Outdoor Prayer Stations

We had our annual outdoor worship and picnic August 26, 2018 at Ashland Presbyterian Church. Here’s what we did.

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Prayer Station #1: Breath Prayer

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a breath from God swept over the face of the waters. –Genesis 1:1-2

A breath prayer is a type of prayer that allows us to connect with God no matter where we are or what we’re doing. In a breath prayer, we pray to the rhythm of our own breathing, which we intentionally slow down. The breath prayer can be a prayer in itself, or it can lead into further prayer. By practicing breath prayers regularly, you allow a “spirit break” that becomes as natural as breathing.

Here’s how you do it: Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly; then breathe out slowly. Repeat this several times. Say the first line of the breath prayer (while breathing in). For example: Lord. Then, breathe out slowly, give the second line of the breath prayer, have mercy. Repeat the prayer several times (it could be a four or five or several minutes worth, allowing other thoughts to disappear and concentrating on your breathing, essentially, you are not “saying” the word but “breathing” it) and then allow time for silence. Close this time of breath prayer with a simple prayer maybe “thank you Jesus for your love, Amen.” You may use one of the following breath prayers or create one of your own using a line of music, a poem, another Bible verse, and so on.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Be still, and know God.
Create in me, a clean heart.
This is the day, the Lord has made.
Fear not, I am with thee.
Peace, be still. God, is here.

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Prayer Station #2: Prayer Flags

Then Jesus led the disciples out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God. -Luke 24:50-53

Prayer flags are colorful pieces of fabric with prayers inscribed on them. They are often found in the Himalayas to bless the environment around them. The belief is that as these prayers are blown by the wind, as they become frayed and tattered, the prayers bless the world. The wind carries the blessing into small villages and into bustling cities, into war-torn nations and to peaceful people. The wind carries a prayer of strength to that widow mourning the death of her husband. The breeze blows blessing into that home and over that newborn baby boy resting in the arms of his mother.

1. Pray and meditate. Search the caverns of your heart and mind for the prayers. Perhaps it is a prayer for peace or a prayer of thanks. Recall your day, your week. Did you witness or hear something that caused you to invoke God? Perhaps it was the man asking for money on the street corner. Pray with your kids. Ask them to come up with their own prayers and blessings.

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2. Craft the flags. As you cut the cloth or paper into squares, pray your prayer. Remember that each prayer you craft is an offering to God. Be artsy. Be plain. Write out your prayers. Draw something. Attach a photo. Let your children make their own; let them go crazy with their creativity.

3. Hang the twine somewhere that you will see it everyday. Maybe in your kitchen so you can gaze at the prayers each morning as you prepare for the day. Maybe in your backyard between two trees. Maybe even over your child’s bed. Make them visible.

4. Attach each prayer to the twine and let the Holy Spirit take over. Keep these prayers always on your mind. Visit the prayer flags daily. Pray the flags often.

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Prayer Station #3 Gratitude Journal

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.” – Luke 17:15

As people of faith we know that living a life of gratitude is beneficial to our heath. But in our busy lives sometimes we forget to reflect of the abundance of blessings we have received. Using the materials provided create a gratitude journal. Place it on your nightstand or kitchen table so you remember to write in it each day. Here are some prompts to help you get started

• Use the prompt, “I’m grateful for…” and fill it in as completely as possible. Try to come up with five things each day.
• This is a twist on the first practice; instead of writing a full sentence on what you’re grateful for, just boil it down to one word. So it could be, “children” “brownie” “Earth” etc. Feel the essence of each word as you write it.
• Draw your gratitude each day, or do something creative. The instructions are simple – instead of writing your gratitudes in sentence form, draw them out. Or, paint them. Sing them. Dance them. Make a collage. Whatever suits your fancy.
• Write your daily gratitude, and share it with someone else. Once you’ve written it in your journal, write a note to the person you are thankful for, or a letter to someone letting them know the wonderful things happening in your life.
• If your life is so stressful you cannot think of anything to be grateful for, simply write something for the future. Write whatever your heart desires, and act like you already have it.

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Station #4 Preparing the Soil

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” –Luke 8:4-8

Last spring raised beds were planted outside the fellowship hall kitchen to grow vegetables and herbs to be cooked for our dinners at Sarah’s Hope. The preschool children will be planting and learning about how food grows in the beds, but like any good gardener knows, the soil must be prepared. Pull the weeds away from the beds and prepare the pots for the new plants to grow.

As you pull the weeds consider the things in your life that need to be pulled away so you can flourish with what God has called you to be. Discuss these things with your neighbors or write them in your journal at a later date. Return to the garden in a month or two and notice the progress the “good soil” has provided for our ministries.

Ezekiel 37 Prayer Stations

Another Blog Post by our Guest Blogger Ashland’s Summer Intern Katie Jasa!

