When I first started teaching in a Catholic school, one of my homeroom requirements was to start each morning with a prayer and flag salute. Like any first year teacher who is overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do, I reverted to a comfort zone and just did what I already knew: petitions. When the teachers met for prayer every morning before school, it always followed the same format: a short meditation followed by petitions and a short wrap up prayer. So I stole the format and used it in my classroom immediately, ending each prayer with the class mindlessly reciting the Lord’s prayer. Here’s the part I am a bit ashamed of. We prayed like this in my homeroom every morning for seven more years. It wasn’t until the beginning of this school year that I suddenly had an epiphany- I didn’t have to pray this way every morning with my students. My own personal prayer rarely takes the form of petition, and shouldn’t I be teaching and modeling more than one kind of prayer?
Before I move on, a word about petitions. There is nothing wrong with one student stating their need and the others responding with Lord Hear Our Prayer, but unfortunately, middle school students (and I) often let this prayer become mindless, which is what was happening. I wanted to practice more mindful prayer, which is why I decided to try something new.
Here are five non-petition morning prayers, a few classroom tested, and some that I plan to try later this year.
Rose, Bud and Thorn- My friend Michelle is the one who taught me this method of prayer that she had used with her own children. Each student shares a rose, which is something they are happy about or thankful for, or a bud, which is something they are hopeful about or looking forward to, or a thorn, which is an area where they are in need of prayer or help. I let students choose what they want to share- some students share all three, some choose one or two. I also gave the students periodic “passes” where they didn’t have to share at all.
Thanksgiving- This month, my students choose a staff member or teacher each day and we write them an encouraging note thanking them for their service to us and our school community. We then pray for that teacher for the day.
Three Minute Retreats- These are a Loyola Press resource. (By the way, Loyola Press’s website is AWESOME for Catholic school teachers.) The three minute retreat is the complete package. The retreats are on a variety of topics and all include scripture, a brief meditation, and some questions for discussion/reflection. There is quiet reflective music in the background and beautiful photography. I normally read through the retreat ahead of time because some can be a bit difficult for middle school students. You can see them for yourselves here.
Singing- This one is not for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t have believed it would work to sing beginning of the day prayer until my last year’s 8th grade class actually asked to use song as a prayer. So each day a different student would choose a song we would sing in church, and we all sang it as a morning prayer. Our school music teacher is awesome and has the majority of them saved as powerpoint presentations, so I just projected them on the SmartBoard so we could all sing along.
ACTS- This is an acronym that you might already know. A is for adoration: students say something they love/know about God. For example, God is awesome, God is creative etc. C is for contrition: students acknowledge an area where they fall short. For example, sometimes I am not kind to my sister. T is for thanksgiving: students thank God. This one I don’t think needs explanation. S is for supplication: here is where the petitions come in. Students ask God for what they need.
Hopefully one of more of these can help you change up your morning routine, or maybe give you ideas for a classroom prayer service or maybe your own personal prayer.
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