How to Facilitate Night Prayers, Closing Prayers, and Reflections
In the Catholic Christian tradition, we have four main types of prayer: thanksgiving, forgiveness, petitions and requests for intercession. The following is an example of a guided night prayer, which includes all four types in an accessible format for children, aged 6 to 14. While this model has worked well in the past, every leaders style is a little different, so please feel free to experiment with different ways of leading night prayers.
Example of a Guided Night Prayer
Begin with an introduction, emphasizing the need for silence, respect and a reflective mood during the prayer. Start your prayer with the sign of the cross. “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: Hey God, it’s all of us here at…”
Invite your youth to join in a prayer of thanksgiving. “So, we’re going to go around the room and I’m going to ask each of you to say one thing you want to thank God for…” [start with you, as an example]
Have children examine their consciences and ask for forgiveness. “Next, we’re going to take a minute to look at our consciences. I want all of you to think of one time you sinned (made a mistake). Are you sorry for it? Let’s take a minute to (silently) ask God for forgiveness, and to help us avoid making the same mistakes in the future…” Variation: For older groups, take an additional moment to ask them to think about one concrete way they can avoid that sin in the future.
Lead a prayer of petition. “Okay, so now we’re going to go around the room a second time. This time, I’m going to ask each of you to say one person or thing you want to pray for tonight.”
Ask for the intercession of a saint/holy person. “You know how people sometimes ask others to pray for them? Well, in the Church we call that intercession. So tonight we’re going to ask for [one of your bead time saints], St. Jean de Brébeuf and St. Mary to pray for us…”
Close with a formal prayer said together. “So I’d like to ask you all to join with me as we say a Hail Mary/Our Father/Glory Be.”
Reflections are poems or stories designed to encourage children to reflect more deeply on their lives, their experiences, and their relationships. You can read these reflections to your group as an “end of the day” activity – you’ll find they often make a great introduction to a particular prayer.
In order to lead a reflection effectively, it’s important that you establish a reflective mood with your group. Children should be calm, quiet, and still, or as close to that as possible, and you should read the reflection slowly and clearly. There are a number of reflections you can lead outdoors, as the beauty of nature can help to put your group in a calm and reflective mood.
After you read the reflection, you may want to de-brief it with your group, especially if the reflection’s meaning is not obvious (e.g. if you read a quotation from the Bible). The goal of a de-brief is to ensure that everyone understands the meaning of the reflection, and a good de-brief will usually involve asking the group members what the reflection made them think about or how it made them feel. Not all reflections will require de-briefing.
Finally, remember to trust yourself – lead reflections that resonate with you, and that you think will resonate with your youth, even if that reflection isn’t found on this website. You were hired for a reason, and sharing your own insights about our faith, reflections, and stories with a youth group is a great way to enrich their faith.
Finally, as with prayer, you will want to establish a certain atmosphere for the reflection story in order to deliver it effectively. The group should be calm and silent, and you should try to lead the reflection with a certain dramatic flair and use storytelling in reflection – modulate your voice, speak slowly and clearly, and use long descriptions to make the story come alive for your youth. As an added bonus, you will find that if you tell an interesting story, the youths’ respect for you will increase substantially – children have always found something magical about story-telling, and a good story-teller will hold their respect, attention, and esteem like few others.
Rainbow Prayer for Peace and Justice
Red: So that we may no longer be overcome by greed and anger, help us to recognise each person as a brother or sister and open our hearts to them in that non-violent love which brings peace.
Orange: So that the world may be free from the threat of war, fill us with the Spirit’s fire as we proclaim your gospel of peace.
Yellow: So that all children may have the possibility to grow in the light of love, free from fear, hunger, disease and exploitation. Show us the path to peace.
Green: So that the Earth may be saved from our destruction and continue to sustain all living things, teach us to dance to the rhythm of creation until we know your reign of peace.
Blue: So that all who are suffering or who are in prison may find true freedom, give us the wisdom to choose the things that make for peace.
Indigo: So that all may have work which is valued fairly and rewarded justly, we will try to use things well and share what we have.
Violet: So that all may be free to use their talents for the good of all, we will respect the dignity of every human life.God, the rainbow speaks to us of your promise of a world where peace will reign: where difference is celebrated, where every person can achieve the fullness of life and live in harmony and unity. May we respond to your promise and commit ourselves to work for peace today and every day.
Creation Prayer Activity
Leader: God be with us as we walk through your created world. Open our eyes, our ears and our hearts that we might appreciate the many beautiful things you have created for us. Help us to be aware of the sights and the sounds of nature and help us to use this time to quiet our hearts and listen to you speaking to us in the created world around us.
Have everyone pick up a symbol of God’s creation. Have them hold onto it during the activity.
