One of our biggest goals with our youth is that we’d develop a deep and authentic faith in them. It’s not good enough for them to just come to church, and learn some do’s and don’ts of Christian morality. They need to learn how to fall madly in love with the Word, and be able to hear and see the Holy Spirit active in their lives. And that’s been the heart behind a unique prayer experience the youth of St. Edward’s just participated in.
On the last Friday night before the start of Holy Week, we held what we call the BE Prayer Experience. It was an opportunity to step away from the busyness of everything going on, and devote a couple hours to just connecting with God.
There were no flashy lights, no loud music, and no hype. Just the students, their bible, their journal, and a path to walk around the church campus for various prayer experiences.
What Is the BE Prayer Experience?
The first thing we did was to check in their phones at the starting point. We gave some basic instructions on how the evening would work, prayed briefly, and sent them to their first station. Really, we just told them that they are each to walk their own journey through the stations. It’s not a race, so they could take as much or little time as they needed at each station. But throughout the journey they should commit to being there fully.
Each station they would stop at has a theme to “BE” something. They might have bible passages to read, something to write out in their journal, or some other task to fulfill. And each step would be built around having them pray something. The themes for each of the 12 stations they walk through are:
- BE still – Life is crazy. Slow down. Tune in.
- BE silent – We talk a lot. Stop. Listen.
- BE vocal – We can talk to God.
- BE loved – God’s love is unconditional.
- BE freed – What do you need to give up to Jesus?
- BE reverent – We pray to an awesome God.
- BE called – We can join God in His work.
- BE light – Be a light in the world.
- BE courageous – We can live fear free.
- BE servant-hearted – Jesus led by example that we are to serve.
- BE compassionate – God’s heart breaks for the poor and suffering.
- BE thankful – Identify something to be thankful for.
After everyone finished all of the stations, we met for a short time to BE together as we talked about our experiences and closed with a short prayer.
What Did They Get Out Of This Prayer Experience?
During our closing time together, the youth shared a wide range of the experiences they had. That’s exactly what we were hoping for! Even though they all walked the same journey through the prayer experience, God worked on all of them in whatever way they needed.
One youth shared how the several of the stations helped him deal with struggles from his past (through a tough early childhood and time in foster care) and began to find healing in that.
Others shared that they were impacted by some of the stations that helped them realize who they are in Christ. They found identity in words like “blessed” and “forgiven.”
One young lady said, “I always knew I was a Christian from going to church and youth group, but after tonight… something is different.”
This event is going to have a lasting impact on them. As they continue to let all of this sink in, it’s likely to impact their experience during the liturgy on Sunday mornings, during their time studying the Word, and during their prayers when we gather for our usual youth group meetings. This experience has helped them truly connect more deeply with the Holy Spirit in a way they can carry with them in all other areas of their lives.
Deacon Kim Spear attended the event to be a support to the youth, and was moved as she watched them walk through each of the stations. She later shared, “What a blessing to have been a part of the prayer walk with our amazing youth! They truly inspire me! Their enthusiasm and desire to seek God as individuals and in community brings me great hope for the future of the church. They are excited to do it again, and so am I.”
So, What’s Next?
One thing that all of the youth agreed on is that they want to do it again. Some mentioned that they’d love to do it monthly (and one even suggested weekly).
We’ll figure out a good frequency for doing these prayer experience events going forward. The good news is that we don’t even need to really change the stations. One can walk the same path a few months later and have a completely different experience as God continues to show up for each of them in whatever way they need it at that time. So it’s not just a one-time journey or event. It’s a life-long journey in which they are continually growing and learning to hear the Holy Spirit speak to them.
And we all agreed that next time, we’ll open it up for other youth to join us. We plan to invite other youth groups in the area that we’ve started developing relationships with, and from other churches nearby in the Diocese of Central Florida.
Whatever it looks like, we’re seeing the younger generation in our church beginning to learn how to pray, and developing a hunger to do more of it. Can I get an amen?