Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Inner~Views: Guiding Students into Radical Prayer

Prayer Leader interviewed Mike King, author or Presence-Centered Youth Ministry

book cover

PL ~ Mike, your new book, Presence Center Youth Ministry, approaches youth ministry from a radical perspective - How is your approach different than the prevailing youth ministry culture?

The approach I take is radical. The meaning of the word radical, comes from the Latin word (radix)meaning root. In this context, Presence Centered Ministry is radical because it goes to the root of biblical Orthodoxy and embraces Orthopraxy (biblical practice.) The gospels invite us and the youth we work with to “pick up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Jesus.” This is the kind of adventure that is compelling to passionate young people. I believe that program driven youth ministry that focuses on getting a kid to heaven when they die and concerns itself primarily with keeping our young people free from smoking, drinking, and premarital sex fails to represent the Great Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ who is inviting young people to join the revolution of God’s Inbreaking Kingdom.

PL ~ You devote an entire chapter to prayer-practices - Is prayer even on the radar screen of today's students?

Studies continue to show that adolescents are positive about prayer and claim to practice prayer with a pretty high level of frequency. I think that our concepts of prayer are quite basic and non-creative. Not only adolescents, but adults in most Evangelical environments view prayer as a list of needs and hopes they have for themselves and loved ones that they run down with God on a regular basis. I have found that teenagers are very interested in learning how to have a deeper, richer more creative prayer life.

PL ~ Are the "practices" you identify simply traditional methods dressed up for a younger generation?

Maybe, but I find that adolescents are quite fascinated in discovering different ways that followers of Jesus have approached prayer throughout the history of the church. Paul’s instruction to pray without ceasing in I Thessalonians 5:17 has led to a rich and meaningful exploration of ways in which we might be faithful to this exhortation. When the young people begin interacting with the Presence of God through the intimacy of prayer, contemplation and meditation – transformation occurs.

PL ~ What are young people looking for in a prayer experience?

An encounter with the divine, to experience the reality of intimacy with God along with the sense that they are being obedient to the reality that God wants us to pray and that their prayers make a difference.

PL ~ What encouragement, advice, even warnings would you give an older generation prayer leader that wants to bring the generations together for prayer?

Don’t try to lead kids somewhere you haven’t gone. Discover first and foremost a rich prayer and devotional life for yourself – then leading the young people will be a natural expression of your own spirituality.

PL ~ Are you hopeful or despairing about the up and coming generation? What do you see as the future of prayer in the Church?

I am more than optimistic. I believe this emerging generation of Christian young people is eager to link a passionate prayer life with a passionate praxis – an embodied faithfulness to living in the radical way of our Lord Jesus Christ.

PL ~ Mike, write a prayer that prayer leaders can pray with you, calling on the Lord to equip them to serve or resource the prayer needs of the youth in their congregation . . .

I am passionate about writing and developing prayers. I am working on a Prayer Book right now. However, in thinking about your question the prayer that keeps coming to mind is the Jesus Prayer… “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” This prayer is one of the simplest, yet most profound prayers we have in the Christian tradition.

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