This article was originally published in Edition (4) of Prayer Magazine, Autumn 2005.

1) A Five Finger Model of Prayer

Here is a way of praying for others by using your fingers to trigger you into thinking about different groups of people.

Thumb: Those furthest away – missionaries, persecuted Christians, friends and families overseas.

1st finger: Those people who lead and guide us, pointing the way (ministers, teachers etc.)

2nd finger: The strongest finger – those people with power and responsibility (governments etc.)

Ring finger: Those people we love – family, friends.

Little finger: Those who are ill, weak, infirm, old, poor, helpless…

Whole hand: Pray for yourself finally, offering your hands to God to serve Him as praying and serving hands for all the people you meet.

2) Praying in Sand

Sand is a good visual and tactile aid to prayer (and it’s simply fun to play with!).  Here is an idea to help you deal with ‘burdens’ or guilty feelings for things you have done wrong.  Remember that God has promised to forgive you, but sometimes you can still ‘feel guilty’ for things that you did long ago, and find it hard to accept fully God’s forgiveness.  One aspect of God’s nature I find hard to understand is His promise that He will not remember our sins (Jeremiah 31:34).  I wonder how God could possibly have such a bad memory!  However, He wants to forgive us and wants for us to be reconciled to Him so much that He chooses to ‘forget’. 

One way to represent this truth, pray about it, and help you to be rid of your guilty feelings is to 1) write that concern in a tray of sand (to acknowledge it to yourself and confess it to God) and then 2) as you pray asking for forgiveness and for feelings of guilt to be removed, wipe away all the traces of your wrong action in the sand.  You could then read aloud this promise, ‘As far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our sins from us’ (Psalm 103: 12).

3) Teaspoon Prayers (Thank You, Sorry, Please)

No, this is not praying with cutlery, but is a way of remembering aspects of prayer.  I learnt ‘teaspoon’ prayers at a Sunday School where I used to teach.  This formula helps you divide your prayer time into three sections, so that prayer is not a shopping list of requests but a relationship with God. 

1) Thank You: Take time to thank God for all He has done, or for specific answers to recent prayers.

2) Sorry: Say sorry for mistakes you have made, things you have said or thought that you shouldn’t have, and for things you have failed to do.  Ask God for His forgiveness.

3) Please: Ask God for what you need (most people tend to be best at this part!).

Another version of ‘tsp’ is the ACTS prayer for the more sophisticated pray-er!  ACTS stands for ‘Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication’.  Choose whichever version suits you best.

4) Praying through Sketches

You might not think of yourself as an artist, but I challenge you to have a go - as a prayer activity!  I was never any good at art as a child, but when I tried sketching some of my feelings years later, I was quite surprised by what I produced on the paper.  I now love drawing and find expressing thoughts and prayers through drawing therapeutic and has many positive outcomes.

1) There are no rules, so whatever I produce is more interesting than a blank piece of paper.

2) It’s a different way of getting things off my chest from talking.

3) I am quite often surprised that I managed to draw something, which actually looks reasonably good!

Here are some ideas for starters: don’t aim too high at first!

-Why not have a go at a simple two-stage picture with the theme of present and future?  Divide a piece of paper into two.  On the left have a go at sketching how you feel now, and then on the right, sketch how you would like to feel in the future. 

-You could start off simply using colours: maybe you feel tired and stressed at the moment – try scribbling with dark colours, and then on the right side, use colours, which represent calm – maybe pale yellows and blues?

-Alternatively try simple stick-man shapes.  This example is a sketch I did a few years ago at New Year.  The left side shows me feeling like someone juggling too many balls, and so caught up in it that I couldn’t see out of the window to where my focus should have been.  The right side shows me deciding to drop the balls and head towards the cross, where I would find Jesus able to help me deal with it all.  It is no great work of art, but by doing it I discovered a few things about myself.  So I put it on my notice board for the following year to remind myself to focus on God, especially when I got too busy or overwhelmed with responsibilities. 

Another great source of inspiration for sketching is, of course, the Bible, particularly the poetic books like the Psalms, or books full of imagery like Revelation.

5) Good night prayers

When I was a student we were asked by the Christian Union to spend a year praying particularly for three friends whom we would love to come to know Jesus.  As a way to remember to pray persistently we were given three glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on the ceiling above our beds.  It was a brilliant idea because every night when I switched my light off, those three stars were glowing, reminding me to pray, and reminding me of those three special people whom God loves (like all of Abraham’s descendents –as many as stars in the sky)...By the way, all three of those friends of mine became Christians!

7) Prayer-Walk around your Neighbourhood / Work Place

Try going for a walk around your neighbourhood / work place / school / college campus.  As you do, make a note of particular homes / buildings / rooms and the people who live or work there. Consider possible prayer needs for each of these situations, and make a note.  You could pray right there and then, or perhaps go away and write up your list of locations and prayer topics.  Then organise a small group of neighbours / colleagues / course mates to join you for a ‘prayer walk’.  (N.B. It is probably sensible to keep the group very small, or split into pairs because a large group of people may attract unnecessary attention, unless that is your intention!)

An example to inspire you: at my last place of work our prayer group tried a prayer walk at a time that we felt we ought to pray for each department specifically.  Two of us stayed in our meeting room, and prayed generally, whilst others walked around the building, stopping at specific points.  It was a very powerful experience.  Just as we finished praying, the others returned, and told us to go to the window where we saw a huge rainbow arching over our building – God’s lovely touch on the proceedings - a reminder to us (like to Noah after the flood) that He keeps His promises!

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