Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Our all-age outreach team was praying for the children of a locality in Worcester, South Africa. While we had been serving with an open-air children’s club we had seen the openness of the young ones, but also noticed the hard faces and detached attitudes of their older brothers and sisters standing at the back. Our host, Jonny, who had grown up in that area, told us about the pressures on young teens to join gangs and the addiction and exploitation they became exposed to.
In prayer our team were crying out for the future of the young ones and for hope to live another way for the older ones. We were praying for that cycle to break and for them to encounter Jesus. In the midst of prayer, one of our young teens said she could “see” a mime drama in her imagination. It was to be prophetic, speaking to the culture of gangs, addiction and abuse about Jesus’ freedom. The team rapidly worked together to figure how it would play out.
We were still trying to find appropriate backing music in the bus on the way to the township! It seemed a bit crazy, but there was a peace that God wanted to do something through it.
When it was time for the drama, the presence of God came. There was an incredible stillness, as every eye was riveted on what played out before them. Even the teens at the back seemed to be holding their breath. As the final notes of “Fix you” faded there were tears glinting in eyes. Jesus had read their mail. Jonny got up and shared passionately about his life in the gangs and the radical freedom Jesus had brought him. That afternoon we had the privilege of praying for many of those teens, their hard faces melting with tears, who were desperate to receive the hope Jesus was offering them. Yes, there was still much to be done to revolutionise the culture, but that afternoon God led us from intercession to action and a window was created for heaven to touch earth.
We have found intercession with young people to be an exciting journey of catching God’s heart and praying according to his will. Wherever we have made room for young people to converse with the Lord about how he sees a place, a situation or people, we have seen their hearts and actions moved by him. A fire is often sparked which burns for a long time.
Below are some practical keys for intercession with all ages. We have included some sensory/ experiential ideas for each point, but feel free to experiment!
It’s worth saying we might not follow every step in every intercession time, especially if it happens in the flow of a weekend’s input or comes out of worship. If everyone is coming into intercession from the hustle and bustle of every day life, however, these steps can be helpful in leaving that behind and coming into God’s presence.
Being thankful is a powerful way of coming into God’s presence. In giving thanks we align ourselves with truth - God is good! Our perspective shifts and we become free to see things God’s way, with the eyes of faith.
Enter his Gates with Thanksgiving – Some members of the group make “gates” or archways in pairs (like the game “Oranges and Lemons”), scattered around the room. Ask the group to think for a moment about what they are thankful to God for. While a praise song plays, the rest of the group go in and out of the arches. When the music stops, the pairs catch anyone going through their arch, who must then tell them something they are thankful for. Repeat till the end of the song.
Balloon Thanksgiving – write or draw what you are thankful to God for on small pieces of paper. Roll up the papers and put them into balloons, which can then be blown up. (Alternatively, the thanks can be written onto blown up balloons with Sharpies). Now bat the balloons into the air and try not to let any hit the ground as you sing a thankful song. When the music stops, grab a balloon and either burst it (if it has paper inside) or read your balloon… grab someone near you and thank God for the way he has blessed the person whose balloon you caught as well as speaking out your own thanks.
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol” Psalm 24:3&4
Let’s remember that coming into God’s presence is privilege Jesus has bought us.
It’s useful to have a moment before the following prayer activities to invite the Holy Spirit to help us remember anything we need get right with him or others. We encourage folks to go to each other if they need to, according to Matt 5:23-24.
Burning paper/ flash paper – Write or draw your sorry prayers, then put them together into a fireproof container and burn them. Flash paper (try Missionmagic.co.uk) is particularly effective as it burns fast in a flash, leaving no ash or residue – a great picture of what Jesus does with our sin. (Be aware of fire safety – if in doubt, burn outside!)
Washing hands – quietly reflect and repent while washing hands in a bowl, or with antibacterial gel, or under a jug of water being poured out gently… perhaps with gentle worship music playing.
The Bible tells us we can take our own thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5), and that even little ones can “silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2) In our intercession we want to hear and be led by God’s voice, not our own ideas (though it’s worth remembering that the Holy Spirit speaks into our minds and imaginations… we just want our thoughts to be guided by the Holy Spirit, not ourselves). Neither will we allow ourselves to be hindered by condemnation or confusion from the enemy. We can deal with both very simply.
Put hands on heads – say “Shh” to our own thoughts. Alternatively, with hands on heads say “Holy Spirit, you’re in charge”, or “Jesus, you’re in charge”
Stand in circle facing out – shout “No!” to the enemy – resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7)
Let’s now receive the Holy Spirit, who enables us to hear and know Father because Jesus has made us clean. The following are activities that help us reflect on the Holy Spirit’s work, but a simple “come Holy Spirit” is enough to welcome him!
Fan – stand in front of an electric fan’s breeze and “put up your sails” in prayer to be led by the wind of the Spirit (John 3:8) - awesome if you have a big worship flag too!
Drink – sip from a cup of water and thank the Holy Spirit for his filling and refreshing.
Breathe – simply focus on your breathing; as you inhale, thank God that he is closer than your breath, filling you with life.
Ask the Father a question – here are some examples:
Lord, how do you see this town?
Lord, what do you want to do here?
How do you feel about these people?
And some follow up questions:
What is blocking your purposes here?
Lord, what do you want to do through us?
How can we bring joy to your heart here/ among these people?
With young people, you don’t need to wait ages while they hear from God. After a couple of minutes, ask if they need more time. When they are ready, get them to share anything they have received with each other, or feed back to the group. You may quickly see that similar impressions are being received across the group, or get a hotch-potch of different impressions to seek God for more about.
Use the first wave of “impressions” (pictures, words, scriptures etc) as fuel to go back to prayer – perhaps divide up into groups to focus in on particular areas that have come up. You may need to ask “follow-up questions”, or be ready to just intercede for people, places or situations. As you stand in the gap, you might be led to pray with prophetic action (this is often helpful in all-age settings) – click here for more inspiration on prophetic action.
The above ideas are based on “praying cold” – ie with no particular information given on a place or people before prayer. More focused or informed prayer, still inviting the Lord to reveal his perspective, can follow a creative presentation on a people or nation, or even a walk around the locality, where attention can be drawn to certain prayer needs.
For more ideas on ways to pray, particularly in intercession, please click here.