Claire McKeever-Burgett, Associate Director of The Upper Room Academy for Spiritual Formation, tells how to create a family altar, a sacred space set aside for family worship.
In times of confusion and uncertainty, we often need a reminder that God is present with us. Allow this prayer to help you let go of your worries and to lean on God for strength.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and be still for a moment. Remember, in your own way and your own words, that God is with you. Try to be fully present to God in this moment.
Think of all the things you are worried about—things that might keep you from being with God. You might feel anxious about getting your homework done or disorganized because your normal routine has been disrupted. You might be missing time with your friends or worried about getting along with your family as you shelter at home. You might be feeling sad and disappointed about missing activities you’ve been looking forward to for a long time. You might be tired or bored. After you have identified these worries, hold out your hands, with palms facing down. Imagine all those worries falling from your hands. Know that God will hold on to these things, so that you can be present with God.
Now turn your hands over, with palms facing up. Think about what you would like to receive or need to receive from God in this time. Imagine God placing in your hands the perfect gift to meet your needs in this moment.
Close your prayer by offering thanks to God.
When we are anxious and distracted, we often have trouble focusing on our prayers. Many people find that engaging the body in prayer along with the mind and voice can be helpful. Try praying this prayer using spoken words and body motions (noted in italics). After praying with voice and motion two or three times, close your prayer time by using the body motions as you pray silently the words of the prayer.
God be in my head and in my understanding (place hands on head)
God be in my eyes and in my seeing (place hands over eyes)
God be in my ears and in my hearing (place hands over ears)
God be in my mouth and in my speaking (place hands over mouth)
God be in my arms and in my reaching (hands hug arms)
God be in my hands and in my working (hands reach forward in offering)
God be in my legs and in my going (hands touch legs)
God be in my feet and in my grounding (hands touch feet)
God be in my lungs and in my breathing (place hands over lungs)
God be in my heart and in my loving (place hands over heart)
God be in my life and in my living (arms overhead and reaching to sky)
You may have experienced an alphabet prayer before, perhaps using words that begin with each letter of the alphabet to name describe God or to give thanks for the amazing things God has created. But in these days, we encourage you to try an alphabet prayer with a twist—offering prayers of strength and healing for people who are suffering from illness, isolation, fear, or grief.
On your own or with your family, create an alphabet prayer. For example, your prayer might begin with Assurance, Blessing, Comfort, Determination. As you choose the words of this prayer, remember to focus not only on physical healing but also on the many other aspects of healing: finding joy in small moments, healing the ways we think about and interact with people who are sick, healing our attitudes toward disease, healing that allows us truly to grieve, healing that allows us to be positive.
When you have created your alphabet prayer, pray it aloud. If you are praying with a sibling or as a family, take turns speaking the words. If you want to pray for specific people as well as for all those in the world who are suffering, name them aloud as you begin your prayer.
When you have spoken a prayer for every letter, you might conclude by praying: “We trust you with all things, God, because you are . . .” — and finish the sentence with a typical alphabet prayer, using A, B, C words to describe and to praise God.
You’re nervous about an online exam or a doctor’s appointment. You feel intense loneliness or fear. You are waiting to hear from a friend or trying to figure out what to do next. These are good times to connect with God through an old Christian tradition: The Jesus Prayer.
When I say “old,” I mean old. As far as we know, the prayer in its present form can be traced to a man named Diadochos, who lived in Egypt from 400 to 486 A.D. A book written a century later recommends that this prayer be prayed continually.
The classic form of the prayer uses these words: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I usually drop the last bit (it’s true, but who needs to rub it in?) and try to be more inclusive by praying, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.”
Many people breathe in deeply as they pray the first part of the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God." Then they slowly breathe out as they pray, “Have mercy on us.”
The Jesus Prayer focuses the mind and spirit; helps with the pain, waiting, nervousness, and sleepless nights; and fills our mind and hearts with God. Try it as a breath prayer:
(Breathe in) “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, . . .”
(Breathe out) “. . . have mercy on us.”
God, everything has changed so quickly. Our daily routines are upended. We are isolated at home—bored, lonely, impatient. Help us to trust you enough to yield control to you. Give us opportunities to practice patience. Teach us to change the rhythm of our lives so that we learn to wait with hope. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen.
Close your eyes. Be aware of your breathing.
As you exhale, pray, “God, take away my worries.”
As you inhale, pray, “Lord, fill me with your peace.”
These prayer practices help us talk with God and pay attention to the ways God speaks to us.
When things are changing all around us, God is with us. We don’t have to be afraid.
A wonderful prayer from a 6-year-old to use anytime you are scared or worried.
If social distancing policies in your area allow you to get outdoors, try a walking prayer.
If you can’t get outside to enjoy time with God and nature, discover new ways to carve out space for God in the ordinary, everyday moments of your life.
Pause to soak in the love and peace of God as you would soak in the summer sunshine.
Let the psalms express your feelings and give you hope.
A valuable resource for parents and youth workers from Fuller Youth Institute.
For more resources from The Upper Room for children, youth, and families, we invite you to sign up for our Rising Generations email.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.