Prayers of intercession for complex lives

1. Dark places

StonesYou will need: a collection of small stones - large enough to write on, but small enough so that lots will fit into a large bowl; some OHP pens or permanent markers; a 'dark place' representing a tomb – this could be a small dome tent covered in blackout material, or a table with dark material draped over it; a water feature to represent a fountain, or a large bowl filled with water; a Bible; background music.

Place the fountain or bowl of water in the centre of the worship space, where it can be easily seen. Place the dark place of 'tomb' some distance away. Put the permanent markers near the entrance to the dark place. Provide plenty of markers so that the queues to use them don’t become too long.

Read the story of the raising of Lazarus from John 11 and talk about how the dead Lazarus was placed in the tomb for four days before being raised by Christ. Invite people to take a stone and think about someone they know who is in a dark place at the moment. They are going to write this person's name or initials on the stone, so be sure to let them know that others will read these names. They could choose to write several names or describe a generic group, such as 'those suffering from depression'. As people are thinking about this, play some prayerful music or a song of intercession.

Invite people to come to the dark place, write the name of the group or person they are thinking of on a stone using the OHP pens or permanent markers and place the stone inside the dark place. Then they should take a different stone (that was placed inside the ‘tomb’ by someone else) and pray for the person or group of people whose names are written there. Encourage them to pray that these people will be raised from their dark place to a place of life.

Finally, after praying, they can place their stone in the water of the fountain, symbolising the never-ending living water that Christ gives, bubbling up to eternal life.

Close the activity with a prayer of thanks for the promise of resurrection and eternal life that Christ has given us.

For more ideas like this one see Sue Wallace, Multi-Sensory Worship, Scripture Union, 2009.

2. Newspaper intercessions

A folded newspaperYou will need: a variety of newspapers, paper tablecloth, scissors, glue or stapler, single candle in candle holder.

The internet revolution hasn't quite dislodged people who like to take newspapers. Ask each table/person to prayerfully select a news story that concerns them, share why with others, then pray about it together.

Take it further

The following activity is especially poignant if celebrating communion together. Invite everyone to select stories from different types of newspapers/magazines, gluing or stapling them to a large paper tablecloth which then becomes the communion tablecloth. A single candle could be lit and the elements of bread and wine placed on your intercession cloth. Acknowledging God in the midst of brokenness and mess is indeed powerful and moving.

For more info see Sue Wallace, 'Newsprint', Multi-Sensory Prayer, Scripture Union, 2004, p17.

3. 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.