The Spiritual Discipline of Prayer

Concept or Focus: The Spiritual Discipline of Prayer

Setting: Roswell Presbyterian Church classroom SB307. 12-15 adults meeting on Sunday morning from roughly 9:30-11. Four to six tables are arranged in an open rectangle in the center of the room. Chairs are lined up along the outer edges of the tables.


  • To explore the topic of prayer in a way that encourages class members to think deeply about how and why they pray
  • To learn a (new) method of praying.

Objectives: The participants will:

  • Identify what stood out for them in the readings for this week, Chapter 3 in the text and Week 3 in the workbook
  • Discuss the readings and their thoughts and experiences with prayer by answering factual, analytical, productive, and evaluative questions
  • Be introduced to and practice the technique of “Praying in Color”

Materials Needed:

  • White board markers
  • damp paper towels for erasing
  • vis-à-vis markers
  • coloring markers
  • crayons
  • paper
  • Books for class:

Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.

Foster, Richard J. and Kathryn A. Yanni.  Celebrating the Disciplines: A Journal Workbook to Accompany Celebration of Discipline. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

MacBeth, Sybil. Praying in Color. Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2011.

  • Page with questions and definitions
  • Red folder with roster, etc
  • Candle
  • Matches or lighter


  • Go get markers, crayons and paper from resource room; store on shelves
  • Get damp paper towels
  • Get water and water plants
  • Clean white board of last week’s scripture references
  • Write on the whiteboard the etymology of the words “meditate” and  “prayer”; write etymology and 1st definition of word “imagination”
  • Organize my area

Lesson Step and Time Allotted

Teaching Activity

Resources Needed

Opening:  9:30 – 9:55

9:55 – 10:10


Set up room. Greet class members as they arrive. Chitchat. Make sure all have books.


Light Christ candle.

Ask for prayer requests and write them down.

Ask someone to open with prayer.

Catch-Up: Go around circle, each person sharing things from his/her life this week.

White board markers, paper towels, outline, definitions

Books from bookcase

Matches, candle

Exploring:  10:10 – 10:30  

Ask class to share things from week’s readings that stood out to them. Discuss as appropriate.

Ask questions – start with factual but be open to direction of HS and class mood. Cover both text and workbook.

Text, workbook, outline

Text, workbook, questions, study guide, outline

Presenting: 10:30-10:35  

*Introduce Praying in Color book. Explain concept, background. Have materials passed around while showing book examples.

Praying in Color book

Art materials

Responding: 10:35-10:50


*Walk class through prayer exercise. Time here is flexible – keep eye on completion


Time alert

Closing: 10:50 – 11:00

(this time is fluid)


Stop exercise. Gather up materials to go back to resource room.

Remind class of next week’s reading: Workbook wks. 18-20

Closing prayer: Invite people to share one or two words from their Praying in Color exercise as they feel moved. Close with a prayer of thanksgiving for communication with God.

*See appended outline for this exercise.

Appended outline for Praying in Color exercise

Lesson Step and Time Allotted

Teaching Activity

Resources Needed

Presenting: 10:30-10:35 Introduce Praying in Color exercise.

Have class pass around and select colored paper (1) and drawing material – markers, crayons, pencils, or combination.


Introduce author – Sybil MacBeth, math teacher from Memphis


Describe purpose of book – to pray through creating images on paper akin to doodling.


Explain uses for this type of prayer: intercessory, situational, scripture references, personal, world events, etc. Any type of prayer lends itself to this.


Read prayer dilemmas list Chapter -5, p.3-4 to see if class members identify with any of the given prayer scenarios.



Praying in Color book

Art materials

Praying in Color, flag 1


Responding: 10:35 – 10:50



Walk class through the exercise. Slowly read aloud Chapter 3 “The Steps”, large- type directions; keep watch on progress of class. Participate or not as feel comfortable while watching time.

Time alert

Praying in Color, pink FYI flag

Rationale: We are studying the spiritual disciplines described in Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline and are following his sequence of study as outlined in the book’s Table of Contents. Last week an essay on prayer by Foster was emailed to each class member. In class on Sunday after finishing our discussion on meditation, we read out loud the Prayer essay, looked up scripture containing different types of prayers and read those aloud, and discussed what we’d read. This week the homework was to read the text’s chapter on prayer and do corresponding exercises in the workbook. We come together this Sunday to discuss what we’ve read and experienced with the discipline. Next week we’ll go home and practice some more with prayer, and then the following week we’ll get back together, give it some discussion, and then move forward to the next discipline. (See attached syllabus.)

