Friday, 24 May 2013

2: The Lord's Prayer

When people asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them the short form of prayer that we now call 'The Lord's Prayer'.

There are slightly different versions of it in different accounts, but all are similar.

Our Father in heaven (It was very new for people to call God 'Father'. And although it sounds very formal to us, it was more like saying 'Daddy'. People were not used to talking to God as a person that they could have a close relationship with).

Hallowed be your name (May everyone call you holy)

Your kingdom come (Jesus's main message when he was talking to people was about God's kingdom coming. He used lots of stories to describe what the kingdom might be like. But he didn't seem to mean a normal kind of kingdom. When he was killed, the sign on his cross said 'The King of the Jews', but Jesus had said to Pilate 'my kingdom is not of this world'. What do you hope would be different about life in God's kingdom?)

Your will be done (This part of the prayer says 'I want all the things I am asking for, but I accept it is up to you whether I get them. I believe you know what is best for me and everyone and I trust you')

On earth as in heaven. (This was another quite radical thing to say. It means that we think and believe that this world could be like heaven. We don't just get through life and look forward to a better life afterwards: we want to work with God to make this world a better place.)

Give us today our daily bread (Asking for what we need, but not for everything we would like. It is OK to ask God for things, but the thing to notice here is that we are only asking for enough for today. So we are trusting God one day at a time, and trying not to worry too much about the future. This can be really difficult, and that's OK. But saying these words reminds us gently to try to worry about just one day at a time.)

And forgive us our sins (We might not feel we have 'sins', as it sounds quite heavy and serious. But Jesus included these words for everyone. Saying them, we are admitting that we are not perfect, and trusting that won't stop God loving us and hearing our prayers.)

As we forgive those who sin against us (This can be the most difficult bit! If we can trust God to love us whatever we do, can we bring ourselves to forgive people who have been horrible to us? And what does 'forgive' mean, anyway? Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting. For example, you can forgive your brother for breaking your Stuffwithout having to let him carry on playing with it. I think 'forgiving' means something like 'letting go'. If you are angry with someone, it can feel like letting them off if you choose to stop being angry. But Christians believe - and scientists agree - that choosing not to hold on to anger makes you a happier and healthier person.)

And lead us not into temptation (These last two lines are both asking for bad things not to happen. 'Temptation' is when we feel we want to do something that we know is wrong. This line asks that we won't be in situations where we will have to decide. When are you tempted to do wrong things?)

But deliver us from evil. (This line is a catch-all prayer asking for protection from bad or scary things. From illness, people dying, people wanting to hurt us. And maybe also, asking for help for us not to be evil to other people?)

What is not known is how Jesus meant these words to be used. Did he mean 'say exactly these words'? Or did he mean 'include these areas when you pray'. We don't know, but many Christians do both. Saying the Lord's prayer is a good way to start or end prayers, and if you go to church it will usually be said in every service.

It is a good prayer to use if you can't think of anything to say, or don't know what to pray for. If you use these words, you know you are doing what Jesus taught his first followers to do.

So this week, I'd like to suggest you try using this prayer.

Either just say it, thinking about each line and what it means for you ( don't worry if some lines mean more than others). If you can, try doing this morning and evening for a day or two.

Alternatively, write it out and try to write each line in your own words. Look at the breakdown of it above, and try to say something about what each section means for you today.

And let me know how you get on!

Friday, 17 May 2013

1b: Review of Labyrinth

So, Noah tried the labyrinth suggestion and wrote this review of the experience:

I started by doing the labyrinth with my finger, and thinking about the words Miranda had set. To begin with, I was just saying the words to myself, and I didn't really know what to do, quite frankly. So then I started thinking about the words- and saying 'if you are the way or the light or whatever, show me' and I suppose I was thinking about what it meant for God to be the way etc., and asking him to help me understand that.

On the way out, when I was meant to be thinking about Jesus saying 'follow me', I was asking Jesus if he could help me follow him, because I still don't know really why I'm on the path because I'm not quite sure if I believe in him yet. So I was asking 'could you help me and other people to realise that you and your father do exist, and that the world would be a better place if everyone believed.'

