Still Small Voice 10: Creating a Prayer Space
Welcome to the 'Still Small Voice' blog series, a round up of blogs sharing approaches to prayer, suggesting ideas and thinking about how prayer and contemplation relates to action.
Want some creative ideas for next term? Dan Woodhouse has sent us some great tips on setting up a Prayer Space. Thanks Dan! He has created a fantastic space at Nottingham, an oasis of calm in the students' union.
If this is something you fancy doing, either as a one-off project (e.g. 24hr prayer vigil, or during Advent) or something more permanent, then why not have a chat with your chaplain or local church about what space might be available? And let us know how you get on.
1. What is a prayer space? - A prayer space is simply a room or an area of a room set aside for people to reflect and pray. They can be permanent fixtures or a short term thing during an event or a poignant period for a church or church group; such as festivals or times of concentrated prayer or mission.
2. Getting Started - First of all pray, ask for God to be a part of it, to bless it and guide you in the planning. Then, whether a short or long term space, it's good to have a few basics covered. Prayer spaces are best when they are comfortable and as cosy as possible. This might mean using a smaller room or using boards to section off a space in a larger room. Open prayer spaces can work, but if people are walking in and out regularly it can be disruptive. Bean bags and cushions are great for comfort, although make sure people who don't like to sit on the floor are catered for.
3. Prompts for Prayer - Prompts to prayer come in many varieties and are a good way to tailor your space to the time of year or the people using it. A simple prompt could be a small message saying "Think of something God has done for you or someone you know and thank God". A more complex prompt might be a passage from the Bible, a book or poem, followed by some thoughts or explanations, then some ideas for relevant prayer.
If your prayer space is long term then it can often be helpful to think of periods important to the main users and have themes based round them. I look after a space within a university so I keep in mind exam periods for example. Keeping up with current affairs might also be helpful, such as elections or major news stories. A good model to use is a local, national and global one. The idea is to always have at least one prompt for each area. Another model is to always cover the areas of praise, thanksgiving, confession and intercession. Not everything has to have a prompt attached to it though. A classic element of a prayer space is a vast expanse of untouched paper, hung on a wall, with pens, pencils, crayons, felt tips and, if you're brave, paint laying round it.
4. Multi Sensory - Try to vary the kinds of responses to prompts. We all pray in different ways and respond to different kinds of inputs. For example, a visual response may include looking at pictures stuck round the prompt illustrating what it says. A kinaesthetic response may be writing a sin on a piece of paper, praying about it, then putting it in a shredder to represent God removing our sin from us. "Taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psalm 34.8), with a bowl of sweets, if you want a tasty response. I'll leave the sense of smell and others to your imagination.
5. Decorations - Are a great way to finish a space off. Again, there are many possibilities. Some are there to look pretty while others input into the space, becoming subtle prompts to prayer in their own right. Pictures of nature, stuck round the room or grouped together, are good; they are both wonderful to look at and remind us of the beautiful environment we live in. Also, fairy lights make for brilliant decorations and can usually be found quite cheap if it isn't Christmas. Other elements could include candles and incense. A good money saver for decorations is to recycle whatever you can and locate your nearest scrap store, where there are all kinds of interesting materials for very low prices.
6. Music - Is great for prayer spaces. All you need is an old CD player and a selection of CDs for people to choose from, or an iPod with dock, if you want to be really cutting edge! (Vinyl records and player if you don't.) I find the best music for prayer spaces to be quiet and chilled, with as few lyrics as possible. Worship music is obviously good, but can often be a distraction from quiet prayer. I would recommend a band called 'Album Leaf'; they have three albums, all with interesting sounds and few lyrics; making for great back ground music. Although, go with what you feel is right for your space.
7. Personality - Allow your personality be expressed in the space, but don't let it be a stumbling block; remember that others may pray in a different way to you.
8. Body of Christ FTW - Collaboration is often good, I've always found it a great blessing and enjoyment to work with another person on prayer space projects. They are great for bouncing ideas round with and will bring another element to the space. Furthermore, if appropriate, hand responsibility over to another person or group for a period.
9. Is stealing always wrong? No, shamelessly stealing ideas from everywhere and anywhere is one of the wisest things you can do when creating or up keeping a prayer space.
10. Enjoy - Take your time constructing the space, enjoy the quiet and wait on God while sticking things up. Learn from the things you are creating and let God be in it all with you. I often get more out of thinking, designing, creating and up keeping spaces, than I do sat praying in them. So Enjoy!
Do you have any tips to add? Websites, blogs or resources you've found helpful? Creative ideas you've come up with? Add them in the comments below.
You can find the other blogs in the Still Small Voice series here:
- Still Small Voice 1: Introduction
- Still Small Voice 2: Going Deeper
- Still Small Voice 3: Imaginative Contemplation
- Still Small Voice 4: Laughter Meditation
- Still Small Voice 5: I don't know how to Pray
- Still Small Voice 6: How to Prepare a Liturgy
- Still Small Voice 7: Where is my Church?
- Still Small Voice 8: Drumming as Prayer
- Still Small Voice 9: Living Prayerfully
- Still Small Voice 11: Daily Prayer Resources for Revolutionaries and Peacemakers