“The Impact of Running A Prayer Space Can Begin Long Before & Continue Long After the Event”
Louise Yeghnazar, parent and organizer held her first prayer space at Grayshott CE School in conjunction with the school's Faith Week activities. Here's her write up.
“What’s in the can and written on the packaging can be two different things!”
This was the theme of a whole school assembly just a few days prior to the prayer space event. Using an element of surprise to shock the unsuspecting staff and pupils, a (pre-warned) teacher was invited to eat from a dog food can. Unknown to those present, the dog food had been replaced with orange jelly and Mars Bars. Leading on from this, the question was asked: “Is it possible that prayer can be more than what we read on the ‘packaging’?” Thankfully the assembly had the desired effect, sowing seeds of anticipation and curiosity amongst the children and teachers for the prayer space. The fact that the volunteers, who led the assembly, were also hosting the prayer space meant that there were some familiar faces when the children initially visited the space.
The element of surprise was also used to great advantage in the prayer space itself. Being our first ever prayer space, the children were not expecting to find gazebos and fairy lights in a normally functional room. All the volunteers hosting the prayer space commented on the children’s reactions as they entered. It seemed that many of them had not been expecting to associate prayer with creativity! This was summed up in the words of a year six student who wrote about the prayer space: “I learnt that prayer is not just sitting down and putting hands together.” And another who commented: “I learnt that prayer can be anything, anywhere and anytime.”
The value of including children in the prayer space process.
One or two larger, more eye-catching activities in the space also really helped to capture the children’s imagination. The free-standing ‘oak tree,’ used for the ‘People-Tree’ activity was a reminder of the school’s own oak leaf emblem and values, and the cardboard model village used for the ‘Our Town’ activity enabled some of the children to think and pray in a more concrete way for their own locality.
There was much excitement as pupils recognized various local cardboard landmarks. Several of the children had worked hard to make these buildings a few weeks prior and were very proud to point out their recycled creations to friends.
Including a few children in the preparation process was somewhat accidental, but has turned out to be one of the successes of this prayer space. Not only were those individuals thoroughly invested in the project, they were also the best form of advertising in the lead up to the event! As a next step, it would be wonderful to invite more children to take an active part in the planning and preparation stages of the prayer Space. What a great way to further extend the opportunity to engage and impact the children.
A Snapshot of the Activities:
After entering the space, the children were quickly very keen to get hands-on with the activities. These included Prayer Bracelets, Plasticine People, Mirrors, Magnadoodles, Fizzy Forgiveness, Bubble Tube, Pipe Cleaner People, Empty Plate and Finger-Print Prayers.
One child wrote about the Fizzy Forgiveness: “I enjoyed the fizzy forgiveness as it gives me a clear mind and removes all the bad things in my head. It removes my worries”
The wide variety of activities appealed to all personalities and age groups. One child commented: “I loved all the activities like the play dough because as we are year 6 now we don’t really play with that very much”
The Importance of Enough Volunteers.
The volunteer ‘hosts’ were absolutely essential in ensuring the smooth running of the space and often sensitively enabled the children to engage more fully with the activity. This was evident in practical activities like the ever-popular prayer bracelets that required lots of adult help for threading. However, it was even more important when it came to helping children interact with the less hands-on activities such as the mirrors and bubble tube. A gentle question or encouraging statement made at the right moment turned these activities into a more thoughtful experience as these quotes taken from post-its written by the children demonstrate: “Dear God please help everyone love themselves for who they are.” “Please give me some love.”
At the end of the two days, an eye-catching oak tree made out of the fingerprints of staff and pupils emerged on canvas, reminding us all that we are a unique and needed part of our school community. It was also a great way to create a lasting reminder of this year’s prayer space as it is will be permanently displayed at the school
My Prayer Space Journey.
One personal lesson that this prayer space has taught me as I have organized it is that prayer spaces are all about relationship; relationship with God and with others. Prayer Spaces are not just tasks to be achieved. The school prayer group has been praying over a number of years for the school community and more recently seeking practical ways to serve the school itself as well as pray. Relationship has been built-up through simple acts of service, like providing food once a term for staff meetings, and serving coffee to parents before termly school church services. Although it has often been tempting to rush this relationship and trust building stage, I have found that the investment of time and energy has been very beneficial in determining how well the prayer space was received.
I am sure that the benefits of this prayer space at Grayshott School were being felt long before the event started, as Christians in the school and others in local churches increasingly worked together to pull off this event and of course got together to pray!
I am also certain that the benefits of this event will continue long after, as the children recall the messages conveyed in the prayer space and hopefully explore prayer in a more dynamic, creative way.
Louise Yeghnazar, Parent and Organiser.