Here is Pastor Eric Foley’s follow-up to the last post.
Virtue 4: Passionate, whole-being prayer, conclusion
In my last column, I wrote that we are raising a generation of 2.0’s who don’t know how to cry out to God. They can only whisper to God, and they don’t even seem to do this very often. Passionate, whole-body prayer, I claimed, is one of the most important Korean Christian virtues, and it is being lost with every passing year. How many 2.0’s do you know who pray passionately? How many 2.0’s do you know who regularly cry out to God?
This must change. That’s why in this column, I am recommending three practical steps that your church can implement to enable the Korean young people in your congregation to learn to pray passionately and with their whole bodies and hearts.
1. Keep the children in the Sunday service through the prayer time—and have the congregation cry out to God in two segments: the first in Korean, the second in English.
Children primarily learn about prayer from watching and imitating their parents. But think about what often happens in Korean congregations: the passionate, whole-being prayer happens when the children are out of the room! They are not in attendance at morning prayer services, and on Sunday mornings they are often in Sunday School during the main service times. As a result, they rarely see their parents crying out openly to God—and they never learn to imitate this behavior. By the time they are teenagers in American society, they come to associate passionate, whole-being prayer as just another weird thing their Korean parents do that Americans don’t.
That’s why this first recommendation is so important: It’s not practical to have young children attend morning prayer, but it is possible to keep the children in the Sunday service through the prayer time so that from a very young age they see their parents and other adults openly crying out to God in prayer—and they learn to do likewise.
This may mean moving the prayer time much earlier in the service so that children can participate and then be dismissed. But isn’t teaching our children how to pray much more important than maintaining the order of worship we’ve all become used to?
One other change is recommended, however: TWO brief prayer times should be done in each service, one after the other. In the first prayer time, congregation members should cry out to God in Korean, as usual. In the second prayer time, however, congregation members should cry out to God in English, even if they know very little English. Why? So that our children don’t associate passionate, whole-being prayer only with the Korean language. Since most 2.0’s will come to speak English as their main language, it is vital that they regularly see adults crying out to God in English; otherwise, they will stop praying this way when their Korean speaking diminishes.
Children should of course be encouraged by the pastor and their parents to cry out to God just like everyone else during the prayer time.
2. Teach children passionate, whole-being prayer in English at a young age using Pentecostal prayer curriculum in your Sunday School.
One of the greatest challenges in teaching 2.0’s passionate, whole-being prayer is that Koreans of all denominations are much more Pentecostal in their worship than Americans. American Presbyterians, Methodists, and many Baptists are very quiet are formal when they pray. As a result, 2.0’s who are Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists encounter other Americans who are Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists, and they learn that prayer is quiet, private, and boring!
American Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, on the other hand, teach their children a more passionate, whole-being kind of prayer. Fortunately, they produce English language curriculum on how to teach passionate, whole-being prayer to children. Using this kind of English language curriculum can be very helpful with children, because they learn from a very young age that there are many American Christians who pray the way their Korean parents and church members do. This will help them not see passionate, whole-being prayer as just another part of their Korean identity to be rejected as they become Americanized.
A warning, however: If you use English language Pentecostal and Charismatic curriculum, it is absolutely crucial that pastors and Sunday School teachers review the lessons and correct theological interpretations that don’t agree with traditional Christian teaching. For example, the United Pentecostal Church offers a wonderful “Prayer Revival” curriculum for children that would be ideal to teach the youth during a congregational revival event; you can see the curriculum here. However, the UPC is a “oneness” church, which means that they do not believe in the Trinity; they believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are how God revealed Himself at different times. If you decide to use their curriculum or curriculum like it, make sure to review the curriculum to correct any teachings that don’t match historical Christian doctrine.
3. Have your youth group attend conferences in English that promote and teach passionate, whole-being prayer.
Korean youth conferences are wonderful, but it is very important to seek out other youth conferences that specifically teach passionate, whole-being prayer. For example, the International House of Prayer in Kansas City offers children’s and youth training tracks in all aspects of passionate, whole-being prayer at each of their conferences. They also offer weekly classes in Kansas City that American churches drive to from all over the United States. These include prayer topics such as, “Releasing Children in Creative Expression and Power”. A summer intensive program for teens is also offered.
Once again, it’s important for pastors to do their own research to find out if there are any areas of doctrinal difference before sending children from the church to participate. The attendance of bilingual adult leaders and youth pastors can also help children talk through the teaching presented at conferences like this.
My hope is that these recommendations will move you to action in finding new and creative ways to pass on the unique Korean virtue of passionate, whole-being prayer to the next generation of Koreans who will one day be responsible for our churches. If they don’t learn how to cry out to God, what will become of our churches?
If you’d like to comment on this article or receive more information about other columns in this series, please feel free to e-mail me at efoley[at]dotheword.org. Since, unfortunately, I don’t speak Korean, you may wish to speak to my wife, Ahn Hyun Sook, at hyunsookfoley[at]yahoo.com.
In our next column we turn our attention to the fifth unique Korean virtue that EM’s should be teaching our children but aren’t: Preparing and eating meals together.
Until then, annyonghashimnika!