Prayers of intercession for all ages together

1. Prayer tree

An orange tree

You will need: a small potted tree (that has lots of branches and twigs available for hanging leaves on), or make the equivalent by gathering some large branches (preferably bare), tethering them together and firmly anchoring them in a bucket or large heavy-based plant pot with soil/sand/stones; luggage labels, or cut up small pieces of card in the shape of leaves and attach string; pens.

The visual impact of a small, bare 'tree' can be considerable. The act of writing or drawing your prayer and hanging it on the tree can be a satisfying way of participating in prayer for all ages and is a prayer in itself. Assure everyone that they don't have to write their prayer out in full - just an image, a word or phrase is enough. Reflective or quiet music could be played during this time and when everyone who wishes to participate has placed their prayer on the tree, offer a gathering prayer such as:

Lord God our Father, we have brought to you some of our deep concerns and needs. We know you long to heal and save your people from everything that hurts and damages them. So take our prayers and use them to bless your world, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

The tree can be used over a season, and the prayer leaves can either remain there all the time or stay there for a month, after which they will be removed and offered to God all together. If you are fortunate to have a small-ish tree on your grounds, you could invite the public to attach their prayers for the community, or anything they wish to pray to God for.

For more ideas like this see John Pritchard, The Second Intercessions Handbook, SPCK, 2004.

2. Sparklers

Yellow sparkles from a sparklerYou will need: indoor sparklers preferably - outdoor sparklers can be used if there's more space; good strong matches or a powerful flame; adequate fire precautions.

During the time a sparkler is lit, you can pray about a particular need. Ask everyone what specific situations or needs that they would like to pray about, and as a request is made, invite the person (accompanied by an adult if it's a young person) to come and hold their prayer sparkler. Light the sparkler from a match or a candle and have them hold it up high so all can see it. Ask people to pray quietly for the need for as long as the sparkler is still lit. Repeat as often as you have time or is helpful.

At the end, you may want to light a final candle to gather up all sorts of other needs you know people may have or balance out 'domestic' prayers with wider concerns. Your final prayer might include the request that our light may so shine before others this week that they are drawn to Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world and who gives sparkle to all life.

For more ideas like this see John Pritchard, The Second Intercessions Handbook, SPCK, 2004.

3. Incense

Smoke rising

Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5.8)

The idea of prayer rising like incense and leaving an aroma of sanctity is deeply rooted in Jewish practice in the Old Testament and is an image used by the Apostle Paul of the lives of Christians.

The sight and aroma of incense can lead to some people having strong physical reactions and in a small space the aroma can be overwhelming.

You will need: a steel bowl for the charcoal (or a stainless steel wok in its stand to keep it upright); a smaller bowl; charcoal and incense granules from a shop or website selling church supplies; a teaspoon; matches or blow torch; adequate fire precautions.

Put the charcoal in the steel bowl or wok, then light it. The charcoal sometimes takes a few minutes to really get going (it's when it is beginning to look 'greyish/white' that it is at its most effective), and this practical timing needs to be taken into consideration. As you invite people to pray, it may be wise to give a little bit of background of the use of incense in worship in both the Old and New Testament (Psalm 141.2; 2 Corinthians 2.14-16).

Use a teaspoon to put the incense granules in a small bowl next to the charcoal bowl. Invite people to come and sprinkle some incense granules on the charcoals using the spoon. Small children will need assistance when approaching the charcoal bowl for safety. There will be a rising fragrance. If the group is small, participants may wish to say what they are praying for as they sprinkle the incense, but in a larger group the action itself may be sufficient.

Draw all the prayers together with your own prayer at the end, such as:

Father in heaven, you delight to receive the prayers of your people, and even more, you delight to answer them. Receive these our prayers that we have released to you, and let their fragrance fill the halls of heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For more ideas like this see John Pritchard, The Second Intercessions Handbook, SPCK, 2004.