For Youth Workers Post


Steve Matthews

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for February 15–21, 2016.


“Lately, I’ve been keenly aware of how aging is affecting people I care about: A parent who has been diagnosed with macular degeneration, a ninety-nine-year-old friend with congestive heart failure who wants to live two more months to attend her one-hundredth birthday party, a ninety-year-old uncle going into hospice. Many people in my life are struggling to maintain dignity and independence in the face of declining health. How should I pray for them? They have lived full lives, and they are old. Do I pray that they live longer? Do I pray they won’t suffer? Do I pray they sense God’s presence in their lives even as their abilities diminish?

“What good does prayer do anyway? What scientific proof do we have that prayer makes a difference? The way we pray is affected by the ways we view God. If we think of God as a divine magician, then we might pray for God’s intervention in every aspect of our lives. If we see God as disconnected and uncaring, we might not pray at all. If we think of God as a faithful friend, we might pray that God be near and accompany us through our joys and pain. Perhaps you will consider your own primary understanding of God’s presence and activity in the world and open yourself to a new understanding as a result of the time you spend with the youth in this session.” —Steve


devozine Steve Matthews IMG_0433Steve Matthews was a youth minister for more than fifteen years. He lives in the South Coast of Massachusetts and is the Executive Director of the South Coast Mission Hub (a collaborative of churches sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts). Steve is also a spiritual director and a consultant working to redevelop parish ministries struggling with decline. He was a writer for The Way of Pilgrimage: An Adventure in Spiritual Formation for the Next Generation.



  • candle and matches (optional)
  • newsprint
  • markers
  • Psalm 145:18 written on newsprint
  • index cards
  • pens
  • For the “Closing Prayer,” write each of the following sentences on a separate sheet of newsprint: “Dear God, help me _______.” “Thank you, God, for _______.” “ God, I am completely wowed by _______.”
  • copies of the “Prayer Quotes” for Taking It Further (optional)
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session


  • These movies and song point to different ways people might pray:
    In this clip from The Fast and the Furious, we find one of the characters expressing thanks for some pretty frivolous things.
    > In the song “Mercedes Benz,” Janis Joplin prays for material blessings.
    > In contrast, this clip from Unbroken finds one of the characters in a life-and-death situation, praying for heart-felt deliverance.


Begin with an opening ritual: a moment of silence, a short prayer the group says together, or a candle lighting to symbolize Christ’s presence. Take a moment to claim this space and time as holy.

Ask the questions below, encouraging group members to listen to the responses prayerfully and without comment.
       When was the last time you felt a sense of communion with God?
       When did you feel that God was near? What was it like?


Scripture: Psalm 145:18

Invite group members to brainstorm and to come up with a list of the ways people pray. Record their ideas on a sheet of newsprint. (Possibilities include prayers for healing, prayers for deliverance, and prayers of thanksgiving.) You may want to watch the film clips listed in the “Plugged In” section. Then ask:
       What kind of prayers do you most often pray? Why?

Invite group members to read Psalm 145:18 in unison twice. Invite comments. Then ask:
       What does it mean to “call on him in truth”? (Perhaps it is an invitation for us to get in touch with our deepest intent, our heartfelt yearnings, which may be different from the surface content of our prayers.)

Distribute index cards and pens. Invite each person to write down a situation in which he or she is feeling the need to “call on God.” Then ask the following questions for reflection:
       What are you hungry to see happen in this situation?
       What is God’s desire?

Encourage group members to write prayers based on their reflection on their need.
       How does your prayer feel like calling on God “in truth”?


Anne Lamott suggests three simple prayers that help us get to the heart of our deepest desires and hopes. When we find ourselves in a situation, if we stop and consider what our heart is trying to express, we might find that these words are enough: “Help! Thanks! Wow!

Invite group members to practice these prayers. Pose the questions below, and offer them a few moments of silence to think about their lives.
       What are your deepest yearnings?
       What are you most grateful for?
       What is stirring your heart toward awe?

Then invite them to complete one or more of these sentences aloud as a closing prayer.

  • “Dear God, help me _______.”
  • “Thank you, God, for _______.”
  • “God, I am completely wowed by _______.”


Pass out some “Prayer Quotes,” and invite group members to read aloud a quote they feel drawn to as a benediction or blessing. Encourage them to ponder the possibilities offered by each quote as they move through the next week.

—from devozine In the Habit (January/February 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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