jesus that will follow them into adolescence and on towards adulthood. One way to encourage time spent in the presence of Jesus is to create a sacred prayer space in your home or classroom.
An effective prayer space should be inviting and peaceful. Provide comfortable seating, pillows, a small table and good lighting. Equip this quiet and welcoming space with a Bible (opened and propped), story books about Jesus, a rosary, a crucifix, small statues, a small bowl of blessed water and any other symbols and signs of our Catholic faith. Asking the children to contribute items to the prayer space is a wonderful way to help children feel connected to the concept of praying and will foster more use of the space. Invite children to add their own personal artwork or written prayers. Suggest they look for items in nature to place on the table as a reminder of God’s beautiful creation and all that He has given to us. However, remember to keep the area simple and uncluttered. Seasonal items can be switched out to make room for new additions. This short video demonstrates more ideas for creating an effective prayer space.
In order for this sacred space to serve its purpose of inviting children to experience an encounter with Jesus, it is important to model such experiences. Create a special moment to introduce the space to your children or students, and demonstrate how to sit in the still silence of God’s presence. Take a moment to read one of the books or a passage from scripture, followed by simple prayer. Encourage the children to talk to Jesus about the story or scripture they heard or the pictures they have looked at. Provide materials for them to respond to the call of Jesus with drawing or writing. Small cards for children to write their own personal prayer intentions can be another way to teach them how prayer is an important part of their spirituality. The Catechist's Journey offers some additional tips on engaging children in their prayer space.
Time spent in a quiet prayer space will increase a child’s liturgical awareness. By placing a green cloth on the prayer table during Ordinary Time, or a purple cloth during Advent, attention is drawn to the seasons of the liturgical calendar. This can promote greater participation in the Mass. Candles can represent those used at the altar, and an open Bible will remind the child of the lectionary they see the priest using during Mass. The more your prayer space reflects elements of liturgy, the more formed in the sacramental life of the church children will become. Check out The Liturgical Catechist for more ideas on prayer, catechesis and liturgy for children.