Invite, engage and have a comfy chair ready
August 24, 2022
Howard Thurman, an author, theologian and civil rights leader, once wrote what impressed him the most about Jesus’ disciples was the fact that the only thing recorded that they asked of him was to teach them how to pray. Prayer is a lifeline to God, yet many people struggle with the “how to.” As church buildings reopen, there’s a trend among Presbyterians who are looking for ways to provide a space and place to nurture the act of praying. Some pastors are breathing new life into dusty church libraries that have become obsolete, while others are finding little alcoves to create prayer rooms.
Presbyterians Today caught up with Lisa Koons, the U.S. national director of 24-7 Prayer, a global nonprofit that anchors prayer in mission and justice work, to ask what some key elements are when creating a prayer room.
Last summer, Koons worked on a prayer room installation at Amity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The room, open to all, not just church insiders, is part of the 24-7 Prayer network and is known by locals as the Charlotte Prayer Room. Here’s what Koons shared:
Pique curiosity — “Scripture talks about God piquing Moses’ curiosity with a burning bush; so it is with a church’s prayer room. It must contain things that get people curious and interested in coming closer,” said Koons. Among the ways to accomplish this is creating a variety of multisensory stations that include a place to light candles, to draw and color and to journal.
Naming the prayer stations — A room should include a variety of options in which a person can experience prayer. These options should be clear and contain easy instructions. “You want a room to be self-guided,” said Koons. If there is an area to light a candle, include background on the spiritual practice, what light evokes, and perhaps even include sample prayers.
Provide for all emotions — People gravitating to a prayer room will come for many different reasons, Koons says. Acknowledging the degrees of emotions is important. Koons once installed a room that had an area called “surrender” and an area named “gratitude.” Koons wasn’t surprised that the “gratitude” station, where people could write what they were grateful for and hang the paper on strings, was the more popular station. “People have an easier time with gratitude than surrendering oneself,” she said.
Keep comfort in mind — Koons often includes a “big, comfy” chair near a table with a Bible on it. “You want the room to be inviting,” she said.
Capture attention at the entry — In addition to comfort, Koons says a prayer room should greet people in a way that gets them thinking and captures their attention. One way Koons has achieved this is with a chalkboard or whiteboard where people can reflect and answer a question, such as, “Before I die, I will …”
Donna Frischknecht Jackson, Editor, Presbyterians Today
Today’s Focus: Amity Presbyterian Church’s Prayer Room
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Octavia Craig, Treasury Assistant, Purchasing, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Barry Creech, Deputy Executive Director for Budget, Board, General Assembly and Administration, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Loving Spirit, you bind us to yourself and to one another. Send us into this world joyfully proclaiming our risen Savior, that the world might know your boundless love as it is lived out in us. Amen.