Part One: the prayer table or space
Setting up a prayer space in a Catholic or Christian school is important. It is a visible sign of faith and it shows that faith is valued. It is often challenging to know what to put in a prayer space. When I started teaching, this wasn't something that was explicitly taught. I made many mistakes over the years and I am hoping to give you some simple things that you can do to enhance your prayer table or space in your classroom.
Don't use it as another table to place things on: I must admit over the years, kids books, water bottles, sheets of paper and all other bits and bobs have been placed on my prayer table. This shows that the space wasn't valued. That it was just another table. If you want to create a sense of the sacred then the space and yes the table, need to be treated with respect.
Find one to two appropriate icons: some of the icons around are very doom and gloom or too intense for young children. Icons depicting Jesus as a shepherd, a guide or light make the space vibrant, inviting and positive for children to look at. I know this sounds obvious, but children will be much more inclined to use and look at the prayer table if it is inviting.
Have a battery operated candle in the centre of the space: the candle will give children a point to focus on during prayer times and will also remind them that Jesus is with them when they pray. The matches and lighting of candles can often be time consuming and draw away from the actual prayer. After all, who wants to sit there and watch a teacher trying to light a candle for 5 minutes?
Try and place a cloth that matches the church season on the table: our Religious Education leader taught me this and I love the idea. Having the matching cloth with the Church season invites awareness and discussion among the children.
Make the children responsible for the table: my community teaching partner and I find the children more inclined to engage with the space when they are responsible for it. We have a prayer team and in the next article, I will share what the prayer team do and how we developed one.
Display the prayers: the most obvious one as children, especially young children or new children still need help learning the prayers.
Having a central prayer table or space set aside for display is a beautiful, visible way to engage children in prayer as well as remind them that their faith is important and valued.