1. Image-based intercessions
Various ‘alternative worship’ groups have put their own visual intercessions with audio on the internet as a resource for others to use. Often there are no words to these prayers, but one is encouraged to pray as the images guide you.
You will need: computer/projector/audio playback.
Visual intercessions with incense from YouTube (including ‘Hail Mary’). This is a well–ordered sequence of images based on Psalm 141: ‘Let our prayers rise before you as incense; the lifting of our hands as the evening sacrifice.’ The images are generally all-embracing but may become dated as world events roll on, so you could create your own images and sync to the track ‘Life’s What You Make It’ by Talk Talk, downloadable from iTunes.
These visual prayers follow the liturgical pattern of praying for our church leaders, then the leaders of the nations, etc, all set to music. Turn the lights down low, sprinkle a tablespoon of incense on hot charcoals in a balti dish, and you are ready to go!
2. Simple large group candle lighting
You will need: ceramic tiles, tealight candles, large single candle, matches, fire extinguisher nearby.
It is very easy for larger gatherings to fall into the trap of rushing through prayers and not giving space for reflection. Clear a large area, maybe in the centre of your gathering, to enable you to place ceramic tiles in the shape of a cross on the floor. Have a basket of tealight candles nearby or give everyone their own tealight candle when people arrive. If possible, turn all the lights off and put on some chilled reflective instrumental music rather than songs with words.
Light one large single candle representing ‘Jesus, the light of the world’ in the centre of the cross. Invite everyone to light a tealight candle from the main candle. As they light their own candle, placing it carefully on the ceramic tiles, they can offer their own prayers or just mention the name of the person they are praying for. (No need for details, God already knows the thoughts and prayers of our hearts.)
3. Drumming prayers
Praying is often associated with quietness, stillness and silence, trying to subdue the noise of our lives to connect with the voice of God. However, the psalms are also full of jubilation and loud cries and shouts, so why not use one or all of the drumming prayer suggestions in Multi-Sensory Worship. In recent years, using drums and drumming as part of prayer and worship has become very popular as it is inclusive and people can take part at their own levels.
You will need: lots of different shakers. You may even want to spend a session making your own shakers Blue Peter style – eg, plastic sealed containers or cardboard tubes that are sealable from both ends – each filled with different materials to give different sounds, such as: lentils for a soft sound, dried peas for a slightly harder sound, or screws for an even harder sound. It would be good also to obtain some small and larger drums that you can hit either with your fingers/palm or are strong enough to be hit with a stick.
Make sure first that everyone knows that when you raise your hands, everyone else needs to raise their hands too – ie, stop playing! Then give out your percussion instruments, dividing your group into two groups – one using instruments that are hit, and the other using instruments that are shaken. Invite the group using instruments that are shaken to play the rhythm: ‘Je-sus, hear us.’ When that rhythm has been nicely established, bring in the other group to play the rhythm: ‘Lord Je-sus, hear all our prayers.’
When you have practised playing the rhythms, raise your hands to stop the musicians and explain that you are going to pass round a piece of coloured card. Whoever has the card can say the name of a country or world situation that needs prayer, or even say a longer prayer if they wish, before passing the card to someone else. Ask them to end their prayer with the words: ‘Lord Jesus, hear all our prayers. Jesus, hear us.’
During a period of drumming after this prayer, invite people to use the drums to pray for the situation that was mentioned, then raise your hands, allowing the next person holding the card to pray or just say the name of a country or situation. The period of time that each drumming section lasts really depends on how many people you have to get around. It also depends on how long it takes people to relax into playing the drums instinctively. If you allow for some longer drumming periods, you will find people getting more confident and starting to ‘do their own thing’ with cross-rhythms. When everyone who wants to has prayed, complete the session with a short spoken prayer and collect the percussion instruments.
For more drumming ideas like this, see Sue Wallace, Multi-Sensory Worship, Scripture Union, 2009, p13.
4. Newspaper intercessions
You will need: a variety of newspapers, paper tablecloth, scissors, glue or stapler, single candle in candle holder.
The internet revolution hasn’t quite dislodged people who like to take newspapers. Ask each table/person to prayerfully select a news story that concerns them, share why with others, then pray about it together.
Take it further
The following activity is especially poignant if celebrating communion together. Invite everyone to select stories from different types of newspapers/magazines, gluing or stapling them to a large paper tablecloth which then becomes the communion tablecloth. A single candle could be lit and the elements of bread and wine placed on your intercession cloth. Acknowledging God in the midst of brokenness and mess is indeed powerful and moving.
For more info see Sue Wallace, ‘Newsprint’, Multi-Sensory Prayer, Scripture Union, 2004, p17.