Over my years as a catechist, I have become firmly convinced that our mission is not as much to teach children about Jesus but introduce them to Jesus. Having a personal relationship with Jesus is very different than only learning information about him. The best way for children, or any of us, to come to know Jesus is through prayer.
I introduce and model many experiences of prayer throughout the year; I am especially conscious to add new prayer experiences during Lent. My goal is to move beyond asking, “What are you giving up for Lent?” to instead asking, “What prayerful habits will you develop during Lent?”
At the beginning of Lent each child makes a Lenten journey folder. On the cover is a picture of Jesus to color. Inside the folder is a Lenten calendar; I ask the children to color each cross purple as we go through each day of Lent. The other page of the folder is to record their Lenten promises under three spaces labeled Pray, Fast, and Give.
Lent is the perfect time to introduce children to guided meditations. Even the youngest children respond to this quiet and peaceful form of prayer. Some of my favorite meditations for children include The Ball of Red String and Praying with Scripture.
This year I am going to take the Advent Prayer Grab Bag and call it my Lent Prayer Grab Bag. I love the way this simple idea teaches children how to pray for others through intercessory prayer. I like to have children pick prayer partners. They draw names for a classmate to pray for during the week. Children can pray for their partner using an intercession drawn from the Lent Prayer Bag, or each child could make a card on which they write, “Please pray for me that . . .,” followed by their intention; they then give the card to their prayer partner.
We also pray for people around the world through our participation in Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl. We give each child in our religious education program and parish school their own CRS Rice Bowl. Each cardboard bowl has a prayer on one side, and I ask the children to pray this prayer daily. I also keep a cardboard bowl on my class prayer table, and we pray the prayer in class. CRS provides other superb classroom resources that include prayers, short videos, and activities for elementary through high school students. These resources are designed for students to encounter people from around the world who are served by CRS. Last year we gathered all the children in the church with our parish CRS representative to watch a short video about the people helped by CRS.
How have you encouraged prayer during Lent? Do you have any other ways for children to deepen their prayer lives during Lent?
Download a Guided Reflection on Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving to use with your class.