Leader: God gave us four directions, East, South, North and West. Let us face the East.
Reader 1: The East is the direction where the sun rises each morning and welcomes us into a new day. Let us think of the beginnings in creation, from new life to the changing of the seasons. Like the sun rising and creation we have many new beginnings throughout our life. As the sun rises each day many we remember these beginnings God calls us to and may we have the courage to say “yes” to these new challenges.
Leader: Let us face South.
Reader 2: The South is a warm place. In our lives it is a place where we find love and feel wanted. We give thanks to God for the many people who love us and care for us. May we equally love God’s creation and show that we care for it. We pray that others will find joy and warmth in the created world.
Leader: Let us face North.
Reader 3: The North is a place where we feel the cold and where the hard times in our life feel like winter. Sometimes we have to say good-bye to loved ones, sometimes we have felt lonely or sad. In winter creation can seem dark and to last for a long time, but there is always the promise of spring. Just like the coming of spring, the Lord is always near us and will provide us with hope.
Leader: Let us face West.
Reader 4: The West is the place where the sun sets. It is a beautiful place because it is where the light meets the darkness and together they become one. The west reminds us that time is forever changing, just like creation around us. Lord help us to enjoy what we have and times that we can share together in your created world.
Leader asks people to return their creation symbol back to the earth.
Leader: Creator God you have given us the earth with all its beauty. You have made us caregivers of the earth and of one another. We now return our nature symbols back to the earth as a sign that we will respect creation and that we want to protect it. Continue to be with us and remind us time and time again of your love. We ask all of our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Creation
O God, creator of Heaven and Earth.
You place us in your creation and you command us to care for it.
You call us to praise and show reverence.
Where we have destroyed and degraded earth’s bounty, forgive us.
Where we have taken this beauty and majesty for granted, have mercy on us.
Where we have become estranged from the many creatures we share this earth with, grant us your peace.
Refresh us with the winds of your spirit, and renew us in the waters of Baptism
In the name of Jesus Christ and for the sake of all creation, we pray. Amen.
Fire and the Holy Spirit
In this activity participants will quietly reflect on the Holy Spirit as symbolized through fire, and its impact on our lives.
For this activity you will need a prayer table, bible, one large lighted candle, and small candles one for each participant.
- Have students sit in a circle. Pass out a candle to each student and ask for their cooperation, to be quiet while we enter into prayer.
- Ask the students what is fire? What does it symbolize? What do you picture when you think of fire? Fire can keep us warm, cook food, offer light, comfort, it can be beautiful. Give students some time to think about it and take a few answers.
- Scripture often speaks of fire in connection with the Holy Spirits. John the Baptizer spoke these words in Matthew 3:11
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
- St Peter once said about fire:
Just as gold is refined by fire, so our faith is refined by our trials and difficulties. When faith is tested and proven genuine, it reveals Jesus Christ to others.
(1 Peter 1:7)
- The Bible also tells us that when it is dark, we can still see firelight, just as fire reveals hidden things in the dark, God’s light will ultimately reveal what is in our hearts.
- Turn the lights off so that the only light is that on the prayer table. Remind students not to make noise when the lights go off.
- Start by lighting one of the students candles in the circle have them light the next persons and continue until all the candles are lit.
- Instruct the students to watch the light grow as one person passes their little light to the next person, like the Holy Spirit moves through us to brighten up the lives of others.
- Ask students what do you notice about the room now compared to when the lights were turned off? It is brighter, I can see other people, it feels warmer, less scary. Give the students time to think about this and take a few answers.
- When the lights were first turned off you may have been startled by the sudden darkness. Sometimes life can seem dark and cold, like we are missing the light of God, the Holy Spirit or each other, and it can be hard to see where we are.
- Like the passage read earlier from 1Peter “our faith is refined by our trials and difficulties”. However, even when the lights were out there was still one light in the room (the candle on the prayer table). We are never without the love of God or the fire of the Holy Spirit.
- Ask the students in what ways can we share this light/this fire with others? How can we spread warmth, light to others?
- Closing Prayer:
Dear creator God, may we be fed and warmed by the fire that the Holy Spirit provides for us.
Just as ancient people carried fire to see their way, may we carry the fire of the Holy Spirit to light our way.
Whenever we see fire, help us to remember the fire of your love for us and show us how to love you in return. Amen.
Have students blow out their candles, turn on the light, and collect all the candles.Finish off the activity with some journaling about the scriptures and the reflection they just had.
First I would like to thank you for…
Some sources of light in my life are…
Some things that I am struggling with/some areas of darkness are….
Some ways that I can let my light shine, show people my warmth are….
What can I do in my life right now to have a better connection with you and the Holy Spirit….
Other thoughts or reflections from this activity.
