News and Views

An Experiment in Prayer

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By Rev. Jen Karsner

Prayer. It’s something anyone can do, yet almost no one feels like a master at prayer. Most Christians long for a deeper and more meaningful prayer life. What better way to take the next faithful step in our prayer life than by studying the prayer Jesus taught his disciples? During the season of Lent, Asbury UMC in Arnold, MD is working through the Lord’s prayer. Each week, we are immersing ourselves in one petition of the Lord’s prayer through worship, sermons, small groups, and even indoor prayer stations.

But we decided that we didn’t want to take this journey alone. We want to invite the community to walk with us, without expecting the community to step inside the church building. We began asking ourselves, what would it look like to pray with the community rather than for the community? The answer - outdoor prayer stations!

Our building is located on a main thoroughfare with lots of foot-traffic as people travel to school, the grocery store, the senior center, and a public transit bus. Each week, we are placing an interactive prayer station along the sidewalk where people can experience it without altering their daily path. The prayer station is designed to make the lesson on that part of the Lord’s prayer accessible to the community and invite them to join with us in various forms of prayer. Each prayer station can be completed in under a minute, or people can linger if they so choose.

We are using these six weeks of lent to help cultivate our own prayer life and the prayer life of the community. We started lent by giving every family prayer prompt cards, a set of seven colorful cards that is the first half of a sentence and invites the participant to fill-in the rest. They are a geared towards children but are also a great way to help adults learn how to craft their own prayers. Additionally, we are using modified versions of the outdoor prayer stations in our worship services. We have set-up an indoor prayer station in the lobby of our family life center that our preschool children visit during their class, and it’s available for the outside groups that use our facilities.

Jesus’s disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It’s a joy to see that prayer still being answered today as preschoolers, families walking to school, Boy Scouts, church-goers, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, bus seekers, grocery shoppers, and church by-passers pause long enough to be gathered around Jesus.

Most of the ideas for our prayer stations were adapted from the ideas of others. We are happy to share the resources we have to put together.