The Practice of Prayer

The third Sunday of the month is Family Sunday at First Presbyterian Church.  This sermon was a hands-on, interactive sermon in conversation with the young people of the congregation, and intended for everybody.

Lessons: Psalm 139:1-12; Philippians 4:4-7

Today is the first Sunday in Lent, and during Lent we are talking about ways to practice our faith – ways to practice loving God, our neighbors, our selves and the earth.

Remember the hearts we made a few weeks ago? SHOW HEART (A construction paper heart with the words, “God loves everybody, including me, and including _____.”  The children were asked to fill in the blank with the name of someone they do not like.)

That was a practice. The heart helped us to remember that God loves everybody.

Today we are going to talk about the practice of prayer.

On the cover of your bulletin, it says that prayer is paying attention to God. And in the passage Isaac read,[i] the apostle Paul says we are to pray to God about everything. Absolutely everything. Bring everything, every part of our lives to God.

First, let’s talk about prayers.

We say prayers in church: Prayer of confession, the Lord’s Prayer, silent prayer, Prayer of Dedication, and so on.

I’ll bet many of you say prayers at home. INVITE RESPONSE

I brought some books of prayers that were written for children and families …


Do you have favorite prayers you say at home?

When my daughters were little, this book[ii] sat near our table, and we all took turns choosing a prayer before every meal. That’s why the cover looks as though it’s had things spill on it.


The psalm we read together, Psalm 139, tells us that God is with us no matter where we go or what we do, so that means prayer can happen

  • at anytime
  • and in pretty much any way that we pay attention to God.

So besides prayers with words, there are ways to pray that don’t use words.

We have done a lot of praying without words here in our church:


  • Paper cranes (last Advent)
  • Election prayer net, fall 2016 (photo)
  • Prayer stones from 2015
  • Glass pebbles 2012 and 2016
  • Candle from Blue Christmas
  • Post-its – 2016 (photo)
  • Labyrinth (photo)


  • Bulletin cover (photo: Nepalese prayer flags)
  • Prayer bells (photo)

Today after worship, Royce Truex is going to teach us about a kind of prayer that is silent. You sit silently for about 20 minutes and you gently try to clear your thoughts. It’s called “centering prayer.”

There are even ways to pray with our bodies. This morning I’m going to teach everybody a body prayer.

Stand if you can; if you cannot, do the parts that you can do.

We begin with a gathering thought about the day:

Because we read the psalm, let’s start with thought from the psalm:

No matter where we go, God, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

Now talk us through the prayer movements, but then we’ll do it without words.

  • Stand straight and imagine yourself with deep roots extending down to the ground.
  • Bring your arms up and reach to the sky.
  • Take a few moments to imagine the energy moving from earth to sky, and from sky to earth, through you. From feet to hands, and hands to feet.
  • Stretch your arms out straight, shoulder-high, in a gesture of reaching to people everywhere who struggle. You could, if you want to, name them.
  • Bring your open hands, one on top of the other, on your heart. Think of all the people you love, and give thanks for them.
  • Then stretch you arms upward, starting with hands together, and then gesturing outward into the day asking for an openness of spirit to whatever may happen in this day.
  • Bring your hands together and bow deeply from the waist to reverence all life.


So that is a body prayer.

We’re going to talk about one other way to pray this morning. One other way people pray is using something to remind them what they want to pray about. A common thing people use in many cultures is beads.

Beads are easy to make, easy to carry; they fit in your pocket or around your wrist.


So today, we are going to make prayer bracelets with beads.

Here is the idea: Think of the things you would like to hold in your heart before God.

  • Maybe something you are grateful for.
  • Maybe something you are worried about
  • Maybe a friend or family member
  • Maybe something you hope will happen.
  • Maybe a situation in the world that needs to change

Choose which beads stand for which prayer. ….

So we invite everybody to make a prayer bracelet for Lent. Please let a grownup know if you need help.

When we’re done, we’ll come back together for just a minute because we have something else for you to take home today.


Conclusion: God is always with us, and God wants us to bring everything to God. Paying attention to that is prayer. And we can do that – pay attention to God and our relationship with God – in many ways.

© Joanne Whitt 2018 all rights reserved.

[i] Philippians 4:4-7.

[ii] Peace on Earth: A Book of Prayers from Around the World, collected and illustrated by Bijou LeTord (New York: Doubleday, 1992)

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