Prayer Station #1: Breath Prayer

Location: Classroom

ImageA breath prayer is a type of prayer that allows us to connect with God no matter where we are or what we’re doing. In a breath prayer, we pray to the rhythm of our own breathing, which we intentionally slow down. The breath prayer can be a prayer in itself, or it can lead into further prayer. By practicing breath prayers regularly, you allow a “spirit break” that becomes as natural as breathing.

Here’s how you do it: Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly; then breathe out slowly. Repeat this several times. Say the first line of the breath prayer (while breathing in). For example: Lord. Then, breathe out slowly, give the second line of the breath prayer, have mercy. Repeat the prayer several times (it could be a four or five or several minutes worth, allowing other thoughts to disappear and concentrating on your breathing, essentially, you are not “saying” the word but “breathing” it) and then allow time for silence.  Close this time of breath prayer with a simple prayer maybe “thank you Jesus for your love, Amen.” You may use one of the following breath prayers or create one of your own using a line of music, a poem, another Bible verse, and so on.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Be still, and know God.

Create in me, a clean heart.

This is the day, the Lord has made.

Fear not, I am with thee.

Peace, be still.

God, is here.

 (Shannon wrote up the instructions for this station, and transformed one of our preschool classrooms into a quiet meditation space. There were beanbag and rocking chairs, as well as soft music playing. We put burlap over the preschool toys and added posters to the walls as well)

 

Prayer Station #2: Journaling

Location: Sanctuary

ImageThink about the times of drought in your faith.

·       When has your faith felt dry, or dead? When have you hoped for more? What dried you out? Write about these times.

Think about the times you longed for help from God.

·       What did you thirst for? How did you ask for new life? Write about those hopes.

Think about how you transitioned out of that dry valley, if you have already done so.

·       Was it a sudden change, or gradual? Was your faith renewed or enriched in some way? Write about these moments of change.

 For this station we put pictures of desserts around the sanctuary with the questions, so that people could sit in their pews and write.  This station worked well for people who were less mobile.


Prayer Station #3: Bare Bones

Location:  Back of Sanctuary

“As I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling,

and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” – Ezekiel 37:7

ImageThink about the things that have made you who you are. Who are the important people in your life? What places matter the most to you? Which events changed you? Consider the good and the bad things in your past. As you think about what defines you, trace the bones of your hand with paint. Look at the shape, and reflect on who you are in the present.

 Press your hand on a piece of paper, and see how your hand hides the marks of your bones. Remember that God sees every part of you, down to your bones, even the parts of you that nobody else can see. God loves you for exactly who you are, both inside and out. Reflect on God’s love for your entire self.

 We couldn’t really do prayer stations based on Ezekiel without doing something about bones. I got the idea for this station from http://almostunschoolers.blogspot.com/2010/10/ezekiel-and-dry-bones-x-ray-craft.html, and then wrote questions to turn the craft into a prayer.

 

Prayer Station #4: Community Blanket

Location: Communion Table

“Thus says the Lord God to these bones:

I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you,

and cover you with skin,

and put breath in you, and you shall live;

and you shall know that I am the LORD.’” – Ezekiel 37:5-6

God’s love has covered us with many blessings, and each one makes up part of who we are as a church. How does God build you up? What gives your life and hope? Draw or write something that you are thankful for on the fabric, making a blanket that reflects our community.

 For this prayer station we wanted to focus on how God covers each one of us. I’ll finish sewing the felt squares together soon so that we can use the blanket as a covering on the communion table in the upcoming weeks.


Prayer Station #5: Seeds of New Life

Location: Courtyard (out door of Sanctuary)

“We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:7

ImageThink about things in your life that you want to hide, or things that have marked you. Take a pot and write these things on the inside as a confession.

 Pour water into your pot, blurring your words and drenching the vessel. As the clay fills up with water, picture yourself being filled with the Holy Spirit. Just as these words are washed by the water, your sins have been washed away in the waters of baptism. Remember your own baptism, and know that you have been forever changed and claimed as one of God’s beloved children.

 Once the water has drained from your pot, fill it with soil. Think about the ways that you are ready for God’s call to flourish in your life. Open yourself to new life, and plant a seed into your pot. As the seedling grows in the next few days, remember that faith can transform our lives.

 

This was a much longer prayer station than the others, and unfortunately was also outside in the hot sun. We had been thinking about doing a confessional station as well as one that reminded people of their baptisms, and somehow ended up combining these ideas into a multi-part station.

The idea for the confessional writing and washing came from a prayer station at UNCO, which used stones and a bowl of water. I also incorporated some of the overflowing Spirit language from http://www.creativeprayer.com/water-and-spirit/.  I got the idea for the seed from http://www.creativeprayer.com/planting-hope/, although our version was a bit simpler. I liked the symbolism that the vessel which was first marked with sins was eventually filled with the potential for new growth, and it was nice for the congregants to take away something tangible.

