Friday, January 09, 2009

Inner~View #54: Kids ... Untapped Prayer Power

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Phil Miglioratti interviewed Kathleen Trock of Pebbles and Stones --

An International, Intergenerational, Non-denominational Christian ministry.1 Peter 2:4-12

Phil ~ Kathleen, I've seen many products promoting prayer with children, but you seem to take both children and praying seriously. You are not content to use prayer to keep kids busy in class...

If we relegate prayer to busy work, we misunderstand both God’s nature and the power and reality of prayer. God's ear is turned to hear our children’s hearts in prayer. In Genesis, there’s a story about a young boy whose mother, not wanting to see her son die from starvation, leaves him by a bush. The child begins to cry, and God sends a message to his mother saying; "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.” Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." Gen 21:17-18 This story gives a glimpse into God’s compassion toward children and His readiness to intervene on their behalf. The cries of children reach God’s ears as prayer. God heard the cries of Ishmael, and He continues to hear the cries of children from around the world. I am hoping that God will use Kids Love to Pray Too to strengthen the prayer lives of our children. I want to encourage children to come to God as their Father, to learn to seek His face and to know His love as He answers their prayers and comforts their hearts. Connecting children to God through prayer invites them into an awesome relationship that will begin to change their life on earth and continue through eternity.


Phil ~ What prompted you to use Love to Pray by Alvin VanderGriend as the basis for Kids Love To Pray Too?

Kathleen ~ I was honored when Dr. VanderGriend asked me if I would be willing to write an accompanying curriculum to his book because we share similar goals. We have a love for prayer and a love for children and their prayer lives. In Love to Pray, Dr. VanderGriend invites readers to view prayer as a relationship with God – a friendship. His heart is to encourage children to connect with God in a real way. Our goals are parallel and his work is an ideal springboard for my curriculum.

Phil ~ You indicate that Kids Love to Pray Too! follows the Pebbles and Stones format ... Please explain that format and how it is unique to teaching children spiritual disciplines such as prayer.

Kathleen ~ Each Pebbles and Stones lesson has eight components based on the seven learning styles explained by Howard Gardner in Frames of Mind. The components are intentionally designed to create an environment where everyone can fall in love with God and where community with one another can grow through prayer. Each lesson’s Scripture passage or Bible story is woven into each component. The most unique and important component of the model is the listening time. During listening time, the participants listen to God, expecting to hear the truths that He is speaking to them through the lesson; the participants respond to God through journaling or drawing. Then each participant has the opportunity to share his or her journal page. The pages launch the group into prayer time, which easily establishes within the heart of each participant the discipline of prayer.

The model also places a high priority on depending on the Holy Spirit and living out our faith in community through prayer. Everyone experiences that prayer often directs our actions.

The following story comes from one of our Pebbles and Stones facilitators in Mombasa, a province in Kenya. He shares about two nine year old boys who were listening to God. The boys said that during their journaling time, God told them to preach to their Muslim neighbors. They asked their teacher how to do this. Their teacher told them to keep praying and ask God how. God showed them that the first step was to become best friends with their neighbors, only then could they tell them about Jesus. For the next three weeks the entire Sunday school class prayed for these two boys and the boys’ neighbors. After three weeks God, used the boys to lead several Muslim families to Christ. The pastor says that the Muslim families now are coming to their church.

In another group, a foster child prayed and asked God to allow her to stay with the family she’d been placed with. She wanted to remain in their family and continue to come to Pebbles and Stones. The following week she ran up to her small group leader, and said, "It worked; I can stay with this family". The group leader writes, “She then boldly shared with our large group how God answered her prayer and that prayer worked. She and her foster sister led us in a prayer of thanksgiving!”

The curriculum is simple and repetitious. Through its simplicity, the curriculum creates a natural “family like” community centered on loving God, others and ourselves. The repetition of journaling and praying helps each participant to develop a life style of prayer and response.


Phil ~ The KLTPT curriculum seems to teach the facilitator how to encourage prayer as he or she dives into each lesson...

Kathleen ~ My desire is that each lesson live first in the heart of the facilitator. Before teaching, the facilitator is encouraged to reflect on the Bible story and answer several probing questions in order to experience the lesson. During the teaching time, the facilitator models prayer by sharing his or her own prayers and inviting others to pray. Prayer is encouraged by allowing time for “conversations with God.” Natural responses from the human spirit to the Holy Spirit are encouraged during the journaling and praying segment. As a result, the full spectrum of prayer is experienced. Participants petition, supplicate, rejoice, cry, worship, engage in plain talk, etc. All of these expressions are valid forms of prayer and are affirmed during the meetings. The Pebbles and Stones model encourages dependency on the Holy Spirit to teach us how to pray and what to pray.


Phil ~ Take us through the eight week journey - What will a child learn about prayer and describe some of the praying experiences.

Kathleen ~

Week 1: What’s the Good of Prayer? This lesson lays the foundation of prayer. It’s the story of a great King who, even though he was a king and controlled his Kingdom, knew the importance of depending on God.

Week 2: Prayer Stoppers and Starters This lesson demonstrates the effects of sin and repentance on prayer.

Week 3: Praying for God’s Gifts In this lesson the participants begin to explore the importance of praying according to God’s will and are exposed to the gifts He offers.

Week 4: Praying for Others God often opens our eyes and hearts to see the needs of others; when He does, it is important to pray for them

Week 5: Pray and Don’t Give Up Through the story of the persistent widow, the participants learn that God does not want us to become tired or weary of praying.

Week 6: Prayer Models A model serves as a pattern; this lesson shows different Biblical models of prayer.

