Children, Youth and Families Worker

Reaching Out, Looking up

It’s hard to believe we have reached Week 10, and my first term as part of the school community. I have so enjoyed beginning to build relationships with students, parents and staff and above all, to share the good news that through Jesus Christ, we are set free to forgive generously, love extravagantly and live our lives abundantly.

This week we have been focusing on prayer. Prayer is an important part of our lives here at the college, with prayer used in classroom spaces, during our weekly chapel services and more formally with our College Prayer during events and assemblies. We have a daily prayer, available on CALEB, and encourage our students to respond in this unique and dynamic way whenever they can. But what exactly is prayer? Put simply, prayer is giving our attention to God. Being open and responsive to the ways and means by which our creator communicates with us and seeks to hear from us. God is always alongside us, ready to listen, and so anyone can pray at any time in any place. Equally, we don’t pray on our own, but alongside others throughout time and throughout the world. Prayer brings us in touch with others and with God, and when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can have the assurance that God uses our prayers to bring love and justice into the world.

In the Gospel of Matthew 6, Jesus speaks to his followers very frankly about prayer. He tells them that they need to make sure they are not being hypocrites, saying the right things when people are around, but then when no one is watching doing something completely different. This is true of all of us. So often we feel like we have to wear masks for people, acting a certain way but keeping our true selves hidden. Jesus says don’t act holier than thou and then turn out to be offensive in real life, don’t fill space up with empty words that mean nothing, simply be honest. Reach out. Say it like it is.

This looks different for each of us. Prayer is giving our attention to God, but more broadly prayer offers us the chance to create a space for how we’re feeling, for the things in our lives that we struggle with. It gives us permission to admit we can’t do it alone, that sometimes we need help. It also gives us a platform to express the unjustness of our lives – why is it like this God? How could you let this happen? These are good, healthy and natural responses. In fact, we find just these sorts of feelings in the bible, especially in the Psalms, a collection of songs and poems, which document all of life – the good parts as well as the bad. In Psalm 22 for instance we find a voice crying out “God why have you forsaken me? I cry out but you don’t answer.” These are powerful words that can comfort us – they remind us that we don’t suffer alone. It reminds us we are a part of everything – every person who has ever lived – and that is both humbling and liberating.

Here at the College, we are committed to deepening our prayer life. Starting next term, we will be opening the chapel at recess and lunch for students to use as a safe place for reflection, meditation and prayer. Equally, we will also be running something called a Prayer Space in the chapel in the first few weeks of next term. Christian Studies classes will be able to come into the chapel and take part in an interactive and creative sensory experience. This project is designed to allow students to enter into a different space, a sacred and symbolic space, and to reflect on the feelings that they have as a result. I very much look forward to sharing this with students next term. My hope is that this will encourage students to reach out and look up – to open up space for God, to make room for the spirit, and ultimately to allow for the possibility of miraculous things. I look forward to sharing our student’s experiences with you.

Mark Thornton
Children, Youth and Families Worker