Objective: To review and or introduce the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit for Confirmation preparation or education. . The students should be able to name and explain what the gifts are and how they relate to their everyday life. Reference to “light” scriptures indicates their need to put these gifts to use as a responsibility of their reception of the sacrament. To challenge the young people to be full participants in the life of the church by living out their baptismal call.
Ice-breaker: Puzzle Activity
Break the group up into three and hand each group a puzzle box. Tell them they need to work as a TEAM in order to complete the puzzle. If they are not work together encourage them to include everyone in putting the puzzle together. If they get stuck encourage them to keep trying and continue.
One of the puzzles has a guide, one has a different puzzle guide and one has no guide.
Processing the Activity: This should be interactive.
There are so many ways to process this activity, a couple might
– the puzzle is like the puzzle of our life. We needed many puzzle pieces to get where we are today. Some of us have a guide some do not.
– the puzzle is our life and God is part of one piece of the puzzle of life. Discuss
– God gave us different gifts, people in our lives etc. Discuss
fairness vs. disadvantaged. Discuss
Lead into the discussion of Sacraments by saying something like ….
Life can be really hard for young people, you have so many decisions to make about your future and so much of our culture affects how we think. Life really can be a puzzle we try to put together. We are so fortunate to have the benefit of God on our side and to be able to use the gifts God has given us. This year you are going to be confirmed and it is a great time to focus in on the Sacrament of Confirmation and take it seriously.
Ask … What do you think we mean by the word “Sacrament”? Let the students give some examples.
After some examples are given, give them the correct definition:
A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. OR An outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.
At this point ask them to name the seven Sacraments.
- Reconciliation (Confession)
- First Communion
- Holy Orders
- Sacrament of the sick/Anointing of the sick
The important words to discuss are outward & visible emphasizes the witnessing of their faith to the whole faith community. Ask what makes this sacrament outward and visible? Ask them to give you example of outward visible signs of at least three Sacrament.
Choose the ones they are familiar with:
- Baptism – signs are
- The pouring of holy water
- Priest etc.
- First Communion
- Receiving the Body of Christ
- Parents are present/Godparents/Family
- Confirmation (this is the important one as they are now preparing for Confirmation)
- Anointing with Chrism oil (ask about the oil)
- Parents/Friends/Family are present
- Other outward visible signs
Ask What do we mean by inward and spiritual?
Inward & Spiritual means that it is a personal decision (their own decision this time) also refers to their personal relationship with Jesus Grace can be defined as an experience of God, an opportunity to really feel the presence of God, to be with God.
This discussion should really reinforce the idea that the Sacrament of Confirmation is a big step not to be taken lightly.
Lead in: How do we get the strength to make this commitment? We count on the Holy Spirit of God to be with us, on those Gifts of the Holy Spirit we received at Baptism and are now reinforced and strengthened at Confirmation.
What are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?
Have the students name one gift at a time and have that students read the definition and ask the group
Do you have any examples of how you can do this in your life? Try to look at areas at home, school, church or their civic community. Add some of your own personal stories when appropriate.
Hand out paper and THREE crayons/markers and have the students sit away from their friends. Reinforce that this is a personal, reflective activity. Give them the following instructions
a) Draw a large sun on your paper. Discuss how the sun symbolizes God the Son, Jesus Christ. Talk about who Jesus is and how we can have a personal relationship with Him.
b) Write your full name in the top part of your sun.
c) Draw 3 stars on the top of your paper. In each of these stars, write down 1 of your strengths as a person. What makes you a star in other people’s eyes? (Things that tell people about your character.) Eg. Kind, Patient, etc.).
d) The rays of the sun represent areas of your life that God can help you with. On 3 rays of the sun write down 3 areas of growth for you (i.e. Weaknesses. Eg. Temper, Impatient, etc.).
e) In the centre of your sun, write down the name of the saint that you are choosing for Confirmation and the name of their sponsor and why.
NOTE: If they have not chosen their saint or sponsor yet or are not receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation have them write down the name of someone who they respect or look up to in their life. Someone who has been there for them, who helped put the puzzle of their life together.
f) On 2 rays of the sun write down 2 ways that you can profess your faith, everyday (ie. How they can tell people about Christ by their words and actions). They may be the only Jesus that some people meet.
g) Trace your hands – your left hand in the bottom left hand corner of the page and your right hand in the bottom right hand corner of the page. Your hands represent you reaching out to God and others.
h) In your left hand, write down which gift of the Holy Spirit that you feel you need the most, and why.
i) In your right hand answer the following question: If you could change ONE thing about our world, what would it be and why?
k) Have them write “I am the Light of the World too” somewhere on their paper.
4. Conclude with the following scripture: Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Collect papers and remember to give to teacher. If group is having mass it is always a good idea to have them in front of the altar.