Mental prayer for adolescents

posted in: Prayer and Virtue | 15
Baptism of Christ by Guido Reni (Wikimedia Commons)


I have written several times about guided meditations I do with my young boys. Now I am working with my oldest, who is in 7th grade, to help him take the next step in mental prayer. He is a choleric, and I hope to write in more detail about this method in my upcoming book A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child. I plan to make a template for children to fill out as they practice.

Here are links for younger children:

Teach your children mental prayer

Teach your kids the one thing necessary

Meditation for kids: Manna in the wilderness

Created a guided meditation step by step

Meditation for kids: the thankful leper

Meditation for kids: Jesus our healer

Here is the method I am planning to use for my eldest now. I will show you an example along with the method.

1. Read a small section of the Gospels.

First, choose one of the four Gospels to pray through from beginning to end. Then choose a passage of 10 to 20 verses. For this example, we’re using Mark 1:1-11, last Sunday’s Gospel. Read it silently and slowly.

2. Use your senses.

Record the sights, sounds, smells, etc. you would encounter if you were present when this story took place. Brainstorm as many as you can think of. Here are a few for our example:

  • John’s camel hair clothing
  • the sound of running water
  • crowd noise

3. Look for a lesson.

What can you learn from this passage? Look for insight into Jesus’ character, instruction in the faith, or practical spiritual help. List at least 2 or 3. Here are some possibilities:

  1. Before Jesus comes to us, we must prepare our hearts.
  2. John considered himself unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.
  3. Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
  4. The Holy Trinity is revealed.
  5. The Father is pleased with Jesus.

4. What does this mean?

Circle one of the lessons from number 3 to focus on. What does it mean for you? How can you apply it to your life? Why does it matter?

We will use #1: Before Jesus comes to us, we must prepare our hearts.

How can you prepare the way for Jesus in your heart? You can be ready to do whatever God asks of you. Is God asking anything of you right now that you are resisting? Is He calling you to give up any sin or attachment that you don’t want to let go of? Have you been resisting His grace in any way?

Since this step tends to be very personal, write down 2 or 3 questions like these you are asking yourself, rather than the answers to the questions (so you can share the meditation with your parents or teacher).

5. Talk to God.

Talk to God about your reflections. Ask Him to send the Holy Spirit to help you. If necessary, ask for forgiveness. Make resolutions and tell God what you intend to do.


Father in Heaven, I want to make my heart ready for your Son, Jesus, to come to me. Please send me your Spirit to give me strength. I know you are asking me to ________ and it’s hard for me to do. change my heart so I am eager to obey you. Amen.”

How to teach the method

I plan to make a handful of these meditations to do together with D to familiarize him with the method. Then I will give him the template and have him do 3-5 on his own. By then I believe he should be ready for the next step. If your child is not ready to take another step at this point, let him continue as he has been doing until he is comfortable moving on. Since D is choleric, I suspect he will want to move on even before I think he’s ready.

The next step is to start the process with the Sign of the Cross and an invocation to the Holy Spirit to guide the meditation. Instead of writing down the sights and sounds, etc., this time imagine the scene for a few minutes. Then go on as before.

After several weeks of practice comes the next step. The child can list just one idea in step number 3 and do step number four in his head. He should try to make the entire prayer be about ten minutes long. If he runs out of things to say to God, he can return to the Scripture passage and find another idea to reflect (i.e., meditate) on. He can also talk to God about other concerns. He should also wait to write anything down until after he is done praying, so he doesn’t interrupt his prayer to write.

Finally, after about a year’s practice with the method (or the end of the school year, if you start at the beginning), he should try to extend his prayer time to 15 minutes. Each subsequent year he should try to pray 5 minutes longer, so that by the time he reaches adulthood, he is praying for 30 minutes at a time. The conversation (number 5) should be the part that is getting longer, not necessarily the reading or reflecting.

I am going to make this part of the school day, at least for the near future, so I can help D develop the habit of praying mental prayer several times a week. At some point, I will have him start practicing it on the weekends on his own. I want to make sure he is praying consistently–not only daily, but at the same time and place–before I agree he is ready to completely be self-motivated for prayer.

