This 10 for 10 prayer experience is one of those ideas I think God just downloaded into my mind to keep me sane. You know the feeling: you’re in Mexico, you haven’t slept in several days, caffeine holds no effect anymore, and you hate the sound of your own name. If one more person calls for me…. Every shirt you packed is stained with the tears of teens and the dirt of the tent you’re sleeping in. Can no one remember to take their shoes off outside?!
All those lofty ideals and theories you had for moments of spiritual transformation feel as far away as — soap.
Then you’re bumping down a dirt road in a 12-passenger van, avoiding potholes and perritos. No, you cannot bring that dog back across the border. Yes, that does make me a monster. No, I do not care. You’re breaking up a backseat argument for the 10th time that morning. Surely I didn’t fight this much when I was 12… right? You try something desperate (er… creative?) and suddenly 8th graders are excited about a Bible passage.
Let me just say that last bit again. 8th graders were actively dialoguing about a Bible passage. Praying. And loving it. And you start to mentally backspace the resignation letter you were writing. We had a ton of fun with 10 for 10 during our drives the rest of the week.
Here’s the general idea of the prayer experience:
- Designate 10 minutes for this prayer experience.
- Pick one passage of Scripture. Have a student read it aloud.
- You give the group a really brief overview of relevant context and information about the passage.
- Then you turn the conversation over to the students. They drive the questions, application ideas, confusion, excitement, and commentary.
- Then give the group 60-90 seconds of total silence where every student writes a 10-word prayer based on what they just learned, asking Jesus for help living it out.
- Every student then shares their 10-word prayer and BAM! You’ve just completed the 10 for 10 prayer experience.
Middle school students often thrive on competition and social atmospheres, so the challenge of doing this whole exercise in under 10 minutes, as well as condensing their newfound knowledge into a 10 word prayer and then sharing it with others, went over really well. I put one student in charge of the timer and that added to the excitement of the dialogue. Quick! We only have 1 minute left before the silence! Any other thoughts??
This exercise also gave me freedom to pick passages that were relevant to things the group needed to talk about. They caught on and even began requesting certain topics.
Plus, 10 word prayers are just hilarious. Grammar becomes optional, talking to Jesus becomes fun, and content is directly pulled from what we all just collectively learned. I’ve never heard so much giggling during a prayer time.
Here’s the timeline breakdown for the prayer experience, more or less. We often went WAY over time because the group was too excited about what they were learning, or wanted more time to get just the right 10 words, so use this as a template:
1 Minute: A student reads the passage at least twice, slowly.
2-3 Minutes: Leader gives context to passage.
4-5 Minutes: Students ask questions/offer thoughts/dialogue.
Emphasize the timer! This creates some excitement around talking and an urgency to share.
1-2 Minutes: Leader directs group to 60-90 sec of complete silence, during which students take what they’ve just talked about and each create a 10-word prayer praying what we’ve just learned. Writing their 10 words down is really helpful. Sometimes I encourage students to write prayers on their hand so they can be reminded multiple times over the next few hours.
2-3 Minutes: Students share their 10 word prayer. This is the great equalizer! The group policed over talkative students if they tried to go over, and quieter students are given safe structure to articulate where we might not otherwise hear them.
You can help keep discussions on the rails with questions like, Why do you think God put this story in here? What does this tell us about God? What promises can we pray from this? How can we obey this? Otherwise, let the students wrestle with the passage. Remember, Middle Schoolers are just learning to think critically. They need safe spaces to know they can do this with faith. Don’t give them answers, give them safe space. Teach them to take these things to God, and then go with them. It’s worth it.
One last thought: with middle school students, when you’re done, you’re done. It’s totally okay to jump straight from a 10-word prayer to, “Great job guys! Okay, crank the music back up.”
This article about the 10 word prayer experience originally appeared here.