Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Children's Prayers

One of the "problems" often mentioned in English state schools is the legal requirement for a daily act of worship. Many of my colleagues don't actually bother, unless Ofsted are visiting, and then suddenly books of prayers appear miraculously with long passages to be read and pondered over.

Time constraints are often cited as the biggest hurdle. We have only 20 minutes in the morning to get into the class, take down chairs, check and sign contact books, take the register, sort out uniforms, chase up absence notes, give out behaviour monitoring reports and listen to the tannoyed announcements.

Because of this, I prefer to use the "standard" prayers - the Lord's prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory be to the Father, and occasionally I will recite one of the longer traditional prayers, and then conclude with one of the more familiar ones to be recited together as a class. I do use more variety in the prayers we have in my lessons, but I prefer to make sure we have a short daily prayer rather than a longer reflection just once in a blue moon.

But every so often, usually about once a week, I will ask the students if they have any prayer intentions, and these can be quite an eye-opener. The children (my Form class is Year 8, and so they are between 12-13 years old) ask for prayers for parents, friends, relatives and just a brief indication of why they need our prayers.

Today, for example, several children mentioned a friend of older siblings who died at the weekend (I realised that it was the same person each time, as we'd had a prayer at staff briefing), a friend's mother who had died of cancer, a parent going to hospital, a relative who was pregnant and various brothers and sisters who were sitting exams.

I think of it as a privilege to hear these prayers. And it really makes me sit back and count my blessings.

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