Connie Rossini


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Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

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15 Responses

    • Connie Rossini

      Naomi, I always feel like I’m still a kid when you say that–but it’s nice anyway.I’m happy to use the gifts God has given me and thankful for your support and prayers over the years.

  1. Marcy

    A couple of questions. I’ve had a hard time with getting my kids to pray. They don’t take it seriously. I would like to get my 11 year old to start doing it more. He (as well as I) are Phlegmatic/Sanguine. Can we use this particular “method” or would another one be better? And, if so, can we start here, given his age, or is it better to back track and start easier?

    • Connie Rossini

      Marcy, are you devoted to prayer yourself? Do you have a set time for mental prayer and do your kids know it? That’s the first step to getting them interested in prayer. Second, if you homeschool (sorry, I can’t remember), make it a part of your school day. A phlegmatic would usually rather pray than do handwriting, for example. For an 11-year old, I would start back a little bit, since he hasn’t been praying much on his own. Do some really basic things like daily morning prayer together (short) and an examination of conscience at night. As a phlegmatic/sanguine he is interested in relationships, so I would emphasize to him that God wants a relationship with him. He can be close friends with Jesus, but close friends need to spend time together. They talk to one another. They share their lives. If he is not sold on the idea of praying yet, I wouldn’t overwhelm him with too many prayer exercises. Phlegmatics get overwhelmed easily. They can progress by adding one small step at a time until it becomes a habit. I hope this helps.

  2. Amanda Rose

    Connie, I love this article! One of my New Year resolutions was to teach my 14yo daughter how to pray from the heart, to meditate on God’s word. She is my youngest and I realized that I haven’t taught her near as much about our faith as I did her two older siblings who are all grown up and out of the house now. One of the most important things is learning to have an intimate relationship with God. I want her to at least know that exists, and hopefully to begin to experience that type of relationship with God. She isn’t one who likes to sit quietly, but I think the way you present it will work for her. I’m so excited! Thank you!

    • Connie Rossini

      Wonderful, Amanda! I am so glad to help. This is something I had to learn on my own as an adult. It’s such a blessing when we can give the gift of mental prayer to our kids.

  3. Darlene Reuss

    My children are grown and there are many areas of their religious education that I failed to teach. I converted to Catholicism when I married. Unfortunately, I lacked the knowledge and inclination to pass on the faith as my children grew up. However, since I became a widow two years ago, I’ve set a goal for myself to correct my religious shortcomings and feel your home schooling material is irrelevant information/techniques to use to instill good prayer habits for the adult, elderly, as well as for the age group you intended them for. Thank you, Darlene

    • Connie Rossini

      Darlene, I trust you meant it’s “relevant,” not “irrelevant.” I’m glad my homeschool material works for you. I never thought about adults using it. Now you’ve given me more marketing ides. 🙂

    • Heidi

      Thank you for this beautiful spiritual direction, Connie.
      Just wondering, have you ever wanted to come to Alaska?
      Might you be interested in conducting a little seminar?
      Prayers…just planting a seed of an idea… His will be done!

      • Connie Rossini

        Heidi, thanks for the invitation. Since my youngest is still just 4, I can’t do much traveling for speaking right now. But in a few years, God willing, I would like to do more. So we’ll see what the future brings.

  4. lisanicholasphd

    I wish somebody had taught me stuff like this when I was a kid. I remember being newly confirmed and all charged up to be a Soldier of Christ — but I had no idea what to do, and no clear line of communication to my Commander. Even in college, when I timidly asked about such things I was either told “not to worry about that stuff” or given some kind of psycho-babble. I really think the reason so many teens and young adults fall away from the Faith is that they never learned to grow closer to God through prayer. Your boys are lucky to have a mother who isn’t afraid to teach them these things.

    • Connie Rossini

      Thanks, Lisa. I have already gotten some criticism from one person (another Catholic writer) who says we shouldn’t try to fit kids into our own spiritual mold. That’s obviously not what I’m trying to do here. Just trying to pass on the Catholic tradition of mental prayer to the next generation.

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