An Interactive Evening Prayer Practice

Simple, routine family prayer practices remind us of who we are, create belonging and an environment of emotional and spiritual safety. We can adapt these practices with all ages and as children grow.

A Prayer Practice for Bedtime

Knowing the importance of bedtime prayers in my own children’s formation, I was delighted to find Candlewalk: A Bedtime Prayer to God by Karin Holsinger Sherman (Church Publishing, 2019). I wanted to share the book in an engaging and interactive way with families. Below you will find

  • Suggestions for creating prayerful space (including while gathering online)
  • My full thirty-minute outline for this interactive evening prayer practice
  • My sharable script for telling the story and leading art response

During the COVID19 pandemic, I’ve used Candlewalk to offer an interactive evening prayer time for families via Zoom. This method of reading Candlewalk could also be used at home or during in person church gatherings.

Tip: I bought the kindle version of Candlewalk so I could share it on my screen when meeting virtually. 

Sharing Candlewalk with Families

Invite everyone to bring the following items:

  • Blank paper and drawing/coloring utensils
  • Battery operated candle
  • Something to show from the day that made you smile – could be a drawing or photo or object such as a rock from the playground
  • Blanket, favorite stuffed animal, anything that helps you feel peaceful and comforted related to getting ready for bed

Create Belonging
Set the group up in a circle. If some are meeting virtually, give the names of the order you will share. For example, “Let’s pretend we are all together in one big circle and we will go around and take our turn to talk. I will go first to give you my example. If you are last today, that’s okay. I will change our order every time we meet. Here is our order today: Lisa, Vivian, Dutch, Moses, Hannah.” See my video for more on facilitating satisfying, peaceful, and joy-filled group discussions. 

Tip: I suggest splitting siblings up so they don’t share one after the other. This helps each one to find their own voice and ideas. 

Keep Time 
Meet for a maximum duration of 30 minutes, especially if meeting virtually. Adjust the sharing time and art response time as needed. 

Settle our Bodies
I generally say, “Let’s make sure our bodies feel relaxed and let’s take a few deep breaths. Imagine we are smelling the fresh air as we breathe in through our nose and we are blowing out candles as we breathe out through our mouth.”

Joyful Check In
I invite each person to show and share about one thing that made them smile or laugh during the day. I remind them, “We will take just a little bit of time to share so everyone has a turn. Let’s pay really close attention to each person who is sharing so they know that we see them, we hear them, we are glad to be with them and they are important to us. Let’s say ‘thanks for sharing’ and say their name after each person shares.”

Read Candlewalk
I generally give a brief introduction before we start, such as “In this book a child takes an evening walk outside with a parent and notices the many things that God created which help her know that God is with her. I will read so everyone can relax and look at the pictures. Sometimes, I will ask everyone to repeat a prayer after me and sometimes we say our prayer all together with motions.”

On most pages I read the text and then invite engagement. For example, on the first page after the text “I put on my muddied boots,” I invite everyone to pretend to put on boots. On page 18 after the text “Guide us waking and guard us sleeping,” I invite everyone to repeat that phrase three time with motions.

See my full script here.

Art Response
We pause on page 8 for an art response to the questions, “Did God move through our branches today? Or did God’s breath feel far away? Did someone seek the shelter of our shade? Is there something that made us sorry?

I use this sketch and write in my responses in four different places. I can use the same sketch for several days and add to my list.

Prayer Motions
On page 18 we use motions and say together, “Guide us waking and guard us sleeping.” Video demonstration here. On page 22 we use motions and say together, “In peace I lie down and sleep.” Video demonstration here.

We end by listing to this recording of The Lord Bless You and Keep You. I generally say, “Let’s rest together and listen to this song.”

Script for Candlewalk

The full script for reading Candlewalk with children and families is available here as a downloadable PDF.

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