“Even though it takes less than three minutes to pray all four prayers, this practice has rooted our family in prayer and created the fertile ground for us to have fruitful conversations about faith.”
Helping Families Pray at Home
As a Christian formation leader and a parent, getting kids to pray at home is a goal of mine. I want children to be comfortable with the idea that they can pray at any time and I want them to feel empowered to initiate prayer for themselves or their families. I try to empower my 3-year old to pray, as Paul reminds us to do in his first letter to the Thessalonians, by ‘rejoicing always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thess 5:16-18).
Prayer Brings Rootedness
Family prayer, and other traditions, create a sense of rootedness, helping children and adults to navigate the ups and downs of daily life. This rootedness creates fertile ground from which we build the trellis that will support the intricate and winding process our faith journeys take us on as we continue to grow.
In our home, we have three rules for faith practices: intentionality, consistency, and simplicity. Without intentionally engaging in our faith practices we tend to leave them behind – either because the practices are forgotten or because we are not truly engaged and are simply going through the motions. Consistency makes an idea into a practice. At least in our house, to be intentional and consistent requires simplicity; I do have a toddler after all!
Making Prayer Sticks!
One of the ways in which we have satisfied all three rules (and I’m a serious rule-follower) is in the practice of prayer sticks.
Search “prayer sticks” on Pinterest and you’ll find many examples from the simple to the complex. Many people do this activity by writing individual prayer intentions – one on each popsicle stick. For example, people, animals, or other things they wish to pray for.
At its most basic, prayer sticks are blank popsicle (craft) sticks on which you write prayer intentions and thanksgivings, in order to spark prayer. For example, one stick might have “Aunt Christine” and on another “our garden.” The containers used to hold these prayer sticks range from simple flower pots and mason jars to highly decorated containers.
In our home, I wanted to expand my daughter’s understanding of prayer. I started with four types of prayer: adoration, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving. I then purchased craft sticks in a variety of colors, and wrote the type of prayer on the corresponding color.
Red = Adoration (praising God)
Blue = Petition (asking God for our own needs)
Green = Intercession (asking God for the needs of others)
Purple = Thanksgiving (thanking God for our blessings)
Using our Prayer Sticks at Meals
Our prayer sticks sit in a mason jar near the table. When we set the table each evening, our three-year old places the jar on the table alongside our plates, silverware, and napkins. Setting the jar on the table creates intentionality. We would be more likely to forget to pray if the jar were to sit on the table all the time, but by setting it on the table, it becomes part of the meal, just as napkins and forks do.
Before our meal, we open the jar and each take four different colored sticks. We then say our prayers for adoration first, listening to each other as we go around the table. Petition, intercession are next and we finish with thanksgiving. Even though it takes less than three minutes to pray all four prayers, this practice has rooted our family in prayer and created the fertile ground for us to have fruitful conversations about faith that bridge the gap of adult and child.
While spiritual practices at home should shift with each family’s unique dynamic, prayer sticks are a useful tool to have in your repertoire, as they are flexible enough to incorporate into established practices, or newly planted ones.
Print & share this activity: download the free Prayer Sticks PDF
More at-Home Activities Like This
Prayer Sticks is part of the Home Practices series on Building Faith. Check out Home Practices to find more activities for households of all types and sizes.
Kate Huston is the Director of Formation at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City where she works with children, youth and adults. Currently, Kate is a member of 2015 class of the Certificate in Leadership for Lifelong Christian Formation. She enjoys spending time with her family: husband Greg, daughter Brigid, and their two large dogs, Rogue and Roxy. Kate holds a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Oklahoma.
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