This Sunday school class is new, having just formed in August. Some people came invited, some wandered in from other classes (or from no prior class). All seem to be looking for something more – a deeper sense of connection within the RPC community, a closer walk with God, faith beyond the bible study. Attendance is not yet stable, but we seem to have about 12 people every Sunday – just not always the same people from week to week. The material chose me to teach it as much as I chose it to teach. I read the book Celebration of Discipline last spring and had a strong desire to study the material in a like-minded community of believers, people interested in spiritual practice.  I knew I could either ask an established Sunday school teacher to consider teaching it or I could teach it myself. After many weeks of discernment and some research in which I discovered the workbook and a study guide, I chose to start a class, and I asked two of my favorite teachers to co-lead with me. They agreed, and Connections was started. God then formed the class.

The table formation is an experiment. We originally had no tables; while they were on order, we sat in chairs in a large circle. When the tables arrived – there were six – they took up a great deal of space in the room, and some class members expressed dislike for them, saying they took away the sense of closeness. During the week two weeks ago two of the tables mysteriously disappeared. The room is “cozier” but there’s not enough surface room for everybody; some people sit in the gaps between tables.  We’ll reassess the situation in another week or two, after we’ve had time to sit with it.

I chose to teach the Praying in Color method to the class because I think it has a broad appeal. We have engineers, lawyers, salesmen, IT guys, naturalists, artists and others in the group; I wanted a type of prayer that all could readily access. This is also a form of prayer that’s easily passed along, and it’s my hope that those in the class with children will want to teach it to them. I will make the call whether to participate in the exercise during the actual presentation of it. My concern about my participation is that I the artist will become so absorbed in the drawing/praying that I will fail to keep up with the time and the class’s activity.

Post-lesson reflection:

I enjoyed leading the discussion on the material and teaching the prayer exercise. My class is fun because all the participants participate – everyone is engaged and contributes at some point in every meeting. The discussion part of a lesson is always easy for me: I like the give and take, the thoughtful exploration of ideas and opinions among good-intentioned people. I was a little concerned about teaching the prayer exercise. Prayer is so subjective, so personal and so very important; I felt inadequate to be teaching anybody about it, when I struggle with it myself sometimes. And for some people, anything that has the least to do with art is intimidating.  But it went well. I was surprised and gratified by the corporate level of individual concentration on the project. It seemed to be a method of communing with God that people could readily enter into. Nobody seemed intimidated, perhaps because the drawings weren’t for public consumption. The biggest surprise was that so many people folded up their drawings and tucked them into pockets and purses. I guess I expected them to be left on tables or tossed into the trashcan, but I realize that I was looking at it as something of an art project; I’ve seen those left behind after classes many times. But my fellow classmates took their work seriously, and that was very instructive to me. Spiritual exercises can have an appeal to others besides the Very Contemplative People, so it is worth the energy to share those exercises wherever and whenever possible. You just never know when they’ll “take.”

meditate – Latin, mederi   to remedy (medical)

prayer – Latin, precarius    obtained by entreaty

imagination – Latin, imago   image

1. the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to

the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality

2. a. creative ability

b. ability to confront and deal with a problem

c. the thinking or active mind: interest


What does Foster say to pray is to do? (30) Change

What did Foster do to facilitate learning to pray better? (33) took the Gospels, cut out every reference to prayer, pasted them onto sheets of paper, read at one sitting; sought out individuals who were powerful prayers; read books by past masters of prayer; studied Old Testament pray-ers; began praying for others with an expectation that a change should and would occur.

What is the first thing necessary for successful intercession? (34) Listening to the Lord          Second? Listening to the Lord            Third? Listening to the Lord


Do you believe we can change the world through prayer?

What is prayer failure to you?

Why is meditation the necessary prelude to intercession? (35)

What happens when you pray?

What did you grow up with?

Discuss this quote by Emilie Griffin (workbook, 14):  “There is a moment between intending to pray and actually praying that is as dark and silent as any moment in our lives. It is the split second between thinking about prayer and really praying…How easy it is, and yet – between us and the possibility of prayer there seems to be a great gulf fixed: an abyss of our own making that separates us from God.”

Have you experienced the inner yes? (35) Inner heaviness? (35)

What could it mean to use imagination in prayer?

What is the easiest type of prayer for you?  Hardest?  Most important part of prayer?  Best place/time for you to pray?


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