Last year I was asked by my publisher if I’d write a collection of prayers for young people. At first, I wasn’t keen – lots of prayer books already exist (including many aimed at teenagers) and if there’s one thing the world doesn’t need, it’s more Christian books. However, when I did a bit of looking around, I realised that there were a couple of things that didn’t exist, and which actually might be quite useful.
First of all, unlike various collections for children, there didn’t seem to be any prayer books that covered a wide range of subjects – from exam stress to doubt, from grief to feeling happy about Christmas. There are books that cover all of these things, but none that do all together.
Alongside that, I couldn’t find a prayer book which sought to introduce young people to some of the great classic prayers – to those of the great mystics, saints and theologians.
I bet you can guess what I did. I pulled together a collection of all these things. And it was great – I got an opportunity to sift through some amazing old prayers and rewrite them slightly for a modern audience. I asked a few friends if they’d contribute something. And then I realised I’d made a terrible error – right at the planning stage, I’d arbitrarily picked the number 500. And 500 is a lot of prayers.
To be painfully honest: I begged with my publisher to revise the number down, but the wheels were too far in motion. And so began the process of writing hundreds of prayers myself. And of course, God moved me, challenged me and changed me through that process. The result is 500 Prayers for Young People, and I’m jolly proud of it.
Because I find the whole area of self-promotion excruciatingly awkward, I haven’t really talked about the book, despite it coming out over a year ago. In that time I’ve had a couple of really lovely reviews, including this one, and lots and lots of feedback from people who’ve said they’ve bought it and found it really useful.
So here’s my awkward brief sales pitch: it’s a big collection of prayers that is useful for a youth worker but also accessible for a young person to use in their own spiritual formation. There’s a section which connects with various well-known worship songs (so you can use it in a service), and there’s some rewritten prayers from people like St Patrick and Soren Kierkegaard. And there’s lots of other prayers on every aspect of faith and modern teenage life. It would probably work really well as a Baptism or Confirmation gift, or as a transition gift to give to young people leaving an age group. Awkward brief sales pitch ends.
Ugh. I feel all dirty now.