“This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know: that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attentiveness.” – Mary Oliver
A few days ago a colleague asked for some ideas to help youth in the parish strengthen their devotional lives. What a great question! I put together a few recommendations and thought why not share them with the broader community. I think youth are longing for ways to feed their souls, to have their souls witnessed, and be formed by attentiveness to the living spirit of Jesus within them.
While some of these resources may work better for youth, a number of them could be used to introduce adults to a regular prayer practice and a recovery or nurture of their own soulfulness and longing for communion with the living Christ. In my experience, starting anywhere with regular prayer and devotion is like drinking water when you are thirsty; any drop helps. Unlike water though, the life of prayer can bring both satisfaction and a longing to drink in more and more of God.
d365.org - it's a website and also an app that can be downloaded on iphone or android. This is a daily devotional with prayer, short passage from scripture, a reflection, and a quote from church tradition. Plus, it has music to accompany.
https://www.pray-as-you-go.org/home/ - Many folks have probably heard of this one. It's a daily devotional app by the Jesuits with an Ignatian approach to scripture that guides you along in an imaginative guided meditation on the biblical passage of the day.
Youth might prefer a book too! Many folks aren't sure or haven't seen how to pray the daily office from the BAS for example, and once they do, they love it. They might love getting a little walkthrough from you on how to use it for prayer when they are alone or together; an abbreviated form or the Home Prayers section on pg.685 can work well.
Another book devotional for youth is CrossWords. It comes from a mainline tradition and offers a walk through the church calendar with a daily scripture, reflection, questions with journaling space, and prayer. This could be an appropriate gift for confirmation too. https://www.churchpublishing.org/crosswords?fbclid=IwAR3IP3ZZtVrB9CZ07JWn0JJ-vVjkmbIphlbVk1VEzAO6fgT0qLtV0N24mlI
A simple introduction to contemplative prayer can bring a new dimension to the devotional life. I think a lot of youth long for more rest and contemplation. Children can learn this practice too. Begin with a few minutes and gently increase the amount of time. Here's a couple guides from the Christian Meditation and Centering Prayer traditions:
Practicing lectio divina (holy reading) is another contemplative practice. It can make Bible reading more accessible and empowering for youth by affirming that the Holy Spirit can speak to them through the words of scripture. It can also awaken their curiousity about the contexts and big questions the Bible emerges from and responds to.
Here's a guided meditation that might work to introduce the basics of lectio divina. Scroll to the bottom of this page: https://johnvest.com/2015/02/09/contemplative-prayer-with-youth/
Or another sample from the Anglican Communion website. This would work well with a group of older youth or adults: https://www.anglicancommunion.org/media/253799/1-What-is-Lectio-Divina.pdf