Week 7: Heroes of Prayer: Jesus Everyone has a hero or a heroine. My heroine is Gladys Aylward, who, against great opposition, led hundreds of children to safety during World War II. In this lesson Jesus is viewed as the Hero of Prayer.

Week 8: Prayer Makes a Difference Until we are confident that prayer makes a difference, most of us will not pray.

The following comments from facilitators illustrate what children have learned about prayer:

“The ideas/suggestions/directions have been awesome and the children are encouraged when they realize they have "heard" from God, whether through word, picture, thought, or prayer. The journaling pages are a powerful way for children, even those who are not eloquent with speech, to allow God’s Word to become real to them. Journaling also helps those who are not short on words to keep their focus on God.” Mellissa

“I didn't think kids would sit for 15 minutes and journal at this time of day, but they did. I love it when kids are given the opportunity to build a relationship with God rather than just being told to have one.” Sue


Phil ~ Explain the resources that are included with this curriculum.

Kathleen ~ KLTPT comes with a Teacher Resource CD, a Worship CD and a Song Book.

The Teacher’s Manual includes the following helps.

Unit-At-A-Glance – An overview helps the facilitator quickly grasp the key points of each lesson and invites him or her to experience the prayer lesson before teaching it.

Teaching the Pebbles and Stones Model – Teaching strategies and principles are helpful to those without teaching experience or with training in different approaches.

How to Lead a Child to Christ - This simple approach has brought hundreds into the Kingdom.

Effective Storytelling Tips – Tips gleaned from years of experience will help novice storytellers gain and hold attention.

The Music Book and Worship CD: The CD makes it easy to learn original worship songs, many written by other Pebbles and Stones children. It helps even the most reluctant singers to sing with all their hearts. Learning songs other children have written in Pebbles and Stones group will encourage your group to write their own new songs. The written scores will help musicians lead praise and worship.

The Resource CD contains:

    Lesson Power Points

    Lesson-specific visuals

    G.O.O.D. Acronym Power Point

    Lord’s Prayer Power Point

    Song Lyrics Power Points

    Participant Journal – It’s reproducible, so each child can have their own

    Take-Home Cards – Another reproducible resource.


Phil ~ What are the roadblocks that keep prayer leaders and children's ministers from taking children seriously in prayer, and what steps can we take to change that perception?

Kathleen ~ I believe that we are the biggest roadblock. Many of us, like our parents and grandparents, grew up in a world where “children should be seen and not heard.” By separating children and adults in nearly all church experiences, many churches, as traditional institutions, reflect this same world view or mindset. As a result, most of the church misses the privilege of being with praying children and witnessing firsthand the depth of the prayers of children. We also miss experiencing the awesome response from God as He answers their prayers. We are not the first culture or generation to discount children. The disciples had a similar attitude when people brought children to Jesus. I can only offer conjecture, for the Scriptures do not tell what motivated the disciples to stop the children from coming to Jesus. Perhaps the disciples thought that Jesus would not be interested in children or that the children would interfere with their own plans; perhaps they didn’t trust that Jesus could handle things. In the context of prayer, Jesus demonstrated a kingdom where the young and the old would come together to pray. In the Old Testament, God asked Joel to gather the people, the elders, the children, nursing babes, the bridegroom and bride, for a time of fasting and prayer. Jehoshaphat also demonstrated the importance of the generations praying as he gathered them together to seek God’s battle plan. In both instances the children and adults together experienced God’s answer to their prayers.

Another roadblock is that most curricula written for children ministries are informational versus experiential. I believe that it needs to be both. When a Bible story is told it can become the catalyst to launch the group into a time of prayer. The story often connects us with a desire to change something in our own lives, in our country or in others. Being aware of this potential can stimulate children’s ministers to lead the children into prayer by taking the time to reflect on the story and to pray.

I sense that there is a paradigm shift coming to the Body of Christ. I see more and more pastors, prayer leaders and children’s ministers taking children seriously in prayer. I have seen children change the spiritual climate of their school and neighborhoods through prayer. I have seen many children emerge as prayer leaders from their Sunday school classes - and I am encouraged.

What steps can we take to bring change? Well, it’s a Kingdom principle to begin with ourselves. So I’d say the first step is to ask the Holy Spirit, “What roadblocks do I have that keep me from taking children seriously in prayer?” Listen for His response and then, repent of holding on to those ideas. Ask the Lord to remove them and to show you how to build a highway of prayer. And finally, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to begin praying with children.

Meditate on the following Scripture:

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim 4:12 NKJV

Invite children into prayer settings.

Teach children to love to pray.


Phil ~ How can I get a copy of Kids Love to Pray tool?

Kids Love To Pray Too is available through:

Pebbles and Stones, PO Box 272, Jenison, MI 49428

http://www.PebblesandStones.com

And

Harvest Prayer Ministries @ http://www.harvestprayer.com


Phil ~ Kathleen, please write a prayer we can pray that will invite the Lord to transform the way we view how we teach and include children in the prayer life of the congregation.

Kathleen ~ Dear Father,

You are our Father, and we are your children. We long to see your House of Prayer full of children who love to pray. We ask You, Holy Spirit, to show us the roadblocks that we have set up in our hearts that block children from coming into your House of Prayer. We ask you to forgive us for not being able to see children as prayer warriors. Please remove our roadblocks and show us how to build a highway of prayer. Holy Spirit, please show us how to begin to pray with children. Help us to meditate on your Word and to listen for Your leading. Show us the children we need to reach, and help us to teach them to love to pray as Jesus would. In His Name we pray. Amen



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