A few years ago, I was part of a teaching series for junior high students called “Call of Duty.”
Obviously a ton of middle school students play it (and could snipe me in less than a second while jumping off a water tower from 7 miles away and pulling the pin on six grenades) so our team thought it’d be a fun way to explore our “call” to the basics of Christian disciplines. I grew up with things like reading our Bible or having Christian community being a natural part of my life, but many students might not know the truth or power behind them. So we wanted to talk about them.
One of the main disciplines that I had really sensed students wanted to learn about, was prayer.
I’d been noticing how it seemed like a lot of students were really uncomfortable with praying. Even students who go to a Christian school or have Christian families had trouble praying. When I would ask them in small group, they would awkwardly and hesitantly try and form a prayer with the right “spiritual” words they thought they were supposed to say. Or if I met one of them for lunch and asked them to pray before we ate, they would nervously laugh and ask me if I could instead. Or when asking students if they every prayed on their own, they wouldn’t know how to respond.
I began to see that a lot of students didn’t understood what prayer actually was. Prayer is a conversation with God, but I think students looked at it more of a churchy thing with churchy words that only adults and leaders were good at.
So for the kick-off night of “Call of Duty” I had the privilege of teaching about prayer.
I taught that prayer means ‘to ask’, that it is a conversation between us a God, and that prayer is a privilege (not a chore). I also taught about the idea of praying constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) by doing what I called ‘texting’ God at any moment with whatever you want to tell Him or ask Him. I taught that you don’t have to close your eyes or fold your hands to pray since Jesus didn’t when He prayed (John 11:41-44). And I taught about listening prayer and how simply talking to God is only half of what prayer is; that God speaks to us.
And to end the night, I wanted to give students a real practical ‘how-to’ when it came to prayer. So, I decided to take The Lord’s Prayer and try to make a practical prayer tool for students. Here’s what I came up with:
When we pray, we begin by thanking God for something good in our life (“Hallowed be Your name), since everything that is good comes from God (James 1:17).
Then we can ask God for some thing(s) we need (not want) in our life (“Give us this day our daily bread”).
After that, we need to pray for forgiveness and receive God’s grace (“Forgive us our sins”).
Then, we have the opportunity to pray for someone in our life or world (“As we forgive those who have sinned against us”).
And then finally, we conclude our prayer by praising God and telling Him something awesome about Himself (“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done”).
I realize it’s not a perfect copy of The Lord’s Prayer but I wanted to make it as clear and simple as possible.
To help with that, I came up with an acronym:
T – Thanks
A – Ask
F – Forgiveness
F – For _____
Y – You are…
Yes, they’re cheesy, but they’re also helpful. The night I taught this, we printed the acronym up on small cards and taped a piece of Laffy Taffy to the back of them so students could keep (or eat) it to remind themselves how to pray.
After I wrote my teaching, something totally unexpected happened to me: I began using TAFFY to pray! I wrote this whole thing for a group of middle schoolers but God totally challenged me with it in my own prayer life! I later gave the same teaching to high shoolers and encouraged them by telling my own story of how God used this hokey acronym to help me connect to Him more.
The spiritual discipline of prayer has never come real easy for me. Reading the Bible is fun, having good community I’ve always known is important and been intentional about, and worship is something I’ve experience different seasons of passion for. But prayer has always been really difficult for some reason.
However, by using TAFFFY, it gave me a jumping off point to stay disciplined in my prayer when I needed it and further pursue connecting with God the more I conversed with Him.
I realize it’s not perfect (I don’t have anything about ‘lead us not into temptation’ or ‘protect us from the evil one’ or about listening prayer) but the Lord was so faithful by surprising me with a fresh, fun way for me to stay disciplined in my prayer.
And yes, I ate the Laffy Taffy. And by “the”, I mean “four…teen”