Do you remember learning how to pray? Did you learn specific prayers? Were you told to have a conversation with God? Do you still struggle with prayer? Have you taught your students to pray?
As Catholics, I think we are often expected to know how to pray, but beyond reciting prayers, we are not really taught how to pray. I noticed when I would give my students quiet time to spend with God (in which they could pray), they never knew what to do. It was a struggle for them to communicate with God and, at times, this led to a disruptive classroom or church.
So I went in search of how I could make prayer time more meaningful for my students and discussed it with my husband. He was working with a prayer partner through his program at Notre Dame at the time, so I gave that a try with my students one Advent. And let me tell you, it was a hit!
Here are the top 3 reasons you need to be doing prayer partners in your classroom.
1.) It will deepen the faith of your students.
Students often sit silently during prayer (sometimes praying, sometimes not), but with prayer partners, they enter into group prayer- with set guidelines for them. In my class we start by students sharing who or what they would like to pray for. Then students answer a prayer partner prompt and enter into a meaningful, faith-filled discussion with their partner. This is where the magic happens! Then students finish up with a common prayer. It’s simple, yet it allows students to pray and talk about their faith in a structured and purposeful way.
2.) It guides students in their faith.
Students do not always know how to talk about their faith or know what they should pray about, so having a set topic each week gives them the guidance they seek. I also theme my topics based on the liturgical season, especially around Lent and Advent. When I do this, it helps students better prepare themselves for the upcoming feast day.
3.) It strengthens peer relationships.
When it comes to choosing prayer partners, I do it very deliberately. I do not let students pick their partners because they will typically gravitate towards their best friends, and perhaps, not take the exercise as seriously. And since students are paired by me, I have them work with the same prayer partner for at least 8 weeks- this allows trust and rapport to be built between students. It is also important to note that my students and I have a very strict policy about keeping personal stories shared within our classroom walls (unless someone is being hurt or hurting themselves… then they are encouraged to talk with a trusted adult). By having consistent prayer partners, I have seen my classroom community build up and I see less issues among friends pop up.
Overall, prayer partners have been a big success in my classroom and has allowed students to leave at the end of the year feeling more confident about their faith, while knowing that they have grown closer to God.