I am part of the core team for the middle school youth group in my parish. Every Monday we come together to play, snack, pray, and hopefully learn something about the faith. When it was my turn to plan the night, knowing that the theme was prayer, I chose to teach how to pray with the scriptures using imaginative prayer which St. Ignatius of Loyola taught. Here is the outline of the night:
- Scripture Charades: break up into teams, with five or six on each team. Give each team a different scripture passage and five minutes to figure out what they want to do. Have each group stand up in front of the group and act it out; group that guesses it first goes next.
- Here are some possible passages to use: Jesus washing the Disciples feet, John 13; Jesus Calls the Apostles to him, Matthew 4; Jesus heals a Blind Man, Mark 8; Jesus makes Peter the leader of the Church, Matthew 16; Jesus calms the storm, Luke 8. Print out the entire passage in case the group is not familiar with the story. Note: This took about 20 minutes with six groups.
- Opening Prayer
- Give the group the overview of the night: We are going to learn about St. Ignatius and way he taught people to pray. Talk about St. Ignatius of Loyola and show some pictures of him.
- Explain what Imaginative Prayer is to the group: In this type of prayer, we read a Gospel passage and enter into it, putting ourselves into the story. We think about what we can see, hear, smell, touch and maybe even taste. We think about our reaction to what Jesus is saying or doing.
- Practice with the group using a familiar story. I used Jesus’ birth. Ask these types of questions: what do you see, smell, hear? Who is with you? Are you a shepherd, wise man, angel? Why?
- After you talk through the process and students respond, use a Gospel passage. I used Matthew 14:22-33, The Walking on Water. Have the group spread out, sit in a relaxed position and close their eyes. Read the passage slowly and with feeling. When you are done reading, wait a few moments before having them open their eyes. Discuss where they saw themselves in the passage, why and what it meant to them. Questions: Where did you put yourself in the passage? What did you notice from that point of view? Why did you choose that person/perspective? When you saw Jesus, how did you feel? What did you learn about Jesus, yourself, others by doing this?
- Closing Prayer Time: Set up a table set up with tea light candles in the shape of a cross, one candle per student. Play “Lord I need You” by Matt Maher while each student comes forward to light a candle, praying silently for a specific intention. With just candles and low lights, talk about why prayer is necessary and important.
Talking points for #’s 3, 5 and 7
#3 Talk about St. Ignatius very briefly: was a soldier, a bit of a flirt, liked to have fun, fought in war, cannonball to the legs, very vain, had legs broken and reset so they would look good; long recovery with nothing to do except read holy books, lives of saints and the Bible; had a conversion and realized he was living his life for all the wrong things. Went off lived in a cave for a year, never cut his nails or hair, eventually formed a group of men who went about teaching and preaching, Jesuits. Ignatius was very practical. One way he suggested to pray was Imaginative Prayer. We enter into the Gospel and see ourselves there, with Jesus in the story.
#5 It’s a cool evening and Mary and Joseph have finally found shelter, we say they were in a stable, but it probably was more like a small cave. It offered protection and privacy. They were very tired after travelling to Bethlehem from Nazareth. Mary was going to have her baby, her son, who would be the savior of the world. She gave birth and wrapped Jesus in a blanket. Jesus was a beautiful little boy, perfect with lots of hair and sweet blue eyes. He hardly cried as Mary laid him down so they could sleep.
Joseph watched over them, thanking God all was well. He breathed a deep sigh of relief and closed his eyes.
Joseph stirred and opened his eyes. What does he see?
Ever so quietly, shepherds had come to see the baby Jesus after an angel came and told them the good news that he was born. A multitude of heavenly angels saying Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rest. Gently Joseph wakes up Mary and she picks Jesus up, showing her son to the shepherds.
Other soon come to Jesus, they bring food and drink for Mary and Joseph. One day, three Kings come to visit. They bring gifts for Jesus. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Mary is a bit confused as to why a baby would need these, but accepts them with grace.
Finally all the visitors stop and the Holy Family has time to rest before the next journey.
#7 Prayer: where we sit and focus on God, maybe read the Sunday readings and put ourselves in the Gospel; maybe it’s praying a rosary; maybe on a Friday you can go to Adoration. We can’t treat God like a once in a while thing, or we’ll forget about him. Or if we only reach out when we need him; what do we think about people who do that to us?