I prepared my students to pray with a guided reflection, telling them that using their imaginations to have a conversation with God might take some practice. I gave them permission to “not get it” the first time. This was important for establishing trust and tone. I then played the “Called by Name” prayer track from the CD that came with our Finding God program and sat down with my students to participate in the imaginative prayer.
After the prayer experience, I asked the young people what they thought of this form of prayer. One of the kids said that it was relaxing, and he seemed surprised in saying so. But why can’t prayer be relaxing?
All prayer is a conversation with God. In fact, it’s part of a friendship with God, as Ignatian spirituality tells us. So if we can relax with a friend at a coffee shop, a lunch table, a fun event, or in a living room, why can’t we relax with our friend God in prayer, wherever we are? Coming to that realization is one of the fruits of praying with guided reflections.
Whether my student had a profound experience with God or just enjoyed the 12 minutes of quiet the prayer allowed, coming away with a relaxed feeling is a positive in my view. When we relax, we can be ourselves and not try to hide behind masks. We can enjoy silence instead of needing to fill each moment with sound or activity. Even if the young man only liked being quiet, spiritual progress was made. (I find it particularly rewarding that it was this particular student who responded. In our first meeting, he proclaimed he was only in my class because his mom told him, “Religious education will be good for you,” even while admitting Mass attendance was not a family priority.)
We’ll wait a few weeks before doing another guided reflection. Hopefully the young people will remain open to this form of prayer and welcome the quiet space in their day it allows.
Have you tried guided reflections with the young people in your group? How did they respond?
How do you encourage prayer in your classroom?