Prayer before class starts is usually a crucial part of every religion teacher’s lesson plan. I included it by default on the lesson planning templates I created to support The Religion Teacher’s Guide to Lesson Planning. Use the tips below to help you remember to pray before every class session and to offer creative opportunities for prayer.
1. Use a Prayer Book
I usually have a few prayer books in my classroom to use for short prayer before class ideas or for a series of prayer sessions with a certain focus. These books usually have a collection of prayers for various moments and needs. There are also a number of reflection guides that you can use for more in-depth prayer sessions such as the Sacred Space books.
Each of these books are excellent tools for teachers and catechists to use in prayer before class starts:
- Day by Day: The Notre Dame Prayer Book for Students
- The Aquinas Prayer Book: The Prayers and Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas
- Prayers Before the Bell: Inviting Christ Into the Classroom
- 70 Prayer Starters for Children…and those who teach them
- Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days
- Called to Pray: Daily Prayers for Catholic Schools
2. Student Prayer Before Class: Prayer Partners
I have written about student prayer partners in the past (here). Assigning partners for prayer can help foster positive relationships between students and make it easier on you to plan prayers. When I assigned days for prayer to the students, I found that I spent much more time and energy planning the days when I had to plan prayer. This is a huge help for accountability.
3. Create a Prayer Service
Most textbooks or catechetical resources includes some type of prayer ideas or prayers services in them. I have found a big benefit in planning separate prayer services for my students as well. I like to follow a simple format modeled after the Liturgy of the Word. Typically it goes like this:
- Opening Prayer (Leader)
- Act of Contrition (All)
- Readings (Readers)
- Reflection (Leader)
- Prayer Intentions (Readers, All)
- Closing Prayer (Leader)
Here are some short prayer service ideas I have developed with my colleagues at the Engaging Faith blog and here at The Religion Teacher:
- Ash Wednesday Prayer Service
- Catholic Schools Week Prayer Service
- Advent Prayer Service Ideas
- Christmas Prayer Service
- Beginning of the School Year Prayer Service
4. Incorporate Silent Prayer
Let’s face it, kids seldom set aside any quiet time for themselves. With cell phones burning holes in their pockets, they are always able to connect with other people instantly. They rarely get the chance for silent, personal reflection. As hard as it may be to take time away from your planned lessons, try to provide students with the opportunity to sit and pray in silence. I would even go so far to suggest that you offer this opportunity once a week. Try it with your students and discuss with them what they experience.
5. Praying Novenas and the Rosary
Novenas and the Rosary are prayers that plan themselves. There is something to be said about the consistency of starting each day with a novena or Rosary continued from the day before. I have also found a great benefit of incorporating a reflective element into these prayers to avoid the speedy repetition without reflection. Let’s remember that the purpose of the Rosary is to meditate on the mysteries of the life of Christ, not to see how fast you can say the prayers. These types of prayers are especially good ideas during the Month of the Rosary or major liturgical seasons.
6. Use the Lesson as a Guide for the Prayer
I often tried to develop short prayer experiences that coordinated with the lesson of the day. If we were learning about certain events during the life of Christ, we spent some time meditating on the relevant Scripture verses. However, be sure not to make prayer into a lesson at the expense of having a prayerful experience. Let the Holy Spirit work through the prayer rather than trying to work your lessons into it.
Try not to make this a requirement for all of your your prayers before class. I fell into the trap of forcing each prayer to be relevant to the day’s lesson. It is ok not to have consistency the entire lesson. Prayer should be an experience all to itself and it isn’t something we can plan with lesson objectives in the same way we do our lessons.
7. Spontaneous Prayer Before Class
This is one of the best ways you can model prayer. Don’t plan ahead. Take some time to let the Holy Spirit speak through you in a spontaneous prayer. I sometimes list a few things I want to pray about, but usually when I pray spontaneously in front of the class I try to let the words speak through me. This is hard to explain and sounds a little cheesy, but I promise you it works. Also, don’t let stumbling or stuttering discourage you. It is easy to get self-conscious even as a teacher. Remember that prayer is about God, not you.
What other ideas have you incorporated in to your prayers before class? Add them in the comments below if you have some ideas to share.
Photo source: Diocese of Joliet.
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Jonathan F. Sullivan
Great resources, Jared — thanks for sharing!
I’ve created two prayer handouts for teachers — one on spontaneous prayer (http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Spontaneous-Prayer.pdf) and a simple Liturgy of the Word for the beginning of the school day (http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Liturgy-of-the-Word-adapted.pdf).
Thanks for sharing these Jonathan! Great ideas!
Great ideas. I also include using prayer videos.I use you tube and search Christian songs. The students enjoy these and they also have to create one themselves. Then we use them throughout the year.
Excellent idea, Celeste! I love using multimedia for prayer and YouTube is a great resource as long as it isn’t blocked by school firewalls. Animoto is my favorite tool for having students create videos and prayer reflections themselves.
Susan Schantz SSJ
These are some ideas I’ve used for my daily six 8th grade religion classes:
During Advent and Lent use a candle and incorporate lighting trhe candle and extinguishing it as part of prayer
Rotate responsibility for leading prayer by each student or by seating groups
Use school Character Education traits as themes for prayer at least once a week
Have a basket of Scripture passages and other quotes for occasional use as part of prayer or at odd times during class (at transition times; when you have 3 minutes left)
Use Sunday readings especially during Advent and Lent
Have a visual focus of a poster or photo or plant or statue, etc.
Do outdoors prayer walks; students love this and you can develop a route with 3-4 stops for prayer together
Use Rosary and Stations, Advent Wreath, etc
Great ideas, thanks Sr. Susan!
My students are familiar with the silence prayer before the start of the class, followed by spontaneous prayer by the prayer leader. This helps them in focusing and being aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life.
Des, Silence is so important to young people today. Those few minutes before class might be the only moments of silence they get all day! Great ideas.