Prayer Spaces – Why bother?

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In the week leading up to the Easter holidays we run a prayer spaces room. We began this last year and as you can see it results in a dramatic transformation of one our our two RE base rooms. It takes about three hours to set up the room and it’s resources but once set up the room remains like this for the whole week.

What Is The Purpose of Prayer Spaces?

We explain to the students that it is important to take time to stop and reflect, that being busy and being productive are not necessarily the same thing, so purpose one is exactly that, time to stop and reflect.

We also explain to the students that meditation and prayer are ways in which to  focus their thoughts and to bring them before God. Some of our students have a faith but for others God is a hope. All are welcome to write prayers or silently bring them before God, however there is no obligation to do either.

Whether a student has a faith or not they are given silence to consider their lives, their burdens, their thankfulness, awe, wonder and personal goals. The various stations that are set up  direct the students’ thoughts to the wider world and the needs of others, each person is free to engage or respond in whatever station or way that they choose.

Students are under constant pressure in school and many of our students carry around with them difficulties or challenges in their home lives. Prayer spaces give them the ‘pause’ moment that we all need.

Who Participates?

Every class that has RE that week. So almost 25 sessions are used. The students remove their bags and shoes at the door. After a brief guide to what’s in the room 40minutes silence ensues.

How have the students responded?

This year about 550 students used the room, of those 550 there were 4 feedback forms on which students described it as boring. Every other piece of feedback was positive. Students commented on being able to “step away from exam stress”, “time to think and pray about stuff that’s important” as well as more personal comments such as “today I realised I’m not the only person who is suffering and this has helped me”.

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The bubble tube was quickly filled with student’s prayers, the audio stations engaging students in releasing negative things they were holding onto was constantly in use and many sat writing letters or reading bits from Bibles or printed quotes.

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Most of all students were thankful for being given the space, the biggest request that came with an overwhelming student voice was that such a space should be available as a normal part of the school facilities. Lunchtimes we had several small groups and individuals coming and enjoying the silence.

Why in RE

Well I guess as a CofE school the prayer spaces fit easily into our school ethos and part of our RE provision. But outside of this context why RE? Well in our subject we teach about religions answering deep questions, do we give our students time to identify their deep questions? In RE we talk about awe and wonder inspired by God in believers, do we give our students time to wonder, to ponder? In RE we learn about meditation, silence, reflection, journeys and prayer, do we give our students space and opportunity to explore this themselves? I’m sure in all good RE departments these things happen, prayer spaces is another vehicle to enable this.

At every moment in prayer spaces every child is given opportunities to engage and at every moment they choose their form of engagement. It is unique in that the silence means each one is alone in their choice, in theory free in their engagement, and surely this is the greatest value we can give a child in our class as they explore their own spirituality.

 

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About Learning to Teach Lorraine Abbott

AHT in a Surrey School i/c of Chaplaincy Author for Hodder Education
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