For many students, a common battlefield of spiritual warfare is to work at developing discernment over which thoughts are of truth and which thoughts are not of truth. Similar to the movie Inception, the devil has a knack for planting lies in our minds and then trying to convince us that they are our own thoughts. The student may think that they’re not smart, not worthy of friends, or not beautiful, but it’s impossible for these thoughts to have come from God since we are made in the image of God (and God is none of these things!). Because of this, it becomes important for us to establish that these negative thoughts could have only come from the evil one. Once our students begin to understand that the root issue lies in the spiritual realm instead of the physical realm, our youth gain a better understanding of why they can engage in prayer within their current context. Naturally, the youth ministry would still help them learn to engage in intercessory prayer, meditative prayer, prayer of petition, prayer of thanksgiving, and other types of prayer, but the instructions on the various ways on “how” to pray can wait until after the more foundational conversation of “why” we pray is discussed first.
For our youth that finds itself immersed within this particular area of spiritual warfare, encouraging the practice of healthy introspection can be beneficial. Indeed, there is a difference between the practice of self-ameliorating and the practice of self-examination. On one hand, self-amelioration is when a student spends hours comparing themselves to their peers, jockeying for position within the social hierarchy of high school, or editing and filtering photos of themselves to hide the imperfections that they have grown to dislike. On the other hand, self-examination is a prayerful process of introspection that meditates on what the Lord may see in us through His eyes.
Once we gain a glimpse of the Lord’s perspective, it helps us see what is holding us back from pursuing a deeper relationship with Christ. While the youth pastor and youth leaders are certainly able to lead the youth ministry and its students in a session of prayer, one can’t help but wonder as to which might inspire a student to pursue the act of self-examination more: seeing an adult praying about what the youth should do, or seeing one of their peers crying out to the Lord and asking for their fellow students to receive a breakthrough?
Without an intentional effort to engage in the spiritual discipline of prayer, students will graduate from the youth ministry with the belief that prayer is only meant for unloading a list of requests onto the Lord. Rather than this unfortunate mindset, a youth ministry that empowers their students to pray can help them become more intentional at communicating with God. Similar to a child that can pick out the voice of their parents within a noisy crowd, students can begin to understand what the still, small voice of the Lord sounds like within their hearts as their peers echo the passionate pleas of the student body. Should a student incorporate the practice of prayer into their lives before leaving the youth ministry, it is likely that it will drastically impact the rest of their lives as they begin to consult the Lord on school choice, career choice, spouse choice, and more.
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