After I'd done that, I tried doing the labyrinth with the marble. The marble was much more fun, and I had to really concentrate on communicating with my body.

 [Miranda's note: I had expected Noah to push the marble around the track with his hands, but in fact, he instinctively picked up the whole labyrinth in both hands, and concentrated on tilting it in three dimensions - like a Wii game - to guide the marble around by gravity. Which did look a lot more fun, and more absorbing!]

I actually did it twice with the marble, because the first time I just concentrated on getting the marble round the track, and realised at the end I didn't get it as a prayer at all. So I did it again, and the second time I was more just letting it go round and not trying so hard to follow the path exactly letting the marble jump corners and walls. I didn't think much on the way in, but on the way out that time I found myself thinking about how it compares to life.

I mean, when you were rolling the marble around and trying to get it right, it kept jumping corners and going over the lines, but you eventually got there in the end. And I thought of this as sort of being like the journey of life: you try to get somewhere and when it feels that you're really really close you get turned away by little things, and then they turn into bigger things, and then you sort them out and they start seeming to be coming back into the perfect life and you are coming back into the centre again. And then more little things go wrong, more arguments with friends and family or whatever happen again, and get you further and further away, so you sometimes feel like there's no point in life and you might as well just die. But then things start to get better again and you realise that life is good and you start to feel it gets better. And you start to think maybe going to church might help you in life.
 And I thought, when I first remember going to church - when I was six or seven or whatever - it seemed really boring and pointless, but the more I learned about God I realised the more important it was and that it might help eventually to find my connection with God.

Summing up the whole experience I would definitely recommend using the marble (or the finger really) just don't bother using the set words.

Marks out of 10 (where 1 is bad and 10 is good)

Ease of use: 10/10 Very easy.

Interest: Marble: 8/10 made me think
Finger: 7/10 made me pray but more limiting because of the set words

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

1: Labyrinth

Welcome to The Teenage Prayer Experiment!

This is a collaboration between my son and me, to try out different ways of praying and see which work best for a young teenager. (He's actually 12, but there isn't a name for that). We will be blogging alternately: I will come up with a prayer idea, then he'll review it.

You can find out more by reading 'The Project'.

For our first week, I thought we'd start with a labyrinth. Why? Because it is hands-on, interactive - and I happen to have one lying around.

I have an oak finger labyrinth, bought from Pilgrim Paths, and I'm going to suggest that Noah tries tracing the path first with a marble, and then with just his finger.

A labyrinth differs from a maze, because it only has one path. The path winds round and back on itself, so you can seem suddenly very near the center, then very far away. But you know you can't get lost, and all you have to do to get to the center is simply keep following the path.

Labyrinths have been used since ancient times as symbols of the spiritual life, and since at least medieval times as symbols of the Christian path. They were perhaps used as an alternative to costly and impractical pilgrimages for people who couldn't easily travel. The center might represent going to Jerusalem, or meeting God face to face, or reaching the end of life.

There are various ways to use a labyrinth, but the pure method is simply to slowly follow the path to the center, rest there a while, and then slowly follow it back out. It is a method of praying using your whole body. You don't just sit there and think, your body actually makes a journey. In my experience of walking full size labyrinths, I have found that my mind follows that physical journey, and is able to make some connections that I'm not sure I'd have made if I were just sitting still.

An alternative is to think about a particular question, or a scriptural quotation, on the way in, and perhaps another on the way out.

Full size labyrinths are big, and expensive and time consuming to build: though maybe if this goes well that could be a project for the youth group? Finger labyrinths like this one are more practical, and also take less time to 'walk', important for a beginner.

Since we are just beginning, my hunch is that having some words to focus on might make contemplation easier. So I'm going to suggest that on the way in, Noah thinks about the words 'I am the way, the truth and the life'; and on the way out 'Follow me'.

Watch this space to see how it went from him....