I spent a couple of days in prayer at a monastery not long ago and when I got back and told my students about the experience and the life of a monk, they’re response was a little disheartening.
“How boring!” one student exclaimed.
“ALL day long? They just pray all day long?” asked another student with a confused look on her face.
Let’s admit it. Prayer can be boring and if we’re not careful, our students will only think of prayer as a boring activity to do.
Even the Apostles fell asleep while Jesus prayed at the Mount of Olives. Saints, like St. Therese of Liseiux, admit to falling asleep in prayer. Sitting and praying is not typically the most energizing activity.
To add a little excitement–while keeping a sense of piety–I introduced students to a fun activity to learn to pray (and learn) the Our Father (the Lord’s Prayer).
A Fun Our Father Activity
Before we got started, we reviewed the words to the prayer, praying them aloud as a class.
Then, I introduced the Our Father activity. Here is how I would suggest doing it yourself:
1. Break students up into groups of two or three.
2. Assign each group a phrase or section of the Lord’s Prayer:
Class: Our Father, who art in heaven . . .
Group 1: Hallowed be thy name . . .
Group 2: Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done . . .
Group 3: etc.
3. Have each group come up with hand or body motions that correspond with the words of the prayer.
Do the first section together as a class to model what you want students to do in groups. For example, you might demonstrate “Our Father, who art in heaven” by pointing or raising your hands to the sky while you say the words to the prayer. Have the entire class practice the words and hand motions with you as a class.
4. Give the students ten minutes or less (depending on the number of phrases they have) to come up with hand motions to correspond to their part of the prayer.
Move around the room and check in with each group. Have them demonstrate what they have so far. Make sure the students who are shy or self-conscious participate too. Ask each group questions about why they chose that particular hand motion for each phrase. Make sure the motions connect with the real meaning of the prayer. Clarify any questions about the words.
Give the students a warning when time is up and make sure they practice their hand motions because they will need to teach the rest of the class when they are done.
5. Give each group the opportunity to teach the rest of the class the hand motions that correspond to the prayer.
Have the groups teach the motions and then have the class imitate them. Make sure each group can explain the significance of the hand motions and why they line up with the phrase they were assigned. As the class learns the motions from each new group, have them pray the Lord’s Prayer with the hand motions from the beginning.
Make sure you are learning the hand motions as well so you can help the students when they get stuck, but let them learn the motions for themselves. (The first time I did this activity, I actually messed the class up more than I helped!)
6. Have the students pray the Our Father with the hand motions from beginning to end.
At the end of the class make this prayer with hand motions the closing prayer. The next time you meet, have the students pray it as the opening prayer. Repeat the prayer periodical throughout the year and discuss the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer as you do so.
This is an activity you can do with pretty much any prayer and works very well with the Creed!