Prayer stations

Last week, Donald shared a story about a child who turned up at a service to light a candle (here). Using physical objects such as candles to symbolize prayer is an ancient practice, and one that we at Sanctuary used to do. For the last two years, however, in accordance with government guidelines requiring that we minimize movement and have no shared objects, our prayer stations have been packed away. But now that restrictions are easing, it’s time to reinstate them.

What is a prayer station?
A prayer station is very simple: it’s a space set aside to facilitate prayer. It can be a picture on a wall, a space for lighting candles, an art activity, or something else. The station itself is not really important: what’s important is that it reminds us how to pray and helps call out prayer from us. 

Why do we use them?
We began using prayer stations when some of our older children told me how much they like to pray with symbols; and we continued because so many adults found them powerful, too. Praying aloud together is important, which is why we will continue with spoken prayers in our Zoom services; but spoken prayers do preference particular intelligences and personalities over others. Not all of us are verbal; not all of us can find words to pray; not all of us are confident enough to speak in a group; and not all of us pray in words. Prayer stations make space not only for speech but for silence, drawings, gestures, written words and, I believe, the ineffable; and they remind us that we are embodied creatures whose prayers take flesh through physical movements, earthy realities, and material responses.

How do we use them?
During our usual time of prayer in the service, rather than praying aloud we will be moving quietly around the hall. You will be invited to pray at one or two of the stations described below. There won’t be time to pray at every station: so come back in a fortnight and visit some of the stations you have missed.

What are our stations?
Our stations change from time to time, but these are the stations as currently arranged:

  • Pray for the nations at the world map, by writing your prayer on a post-it note and sticking it on the relevant country.
  • Pray for creation at the rainbow painting (above), by selecting a natural object and placing it in the sand tray.
  • Pray for the region at the window overlooking the town, by writing a prayer on a post-it note and sticking it on the window.
  • Pray for other people at the tea trolley, by selecting an ornamental teaspoon and placing it in a teapot. Perhaps you might commit to inviting that someone over for a cup of tea during the week.
  • Pray for yourself at the wall of mirrors and saints. If you would like others to pray for you, too, add your name and a brief note to the sheet which reads, Pray for me.
  • Pray for home life at the dolls house, perhaps by moving dolls and furniture to symbolise your prayer.
  • Pray freely by lighting a tea light candle and placing it into a holder.
  • Pray for the church by placing money into the wooden offering bowl, or by taking a direct deposit slip to arrange for electronic giving.

When the time comes to a close, you will be called by song to gather around the communion table, where we will eat and drink with our Risen Lord. After the service, why not make your way around the room and check out other people’s prayers, perhaps making a note of how you can pray with and for them during the week.


Emailed to Sanctuary 4 May 2022 © Sanctuary, 2022.

Top image: A watery reedy rainbow pastel by Shelley Knoll-Miller. This plus the other pics give a glimpse of our prayer stations.

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