Good Friends – Prayer

Topic:

Prayer

Aim

To help pupils learn that, for Christians, prayer is an essential part of their relationship with God. It’s a result of God’s love for them and their love for God.

Things you’ll need

  • Copies of the friendship sketches (included at end of assembly)
  • A copy of the Lord’s Prayer on large pieces of card

Preparation

Before the assembly ask two pupils to help you with the sketches and rehearse them ready for the assembly.

Bible Base

Matthew 6:5-13

Content

1 Introduce the sketches by saying that you are about to watch the behaviour of two good friends.

Sketch 1

After the children have watched the sketch, ask if they think the two people are good friends. If not, why not? What should good friends be doing? When someone has answered, ‘Talking to each other’, ask your actors to perform the second sketch.

Sketch 2

Ask the children if the people are now acting like good friends. If not, why not? When you get the answer, ‘Listening’, ask your actors to perform the third sketch.

Sketch 3

Say that you think they now look like very good friends. Does everyone agree? Why not? Bring out the fact that they didn’t spend much time with each other. A good friendship needs three things: talking, listening and spending time together.

2 Ask the children what friendships would be like with one or more of these parts missing. Talk about their ideas.

3 Explain that an important Christian belief is that people can be friends with God. Being a friend of God needs the same things as being friends with a person. Christians need to talk to God, listen to God and spend time with God. This is called prayer. Christians pray so that they can become better friends with God.

4 Talk about how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. He taught them a prayer that is still used today by Christians all round the world. It is known as the Lord’s Prayer. Display the Lord’s Prayer. Read it through, explaining words where necessary.

5 Tell the children that when Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples he said that they shouldn’t just pray when people could see them and think they were good. They should pray at home where no-one could see them, so it would be just them talking to God, listening to God and spending time with God. These are the things that make for a good friendship.

Application

A Christian viewpoint

It’s important for Christians today to do as Jesus said and pray regularly. Sometimes Christians use prayers that are written down. Sometimes they pray using their own words, praising God (ie telling him how much they love him), saying sorry for things they’ve done wrong and asking God for help.

For everyone

Jesus knew that a good friendship needs these three things: talking, listening and spending time together. For Christians, that also includes being friends with God. Are we also good friends with other people? Do we do those three things? If our friendships are going to be really good friendships we need to learn to do each of those things too.

Response

If it is appropriate, finish with the Lord’s Prayer. Use the version from the Bible that you have displayed on the OHP. If the children are used to saying a different version, this might help them to think carefully about what they are saying. If they don’t usually pray, then read it out for them to listen to. Finish by asking God to help us be really good friends by talking, listening and spending time with each other.

 

 

Friendship sketches

Sketch 1

Two pupils stand side by side looking a bit bored.  Once or twice they glance at each other and smile.  Apart from that, they ignore each other.  Stop the sketch after about twenty seconds.

Sketch 2

The two pupils say the following things at the same time.  They don’t stop talking or take any notice of each other.  They should both be very enthusiastic.

Pupil A:  Hi there!  How are you?  Did you watch Blue Peter last night?  It was great, wasn’t it?  I liked the bit when they were climbing up the mountain and one of them fell down.  And did you see the kittens they had on the show?  They were so cute – all small, fluffy and orange.  I’d love to have a kitten like that, only my mum won’t let me.  Actually, I need to go because I said I’d help my teacher clean out her cupboard today and wash the paint pots.  Bye!

Pupil B:  Hello.  Do you want to come and play football wtih us?  There’s only seven on our team, so we need someone else.  You won’t have to be in goal.  Ranjit is our goalie.  Oh go on, it’ll be a laugh.  I’ll share my crisps with you if you’ll do it.  We’re being Aston Villa, the others are Man United, so we’re bound to win again.  Did you see the football on telly last night? My dad lets me stay up to watch it with him on Sky.  Well hurry up!  We’re playing over by the bins.  Come on!

Sketch 3

The two pupils rush up to each other and start talking.  They don’t interrupt each otehr and they listen to each other’s answers.

