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:
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:
- Before Jesus comes to us, we must prepare our hearts.
- John considered himself unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.
- Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Trinity is revealed.
- 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.