Jesus did not have the same modern day distractions we have, but He could have used a lot of excuses for not spending time alone with God. He was probably tired from walking, hungry and without fast-food, wanting a brain-break from all the teaching and being questioned, not to mention the emotional intensity of helping and healing the crushing crowds of people around Him. Plus, He could have said, “I’m the Son of God! If anyone can skip their prayers, it’s Me!” But we don’t see Him making any excuses. In fact, we see Him longing to get away to talk with His Father.
- Do you currently set aside or practice alone time with God? If so, what does that look like? If not, what prevents you from doing so? (Start things off by being honest about your own alone time with God. Admit to deficiencies or explain your journey to a deeper experience so that students feel comfortable sharing. Some students may have found something that works for them like praying every night before bed or reading a devotional every day.)
- What are the challenges to spending time alone with God? (Students may not know where to begin, may not enjoy reading the Bible without a teacher, or may not know what to say when they pray. Others may try to create the habit but have a hard time finding the time, being consistent, or staying focused when they are tired or busy or distracted.)
The good news is that there is not one specific formula for spending time with God. The main thing is to talk to God and listen for His voice. Today we will practice some quick and hopefully fun ways to pray and get into Scripture. These practices will include putting pen to paper and using your voice as a way to focus and stay present, overcoming some of the potential obstacles you face in spending time with God. Your challenge this week is to try similar practices that help you connect with God in the days ahead.
Prayer Practice: Hand out pencil and paper to each student. Tell students that while there are many good prayer prompts, sometimes we get caught up in thinking of the right prayer for a certain category or forgetting what the letters in the prayer acronym we are using stand for (such as A.C.T.S.*), or we might get distracted or sleepy when trying to form complete thoughts. Sometimes, the freedom to pray in a stream-of-consciousness** style is helpful. Writing things down can also help us focus and remember. The idea behind this prayer style is that God already knows the details behind each request, it is our bringing them to Him that is key.
Set a timer for one minute (or keep an eye on your watch/clock) and have students write out “quick prayers” during this time. Quick prayers are written more like a list and less like sentences. This practice helps to get at the heart of the issue rather than worrying about wording. Prayers can be one word or a few words long: praising God for who God is, confessing sin, things the student is thankful for, names of those who need prayer, or topics of worry or concern. Students should write down whatever words or phrases come to mind in no particular order. Here is a sample of what a partial list might look like:
You’re Awesome, God!
Words with Mom
Give your students at least two opportunities to give this style of prayer a try (the first one may be confusing, but once they understand the concept, the second one should encourage them).
Try this prayer style all week. You may like setting a timer, or seeing how many pages you can fill up, or simply doing this free-form. If you ever get stuck, go back and mark prayers you think God has answered. Or mark ones you feel God is ignoring. Ask a friend or leader to pray about these things with you. This may not be a prayer style you adopt for always, but if you find yourself bogged down, it can jump start your prayer time.
Scripture Practice: Read the memory verse aloud together. If you need to, write it on the whiteboard so everyone can see it clearly. Say it over and over again until you feel you are beginning to say it from memory instead of reading it. At this point, have students turn to the person next to them to summarize, in their own words, what the verse says/means.
Tell students that reading aloud can also help us focus when we feel tired or distracted. Sometimes it is nice to read a large section of Scripture as a narrative, and other times it is helpful to focus on a smaller section, such as one verse that we can repeat over and over or dissect the meaning of, until it sinks into our hearts. We can use this Scripture practice to prompt prayers for our “quick prayers” prayer list.
If you don’t already have one, ask a friend, parent, or leader to recommend a devotional book, app, or Bible translation that they actually enjoy reading. Sometimes the format is everything. Maybe a comic book-style Bible is right for you, or you want to read about the women of the Bible, or need someone to make sense of Jesus’ parables. There’s something out there for you, so ask around and give it a try as you develop your alone time with God!
Close in prayer.
*Is the A.C.T.S. formula for prayer a good way to pray?
**stream of consciousness