Learning to Pray

During my youth ministry's mission trip to Milwaukee through Youth Works Missions, we spent time serving at Adullam. While there, we got to be part of Katie's Closet.

Katie's Closet is a thrift store that's open once a week. Community members come and get needed supplies – clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and the hot-ticket item the day we were there: Mattresses. It's all free to those who need it most.

In addition to providing local residents with much needed supplies, Adullam also uses Katie's closet as an evangelistic tool. Before people come through the store, they listen to a short devotion and prayer. A prayer team also goes up to individuals and asks if they can pray for them.

During our time at Katie's Closet, the staff worker in charge tasked my students and I to be the prayer team.

To be honest, I thought, “You picked the wrong people for this, buddy.”

It's not that we don't pray. We do. But what Lutheran kids typically don't do is boldly go up to others and ask to pray for them. Such an act is not only uncomfortable, it's completely foreign to them.

But in the spirit of being flexible, we agreed. Or perhaps more accurately, I agreed on behalf of my reluctant students.

Unsure as to how they'd actually respond to this task, I spent a few minutes floating between groups of students, making sure they knew what was expected of them and encouraging them to step out of their comfort zones and try it.

Then I watched in awe as group after group did just that.

To be sure, their prayers weren't always pretty. They were wordy and rambling, filled with um's and uh's, with false starts and stuttering.

Even so, I don't think the people being prayed for minded.

And I know Jesus didn't mind.

These prayers were, after all, honest and sincere.

At one point, I watched as a young student leader grabbed a couple of even younger students and fearlessly charged up to a family loading mattresses on their car. Within a matter of moments, this leader had everyone circled up, holding hands. She asked the family how she could pray for them and then she did just that.

It was, for me – and I think those involved – a sacred moment.

I know a lot of people question whether or not short-term mission trips are worthwhile.

I believe they are – for a hundred different reasons. Among them?

During a week-long mission trip to Milwaukee, my students learned to pray.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and the forthcoming A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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