devozine

For Youth Workers Post

DEAR GOD . . .

Darren Wright

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for November 1–8, 2015.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“Writing a letter is an intentional act; a letter takes thought and time to compose. Emails, tweets, and text messages take a lot less time and planning; they’re instantaneous, not like good, old-fashioned handwritten letters at all.

“We often make prayer seem easy. Like a text message to God, a prayer is instantaneous and requires almost no time or planning. It’s good to know that God hears our prayers no matter how much we stumble over words. Prayer can be like a conversation—simple, easy, unplanned.

“But prayers like the Psalms weren’t written in one sitting. They were carefully composed over time, each word carefully chosen before the prayers reached their final form.

“This session will give people some time to contemplate a couple letters to God and to write a letter to God. The key for this session is time.” —Darren

MEET THE WRITER

darrenDarren Wright is a Uniting Church Youth Worker serving in the Riverina Presbytery in New South Wales, Australia, as the Presbytery Education and Discipleship Worker. Darren has previously worked in congregational ministry, in high school chaplaincy, and in local government as a youth worker. His interests include music (Radiohead, Ben Harper, The National, Of Monsters and Men, Ryan Adams, Laura Marling, All India Radio, Florence and The Machine), film (Avengers, MegaMind, Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon, Scott Pilgrim, Big Hero 6), TV (Chuck, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Community, Agents of SHIELD), theology, pop-culture, working with young people in at-risk areas and connecting the church and theology with pop culture. Find out more about Darren and his work at www.digitalorthodoxy.com.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • If you have time during the week before the session, invite members of your faith community, elders, leaders, and parents to write their own letters to God. Place their letters around a Christ candle.
  • online access to the lyrics of the song “Dear God” from the album Skylarking by XTC
  • equipment to play the video or song “Dear God” (computer, speaker, CD player, mp3 player)
  • online access to “Who Am I?” from Letters and Papers from Prison, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Bibles or copies of Psalm 16 and Psalm 23
  • pens
  • markers
  • crayons
  • paper
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

Many resources explore prayer. Here are a few:

Books

Video Resources

  • The Work of the People is a visual library, videos “to stir imagination, spark discussion and move people toward discovery and transformation.”
  • Just Prayers” on the Vimeo website is a prayer of intercession designed to “stimulate prayer with a justice-edge.”
  • The Skinny on Prayer,” by Skit Guys Studios, from Worship House Media
  • Animate Practices” is a series of lessons, each built around a video. The first is “Prayer: Oriented Toward God,” with Brian McLaren.
  • Re:Form Foundational Theology” helps youth explore questions about the Bible, God, Jesus, discipleship, from Spark House.

CHECKING IN

Make the room comfortable. You may wish to light a candle in the middle of the space.

As group members arrive, bring them together to talk about the past week and their experience of the reflections from devozine.

Then ask these questions for discussion:
       When was the last time you received a letter—not an email, a text, or a Facebook message?
       When was the last time you wrote a letter?
       Do you have a pen pal or someone you write to regularly?
       Do you like receiving letters or writing them? What’s special about a letter?
       If you’ve never written a letter or received one, why not?
       What are some of the differences between a letter and an email? Are they significant differences? Why? Why not?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Psalm 16, Psalm 23

[NOTE: Feel free to explore only one of the Psalms and one of the letters suggested below (“Dear God” or “Who Am I?”) unless you have the time and would like to do all four.]

Distribute Bibles or copies of Psalm 16. Read aloud the psalm as group members follow along. Then invite the group to discuss these questions:
       What do you find interesting about this prayer?
       How hard do you find it to express your feelings in prayer?
       What feelings or experiences is the author trying to express?
       How difficult is finding the right words to use in prayer?
       How much time do you think would have been spent writing prayers like this?
       Do you find the Psalms, which were community prayers, helpful? inspiring? powerful? difficult? boring?
       Could you write a prayer like Psalm 16? What would you include? What would you say?

Play the song or video of “Dear God” from the album SkyLarking by XTC, and invite group members to follow along. Then invite the group to discuss the questions below. (Have lyrics available in case you want to refer to particular lines of the song.)
       How do you feel after hearing this letter to God?
       What do you find interesting about this letter?
       How easily do you express your feelings in prayer?
       What feelings or emotions was the author trying to express?
       How much time would you spend writing an honest letter like this song?
       Do you find this song helpful? inspiring? powerful? difficult? boring?
       Do you think you could write a letter that expresses your innermost thoughts, feelings, or concerns to God?

Distribute Bibles or copies of Psalm 23. Invite group members to read the psalm aloud. Then ask them to discuss these questions:
       What do you find interesting about this prayer?
       How hard do you find it to express your feelings in prayer like this?
       What feelings/experiences do you think the author is trying to express?
       How difficult do you find it to find the “right” words to use?
       How much time do you think would have been spent writing prayers like this?
       Do you find these community prayers/psalms helpful, inspiring, powerful, difficult, boring?
       Do you think you could write a prayer like Psalm 23? What would it include? What would you say?

Ask a volunteer to read it aloud the poem “Who Am I?” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as the other group members listen. Then invite the group to discuss these questions:
       How do you feel after hearing Bonhoeffer’s letter to God?
       What do you find interesting about this letter?
       How easily could you express your feelings in prayer like this?
       What feelings or emotions was the author trying to express?
       How much time would you have spent writing an honest letter like this?
       Do you find this letter helpful? inspiring? powerful? difficult? boring?
       Could you write a letter that expresses your innermost thoughts, feelings, concerns to God? What would you include? What would you say?

Give group members some time to write their own letters to God. Explain that this activity will take the rest of their time together and, unless people want to, they will not be asked to read the letters. Because an honest letter to God may take more time than they have during the session, invite people to take their letters home and finish them during the week.

If you were able to find elders or leaders to write letters, invite group members to read them if they are having difficulty getting started.

SHARING IN PRAYER

Since the group’s time together has been full of words, allow the prayer time to be almost wordless.

Place a sheet of paper and some crayons in the middle of the space. Invite group members to enter into silent prayer and to draw their prayers.

At the completion of prayer, offer this simple blessing:
     God who hears our prayers,
     Jesus who reads our hearts,
     Spirit who travels with us,
     bless us,
     this day and always.

TAKING IT FURTHER

Don’t stop here; invite your whole community to write letters to God. Perhaps you could invite the group to make a book of letters or a website that holds everyone’s letters.

—from devozine In the Habit (November/December 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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