Presenting Prayer Shawls

Ask Deborah

by Deborah Patterson

Q: Do you have any advice for how to present a prayer shawl? We’ve been doing a prayer shawl ministry at our church for three years and it tends to vary by person and situation. For individuals, I try to get a small group together to lay hands on the individual and pray for the person specifically. I feel very strongly that prayer must be part of the prayer shawl presentation, but we have 25 prayer shawls to present to our confirmation class and I am puzzled regarding the best way to do this. Any suggestions? Thanks.

A: Twenty-five kids in your confirmation class? Wow! Those prayers must be getting answered! All kidding aside, what a wonderful symbol those prayer shawls will be to your confirmation class. Recently I was talking with a parish nurse in Canada whose congregation presented prayer shawls to their graduating seniors. They had been receiving feedback about how much the students, most of whom now were attending university, appreciated the gift from their congregation—a warm and tender reminder of home.

You have a variety of options. One is to arrange for each of the prayer shawls to be presented by the person who made it, and have the person say a short prayer of blessing, as he or she places the prayer shawl on the confirmand. Presenters may say something like, “May the love of God surround you and bless you all of your days.” Or you might have the giver recite a Bible verse as they place the prayer shawl on the young person. It would be very nice if you had 25 different people make and present the prayer shawls so that each confirmand could be connected to the person who made the shawl for him or her. If that is not possible, or if you would rather not say who made each one, you could have the prayer shawl presented by the minister or a parent.

Another option is to present a prayer shawl to each, and then say a prayer for all of them together, something like this:
“God of peace and blessing, we pray that you would surround these young people, your blessed children, with wisdom and courage, love and grace. Help them to feel the presence of this gathered community on this, their confirmation day. Help them to know that we will be with them and support them in all that they do. Help them to choose the right. In the years that lie ahead, strengthen them in faith, guide them in your paths, fill them with the knowledge of your saving love, and help them to find their true purpose in your glorious creation. This we pray in your holy name. Amen.”

A note for churches who don’t have knitters: prayer quilts are nice, too, and you might want to visit the website of “Prayers and Squares: The Prayer Quilt Ministry,” which began at Hope United Methodist Church at Rancho Bernardo, California.

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