 

Joseph Prayer Stations

Guest Blogger Today! Ashland‘s intern Katie Jasa put together prayer stations for yesterday’s service and did a great job.  More on the rest of the service soon.  Until then, here are the stations inspired by the Story of Joseph and his family.

Prayer Station #1: Woven Prayer

Location: Communion Table

Our church is woven from all of our lives. Together, our passions and our desires form the material of our community. When we worship, we bring all of ourselves forward to God; our joys, our fears, and our needs.

·      What has happened this week that you want to celebrate?

·      What has happened that you want to mourn?

·      What worries do you carry in your life?

Write a joy or concern to share with the church, and weave it into the communion table loom. Share what you write with someone around you; commit to pray for them this week.

 

ImageImageThis prayer station was inspired by this blog (http://theresaecho.com/2012/09/20/interactive-way-to-pray-in-worship-part-ii/). Our station served as a way to have written Prayers of the People. I was surprised how much of the makeshift loom got filled up – there were prayers filling the front and top, and also woven on the back of the communion table.

 

Prayer Station #2: Food for All

Location: Sanctuary

Hunger continues to be a problem in our world today. Bread for the World estimates that there are 925 million people in the world who don’t have enough food to eat, including 29 million Americans. Think of the people who live far away from good food, and the people who can’t afford healthy food. Look at the pictures taken by Peter Menzel of one week’s worth of groceries for families around the world also take time to read the scriptures throughout the sanctuary.

·      What does it mean to have enough food?

·      What does it look like to be hungry?

·      What does God call us to do about hunger?

Look at the list of products that Sarah’s Hope gives out to their clients. Choose an item to bring next week, and write a reminder for yourself.

ImageThis prayer station included pictures from Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio’s book Hungry Planet, which is absolutely fantastic. Hungry Planet has a large variety of photos, so I tried to include families of different sizes and incomes from around the world. The pictures were interspersed with scriptures about hunger and food, both from the Joseph story and elsewhere. Our church has an ongoing mission relationship with Sarah’s Hope, which provides temporary housing for homeless women and children. Having each person read the grocery list for Sarah’s Hope and volunteer to bring food next week helped to bring home the need for food justice in our community.

 

 

Prayer Station #3: Coats of Thankfulness

Location: Hallway

Jacob loved his son Joseph, so he gave Joseph a beautiful coat of many colors. Gen. 37:3

·      Who loves you?

·      Who takes care of you?

·      What are the wonderful things that people have done for you?

·      Think of all the people you are grateful for, and of all the gifts they have given you.

Glue pieces of tissue paper onto the picture of a coat, thanking God for something each time. 

 

ImageThis idea was on several blogs as a Sunday School craft. We printed out a coat outline from here (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1uo0DTsIL8M/UHDfnIVh1eI/AAAAAAAAAkI/x4MAlPrBTlc/s1600/coat.jpg) and then used the craft as a way to express thankfulness. This station was the only one specifically geared towards children, although we had plenty of children participating in the other stations as well.

 Prayer Station #4: Grains of Life

Location: Sanctuary

When Joseph’s brothers were starving, they went to Egypt to get grain for their families. Today we are nourished not only by food, but also by our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us in John 6:35 that “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Touch the grain and think about what sustains you in your life.

·      What do you need?

·      Who do you depend on?

·      As you pour the grain into a pouch, reflect on how you are nourished. Take the pouch with you to remind you of Christ’s love.

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This station began as a general idea from this blog (http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/hunger-prayer-station.html). I wanted to have a station about what feeds us emotionally, as well as one that focused on physical hunger in the world. Eventually the ideas about physical hunger became station two, and the grain became a tangible way to remember what nourishes us as individuals. We used a whole-grain hot cereal mix from an organic market.

 Prayer Station #5: Reflections

Location: Classroom #5 (across from restrooms)

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Gen. 37:3-4

 Think about the people you are jealous of in your life.

·      What about them makes you envious?

·      Is it a way they act, or things that they have?

·      Write about what makes you jealous.

Look at yourself in a mirror.

·      Where is that jealousy reflected in the way you live?

·      What fears and desires cause it?

·      Write where you see envy in your actions.

As you look at your reflection in the mirror, consider how God sees you. Think about how God sees the real you and loves you, petty thoughts and all. Let go of your jealousies, and accept that you are enough for God.

We wanted this station to focus on jealousy, and to serve as both a confession and a pardon. This post (http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/reflecting-gods-love.html) had some great ideas about using mirrors to think about God’s love for us, which became part of the stations’ ending. Since this station was one of the most introspective, we put it in a separate classroom.