As leaders, one thing we wanted the girls to learn was to pray for specific people. There's something strong and empowering about praying to Heavenly Father for someone's welfare using their individual name, and it makes your love grow and confidence increase. I didn't learn that until I was an adult, and we hoped that we could help these girls to learn this lesson sooner than the rest of us.
After reading about some ideas and carefully contemplating what we could possibly do to encourage this, I had the inspiration to make what I call Prayer Pebbles.
I printed the names on plain paper, using colorful fonts. I included the names of all of our Young Women, those who actively attend church as well as those who don't, plus the Young Women leaders. Then I included our local Bishop and his counselors, the Stake President and Relief Society President, and The Prophet and his Apostles. Then I cut them into circles and ModPodged them onto these clear little stones. To keep them from being tacky and sticking together, after they're dry spray a coat of clear acrylic over the backs of them.
We also wanted to encourage the girls to pray for their own friends whose names aren't included. So I made two pebbles that have the question, "What friend do you know who can use a prayer?"
We keep them in a pretty glass jar in the Young Women's room, and while at church on Sundays or Wednesdays when someone stands up to offer a prayer to begin or end class, she grabs one or two pebbles and specifically prays for whoever is on that pebble sometime during that prayer.
I was the first person to do this, so I demonstrated how to pray for someone by name using one of these prayer pebbles. It was simple for me to do. But for our girls it was kind of awkward at first. The girls felt like it was weird to pray for a young woman who was in the room with them. What do you say as you pray out loud for one of the girls you don't even know, or possibly even like?
But we encouraged them to just try. Some prayers were (and occasionally still are) really quick and generic words used for the specific names drawn from the pebble jar. But as this tradition has become more established, the girls have gotten more comfortable with praying for each other. Often, they know more about what's going on in the lives of one another better than we as leaders do, and their prayers have reflected that.
They pray for each others safety, to do well on big tests at school, to do well in volleyball games, to have a successful surgery and speedy recovery, to be happy, to be comforted in hard times, and to come to church when they're not there. I get teary-eyed as I hear these sincere and heartfelt words coming from the lips of girls as young as 12. They may be prompted on who to pray for, but they decide what to pray for. It warms my heart and makes me happy to hear some of the words these beautiful young women say as they express their wishes for one another to God.
The most amazing part of all of this is the unity that's suddenly blossomed among our girls. It's not perfect, and some of them still don't get along well when they're in the same room, but they have definitely become more thoughtful of one another. I hope that this habit is slowly beginning to be used in their own personal prayers. I have a very sure feeling that it is. And I can't wait to see what these girls do with the strength, unity, and confidence they develop from something as simple as praying for others by name.