Listen to the content lecture audio while attending to the main text file on this page. Arrange to have the audio file and the text page open together so you can work your way through both in an integrated fashion.
The written text for this section (Study the text in conjunction with the audio lecture of 26 minutes duration)
Section 7 PART 2: Putting the experience of prayer and a curriculum for prayer (educating about prayer) into perspective
There are two principal elements of interest here – firstly students actually praying in the classroom. This is appropriate because the school is in some sense a community of shared faith. Even if many of the students are only nominally Catholic, and even if there are a significant proportion of students who are not Catholic, the participation in a Catholic school by parents and students accepts a willingness to participate in the religious life of the school. Hence the celebration of Eucharist and classroom prayer as well as prayer on other occasions like assemblies are justified by the faith community aspect of the school, even though the school is not a complete community of faith as you have in a local faith community where participation is optional and is based on shared religious beliefs, commitments and practices.
The second aspect to be considered here is educating young people in prayer. This means learning about the prayers and prayer traditions in the Catholic Church. It also includes some understanding of the nature, purpose and psychological functions of prayer. Across the whole school curriculum it would also need to give attention to learning about prayer and or prayer practices in other religious traditions, and even that there might be a secular equivalent of prayer for non-believers. This section is not intended to cover all of these aspects in great detail. What it will hope to do is signpost major issues. Part 4.1 gave specific attention to just some issues through the examples of prayer.
The table below gives a preliminary listing of what might be a range of key questions and issues about both praying and education in prayer across the whole school curriculum.
This listing is not intended to differentiate what actually needs to be done a different year levels, but just to signpost what would need attention at the somewhere across the whole K – 12 curriculum. Some matters would require attention at every year level while others might be limited to particular parts of the curriculum.
Teaching skills in prayer and liturgy: Symbolism
Primary school is the ideal time for getting children to learn of by heart some of the principal prayers of the religious tradition. It is time for them to learn about the details or mechanics in the parts of the mass. Also this would be the development of skills in knowing, identifying and interpreting common religious symbols – it is like the study of traditions to develop symbolic literacy as a part of religious literacy.
To help develop prayer and liturgical skills. Some primary school educators have organised for their students to develop weekly Paraliturgies presented by individual groups. Paraliturgies may only go for five or six minutes. Students, usually in pairs, constructed short prayer services that included traditional prayers, poems, their own written prayers, music, hymns, visuals etc. The weekly regularity of the activity not only gives the students an opportunity to feel proud about what they have presented, but it helps develop a sense of prayer and a sense of how to organise materials for a prayer experience. Refer back to the example visual prayers presented by primary school pupils in section 4.1.
Research has shown that even people who regard themselves as non-believers a higher proportion actually pay. So even people who do not believe in a God will either pray or engage in some prayer-like activity. For them, prayer may be an expression of hope in humanity, a hope that things will go well for them. When people save someone who is sick our thoughts are with you – it is like expressing concern and care for others and a hope that they will be able to have better health or better fortune in finding a more meaningful life.
The Catholic Catechism on Prayer
Look at what the Catholic catechism says about prayer. It identifies a number of aspects and issues. Click for a section of the Catholic catechism on Christian Prayer.
Some recent student resources on Prayer
Ryan, M. (2004). Heartlines: Prayer resources for a contemporary spirituality . Brisbane: Lumino Press.
Ryan, M. (2008). Learning links to prayer: teacher resources for the religion classroom . Brisbane: Lumino Press.
Optional reading material: Resources for teaching prayer that may be of interest
An example of curriculum materials used in senior secondary school for teaching about prayer and its psychological functions. It includes handout material given to students to examine as well as a commentary on how the work on prayer was approached. This example has some useful ideas about teaching prayer -- especially for senior school students.