God created the world around a certain rhythm…the hours of a day, the days in a week, the seasons of the year…and, similarly, we can find that there is rhythm to so much of our own lives. Being a musician, rhythm makes sense to me. It has been drilled into me since I my took my first piano lesson at 6 or 7 years old. Rhythm is one of the key factors in whether a piece of music sounds beautiful to the ear, or sounds like a train wreck. Developing rhythm to our prayer life is a profound way to help our selves, and the teens & young adults we work with, connect in a deeper way with the Lord.
Setting a Sacred Rhythm for Yourself You may or may not see yourself as have good rhythm when it comes to music, but when it comes to your prayer life, it's less about natural ability and more about the choice to make it happen. Busy-ness is one of the tools the devil uses to keep us from remaining connected to God. So how can we set a rhythm that won't be disrupted by the things we need to do?
Well...I can't totally give you that answer. If a single article could give us that key to the Spiritual Life...it might be the single greatest spiritual article ever written. The truth is that there is going to be some trial and error in what kind of rhythm will work for you...and it may change depending on the season of life you are in. But here are some ideas to get you started: - Find some accountability: I recently started a "program" called Exodus 90. I won't bore you with the details, but it has immensely helped me stay on course with my rhythm of prayer...because I know I'm gonna have to report to others how my prayer has been. So find a Spiritual Director or a group of men or women (respectively) that will hold your feet to the fire. - Use the tools of the Church: The Church has been in the business of helping people develop a rhythm of prayer for 2000+ years. The Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Novenas, and so many more are examples of a prayer developed around a rhythm. Its a great place to start. - Put it on your calendar/planner: Whether its a shared online calendar with your spouse or friends, or a wall calendar, sometimes a good ol' fashioned reminder is needed to get us into the habit of praying. - Start Small: We already have some sort of rhythm going in our life and sometimes if we try to add too much at one time, we could fail and write off the beauty that can come from being in rhythm with the Father. So make small changes: wake up 10 minutes early, stop by the church on your way home from work or school, prayer for a few minutes between episodes during your Netflix Binge...
Setting a Sacred Rhythm with your Teens How does this translate to your ministry setting? Setting a rhythm of prayer with the group you work with can be a huge asset to, first of all, keeping your gathering connected to Jesus Christ, but can have positive affects on group dynamics, creating ways for students to step into leadership, setting an identity for your group, and so on. Here are a few things that I've seen various Youth Ministers do that worked for their group (and no, I don't necessarily think every one of these would work with every group...you will have to find the rhythm that your group will connect with most). Journaling - A good friend of mine had a "youth group" that he started meeting with at a small church. I was intrigued by one of the things that he mentioned he wanted to do with them, which was to set aside the last 20-25 minutes to go into the church and give them a journal. I was truthfully skeptical of using up that much of a limited amount of time...but he introduced it to them. After a few months, I asked him how it was going and he said its the best thing they've done all year. The students love the time of relative silence, the ability to get the thoughts out of their heads in a safe way, and has set a tone for the rest of their time together. Pass the Candle/Cross/etc. - One of the things I used at various times was closing the session by opening in prayer, then passing something around the room allowing the person holding it to offer a prayer, or sit with the item for a moment to pray silently. Middle Schoolers loved the candle, because fire, and we'd usually dim the lights to create the sense of a different space. Its nice because it gives each person a space to share or have that moment with a prayer on their mind. Novenas - Novenas are a cool way to create a rhythm that starts at your group's meeting, but could unite the group in prayer outside of that time as well. You could do it together for 9 session in a row, or you could start it at one meeting, send an encouragement and reminder to pray the novena to them throughout the week (and a cool way to get them realizing their phones can be used to help them develop a rhythm of prayer) until the novena is finished...and could even celebrate some of the fruits of the novena the next time you meet. Praying a Specific Prayer - I've known groups that had a prayer that they would do as a group to close and/or open a gathering. Sing the Salve Regina or other song, pray the St. Michael Prayer, or a Litany, or any number of profound prayers written throughout the history of the Church. It could be something that you write together as a group that becomes a completely personalized prayer you pray together.
This list could go on an on, but I will close it out here. Don't be afraid to create a Sacred Rhythm in your group. It may take a few weeks to get people on board, but in the end, we're bringing our crew in a tighter connection with Jesus, and thats the reason we are in this.