This article was originally published in Edition (4) of Prayer Magazine, Autumn 2005.

This issue of The Zone is a USA special, and we start with interviewing husband and wife youth and young adult ministry specialists Andy and Trisha Booth. They are from Heartland Community Church in Fort Wayne in Indiana.

The Zone: How do you focus on prayer when you are working with young people?

Andy: There are three main ways that we use ourselves and encourage others to use. We really believe in ‘crafted prayers’ where we wait on the Lord and get a sense of what he wants us to pray. We might use scripture in the prayer and we’ll write it down and keep praying it until it’s done! We teach young people how to pray like this and we use it ourselves to pray through youth ministry issues that concern us. Growing up I had looked down on prayers that weren’t spontaneous, but we have to come love this way of praying. Secondly, I aim to punctuate my day with regular little prayers- I might be washing my hands and praying that God would purify my thinking as well as my hands. Thirdly, for ourselves and for young people themselves we try to create space to pray. We run a student age worship service called SoulTrip, and we always meet the leadership team at least 40 minutes before the start so that we can pray together. We say to them though, that they need to arrive spiritually ready and that the 40 minutes helps us to get even sharper for what God wants to do through us.

Trish: One of my main priorities is to meet each Sunday evening with a small group of girls aged 12-16 in order to pray together. I’m just the facilitator and the girls pray for each other. It gets really specific and they pray for healing and often lay hands on each other. They understand all that stuff, but if they didn’t I’d be teaching it and modelling it anyway. I make sure this is a safe place and not about gossip. I tell the girls that if they have a word of encouragement or a scripture verse or a picture that God has given them for one of the other girls then they should share it.

I’ll always say a short prayer for each girl in the meeting. Then during the week I’ll pray for them in my own prayer times.

The Zone: So praying for young people by name is important?

Andy: Definitely! It’s very powerful to pray specifically for people by name. We find out the stuff they are going through and our biggest prayers are that the young people will persevere and won’t settle for less than God has for them. It’s tough as a leader to observe the ups and downs in the lives of the youth we work with, and we are very guarded about using prayer chains because they can be abused and confidential information can get out. But we do make good use of the church web site for prayer needs. You have to log on with a password, but most of the guys and girls use it regularly to post prayer requests and to pray through the prayer requests of their friends.

The Zone: What type of teaching emphasis do you put on prayer?

Andy: Well I’ve already mentioned ‘crafted prayers’ but we also like to define prayer as enjoying God. So we emphasise that prayer is relational and conversational. We aim to focus on prayer in our teaching times at least two or three times every year. We look at things like learning to hear from God as well as speaking to him, and we also talk about reasons why we might not pray. For instance, a young person might not even bother to pray for 10 minutes because they’ve wrongly assumed they must pray for at least an hour.

The Zone: Can you tell us about some answered prayers?

Trish: One night we only had a couple of girls show up for the prayer time so we went down to a coffee shop. We had been praying for boldness for the girls to share their faith, and a strange guy came over and started talking to us. He was really mixed up and when we told him we were a prayer group he mentioned that he’d been hearing strange voices that were tormenting him. We prayed for him that he would receive the truth of the word of God and peace in the name of Jesus. Afterwards, the girls were amazed- we’d been able to put into practice all the things we’d been praying about.

Andy: We see lots of answered prayers, especially for jobs and for a turnaround in circumstances at work. We’ve seen God provide financially after praying for that, and we have experienced healings. One girl in particular was deaf in one ear and had her hearing restored. There are often prophetic words spoken over young people in prayer, and we always ask God to reveal to us what He is already doing. We get prayers answered because we pray, we persist and we believe. One guy, Eric, had been suffering from severe headaches for years, we prayed and prayed and he hasn’t had one for the last couple of years. Not all our prayers are answered, but we have this phrase ‘God’s delays aren’t God’s denial’- so we keep asking, seeking and knocking.

The Zone: Can you give the young people who read this your top tips for effective prayer?

Andy and Trish:  Sure!  

  1. Punctuate your day with prayer. Pray short prayers but pray often. Read the first chapter of Nehemiah and see how he combines short prayers with his normal speaking.
  1. Find some people, or at least one person, who you can meet to pray with regularly.
  1. Keep a notebook or journal of your prayers, and especially the encouragements you get. This will be good to read at a later date to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

The Zone: What about ‘crafted prayer’ guidelines for youth leaders?

Andy and Trish: We’ll need six steps for this:

  1. Be still!
  2. Listen to God.
  3. Ask God for specific promises from the Bible.
  4. Draft a prayer based on what you have heard and read.
  5. Come back to it at a later time to refine it.
  6. Pray it consistently until you see it happen!

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