1. Playing cards
Shuffle a pack of cards after removing the jokers. Explain the four suits of cards can have many different meanings and invite members of the group to draw a card from the pack.
If a heart is drawn – pray for people who are special to them.
If a spade is drawn – pray for working people who put in a lot of effort in for others, be it their families or society as a whole.
If a club is drawn – pray for those who are caught up in war, terrorism, violent crime and domestic violence.
If a diamond is drawn – pray for those who need more good things, not usually diamonds (!), but food, education, clean water or access to medical care.
2. Drumming prayers
Teenagers especially love making lots of noise, 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.
3. Praying for the excluded (could be used with communion)
This prayer activity could be used during a service focusing on a number of different Bible passages: the cleansing of the ten people suffering with leprosy (Luke 17.12-19); the good Samaritan (Luke 10.30-37); the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Mark 5.21-34); or the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15.22-28).
You will need: a portable fence of some kind (we have used puppy pen fencing, which is four pieces with hinges at each corner); a communion table or some other symbol of God’s presence, such as a cross if you are not celebrating communion together; strips of coloured paper large enough to write on and be seen, but small enough to weave through or stick onto the bars of your fence; a marker pen; a ‘No entry’ sign.
On pieces of paper of one particular colour, write labels giving categories of the kinds of people who weren’t allowed to pray in the inner courts of the temple and attach them to the fence. You can get lots of inspiration for these labels from the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Your list will include categories like women, pork eaters, people with eczema, people with leprosy, Gentiles, etc.
If you are sharing in communion later, make your fence a barrier to the table with the bread and wine on it. Add your ‘No entry’ sign.
Then proceed with your gathering as normal. When the time comes for the prayers, invite people to take pieces of paper of a different colour and write on them the names of groups of people who are excluded from our society today, then weave them through or stick them to the fence. Your groups will include categories like drug addicts, the severely disabled, people with mental health problems, ex-offenders, and so on. Then when the time comes to celebrate communion, read this passage from Hebrews 10.19-24, using the TNIV translation:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.
Then open the fence and turn it the other way round, so that the people group who were previously kept outside are now in the inner place, around the table. This time, leave an opening in the fence so that it becomes a sort of backdrop to the table, and continue in sharing in communion. If you are not planning to celebrate communion, you will still need to open the fence and place it the other way round, but you might want to invite people to come into the space and do some other activity, such as touching a cross in a gesture of thanksgiving or lighting candles around a cross as an act of celebration.
For other ideas like this see Sue Wallace, Multi-Sensory Worship, Scripture Union, 2009, p30