Here at Blue Coat we have a busy Chaplaincy life with staff and students engaging with cell groups, worship times, pastoral care, and welcoming local and international missions teams.
However, the majority of the work is simply sharing life together with my office based in a corner of the Chaplaincy area where young people hang out and socialise. Sharing life together – highs and lows – is the method that Jesus used with His disciples and in the gospels we see them gradually learning what real grounded prayer, faith, mission and ministry look like.
Our young people who engage with the work of the Chaplaincy see me on good days, bad days and every day in between. I have been keen to see prayer at the heart of the school and wondered if a prayer space may be a way of encouraging this.
We hosted a prayer space some years ago, and personally having seen their power reaching young people as part of 24-7 prayer initiatives, I was keen to try again at Blue Coat and see whether a space might encourage and uplift our students and staff.
Alongside our PAIS team who delivered a week of assemblies on the love of God, we set up a prayer space with one activity on God’s love that changed every day, and other stations that are particularly important to our city, country and world at this time. This included praying for world issues, the persecuted church, knife crime, and praying for those in authority/politicians.
Students were free to come and use the room before and after school, at break-times and lunchtimes and there was always a member of the Chaplaincy/PAIS team available.
With a group of students and our wood technology department, we made a wooden cross with holes in to leave prayers at. During the week we used multiple different methods of creative prayer such as prayer walking, post-it’s on a world map, worship, writing positive prayers on knife shaped pieces of paper and making our own ‘knife angel’, using plasticine to make positive images and affirmations to leave for others, using chalks to ‘light up’ black paper, and lighting tea light candles to represent praying for people.
Having experienced the prayer space, a previously unknown student to me came and asked me to pray for his unwell grandad… but not with words… through the medium of plasticine! So he made a model of Grandad, and I made a (terrible…) model of Jesus and we brought them together. Students have often seen me getting emotional – and that was one of those times!
We held our weekly time of sung worship in the prayer space, and many students not well known to me were gathered in the room as we worshipped. They loved it! When I asked them afterwards about their experience, one student said:
“I’ve never seen people singing and praying like that – I didn’t know it felt like that – like heaven”
The prayer space has changed the dynamic in the Chaplaincy room, with many younger students now using the space at lunch and break-times, directly because of the way the room made them feel during the week. One student during the week, when asked how they felt about the space, simply said
“I like how it feels. It feels good.”
It was a wonderful and humbling thing coming in every day and looking at the prayers that had gone up the day before – and indeed overnight which suggested that staff working late or arriving very early were also engaging with the room. I think it no coincidence that we have seen a little revival in numbers of staff wanting to pray weekly together too – we are seeing the Lord at work and building regular, prayerful community here is part of that.
Lou Peet – Chaplain