After my last post about the Baha’i children’s class I teach, I promised that I would post more lesson ideas. This prayer box is something I use every week, and it could easily be adapted to any Sunday School or other religious class where kids are learning short prayers, passages from scriptures, etc.
The idea for the prayer box came from The Muse’s first Baha’i School teachers, Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Belzer. They were both retired school teachers, and they put together amazing lessons and materials. Mrs. Jackson died of cancer a few years ago, and I always think of her when I pull out this box.
I started with a plain white photo box and had the kids help decorate it with puffy stickers. (I wanted to use gem stickers, but I couldn’t find any.) In other years, I’ve had each kid make their own mini box to use at home, too.
Inside the box we keep different prayers – or symbolic items that represent prayers – that we’ve learned. At the beginning of each class, we pull out a few of them to say or sing together. The kids love to reach into the box and pull something out, and the visuals really help them learn.
Here’s the first prayer we learned. Using pictures for some of the words helps differentiate the prayers visually. It’s also good for the little ones who are just learning to read.
This is a prayer craft we did in class one day. A house is a good visual for any kind of protection prayer or quote, and it’s a simple craft to put together. Just a big square, a big triangle, and some smaller squares for a window. I added some bushes, but you could add flowers or whatever to the bottom.
Some prayers in our box aren’t all written out. For example, this is the visual for the prayer “God grant that the light of unity may envelop the whole earth, and that the seal ‘The Kingdom is God’s’ may be stamped upon the brow of all its peoples.” The “light of unity” is on the envelope, and as we sing the first part of the prayer, we “envelop the whole Earth” with “the light of unity” by inserting the earth picture into the envelope.
Then as we sing the last part of the prayer, I take the “seal” (which is Velcroed to the envelope) off and hold it up to the kids’ foreheads (“brows”). Once again, having the visuals I think helps with both the memorization and meaning of the prayers.
The thanks crown is for “My God, my Adored One, my King, my Desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee?” We sing this prayer, too.
Some symbols don’t have any words at all – just a simple item that represents a prayer or quote. This “spot” is for “Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made and His praise glorified.” This is one of the first songs most Baha’i kids learn to sing – there’s a really beautiful melody to it you can hear here.
This feather represents another prayer kids learn very early on: “O God guide me, protect me. Illumine the lamp of my heart, and make me a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.” The reason I use a feather is because I taught the kids to say it in Lakota sign language. I’m so thankful to have learned it. Some kids really need to move, and so often we try to make them sit still for prayers. I actually use hand movements a lot in helping kids memorize, but it’s cool to have real sign language to go with the words, especially from an indigenous language.
The prayer box has been one of my favorite teaching ideas. Kids love the ritual of it, and I love having part of class already planned out each week. There are a lot of things you could add to the box – prayer beads, items from nature, pictures of holy places, etc. There are also different ways to use it, such as having different kids each week pick out and lead the prayers, laying out each item to display on a table and then having them choose, closing your eyes and reaching into the box to pick, etc.
If anyone wants to add any other ideas, please feel free to do so in the comments. I love seeing what other teachers are doing.