Pupil A: Hello, how are you?

Pupil B: Fine, thanks.

Pupil A: Bye then.

Pupil B: Bye.

They both turn away.

 

Power to teach – The Lord’s Prayer

Bible base:

Luke 11: 1-13

Teaching objectives:

To show children that the Bible says Jesus had power to talk to God and to teach others how to talk to him.

You will need:

  • 3 or 4 scarves (or lengths of rope)
  • A copy of the visual aid, copied onto flipchart paper. The solution is given and you may want to practise beforehand!
  • Red, green and orange paints or marker pens.

Introductory activity:

Show the pupils one of the scarves, tied in a knot. Ask for 2 or 3 volunteers to come to the front and tie another scarf/rope in a knot like the one you have just shown them.

After the volunteers have tied the scarves in a knot, explain that you managed to tie yours without lifting your hands off either end of the scarf. Each of them had to lift one hand off the scarf to tie it. Ask them if they think they could do it without taking their hands off.

Allow them to try for a few minutes, tying themselves in knots while you assure them that it is possible! (By picking the scarf up by either end with arms unfolded it will always be impossible to tie it in a knot without releasing one end.)

When they have given up, untie your scarf and show them how you did it. You should fold your arms in the conventional way, placing one hand over and one hand under the other arm. From this position, pick up one end of the scarf in each hand and simply unfold your arms. A knot will be tied in the scarf.

Allow them to try using this new method.

Ask the children to take their seats again. Although I told you it was possible, you didn’t know how to do it until I showed you the right way. Once I taught you, then you were able to do it for yourself.

Have you ever watched someone doing something and wondered if you could do it too? Maybe you’ve watched a magician performing a trick, or watched your favourite footballer do a really clever move, and you’ve wanted to learn how to do it.

In today’s story, Jesus’ disciples watched him praying. When the Bible talks about praying, it means talking to God. The disciples wanted to know how to talk to God the way Jesus did!

So, when Jesus had finished praying, the disciples asked him if he would teach them how to talk to God. What he taught them is written on this sheet of paper.

Show the pupils the visual aid you have prepared.

It’s not very clear, is it? Perhaps this is how the disciples felt about prayer. They had watched Jesus talking to God but they weren’t sure how they could do it themselves.

Let’s see if we can discover three things that Jesus told them about prayer.

Start to paint or colour the first word on the sheet in red: LOVE

The first thing he told them was that they should love God. The Bible says that he told them to pray:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

This means that God should be really special to them. He should be more important than anyone else. Jesus was telling them that they should tell God how great he is and how much they love him!

Paint or colour the second word on the sheet in orange: ASK

The second thing he told them was that they should ask God for whatever they needed. The Bible says he told them to say:

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

This doesn’t just mean that they should ask him for bread! Jesus wanted them to ask God for everything that they needed for life. They could go to him for anything and he would hear them.

Paint or colour the third word on the sheet in green: SORRY

The third thing they were to say to God was sorry. Jesus told them to say:

“Forgive us our sins.”

When the Bible uses the word ‘sin’, it means anything we do or say or think that is wrong. The Bible says that these things hurt God. So Jesus told his disciples to say sorry to God for all the wrong things they had done that God didn’t like.

So, these three words sum up the first bit of what Jesus told his disciples about prayer. They should love God first and praise him for how great he is. They should ask him for whatever they needed. And they should say sorry to him for the wrong things they had done that God didn’t like.

But then Jesus went on to explain something else about prayer. Perhaps the colours we have painted these words in will help us to discover what else he told them. Do these colours remind you of anything?

Red, amber and green are the colour of traffic lights. What does each colour mean?

Take the pupils’ suggestions.

Jesus told his disciples that everyone who asked for something from God would get an answer, but it wouldn’t always be an immediate green light for ‘go’ . Sometimes they might have to wait for a while, like waiting at an amber light. At other times they might have to stop and wait for longer, like waiting at a red light. And Jesus said that God would never give people things that were bad for them.

The disciples had watched Jesus pray. They realised that Jesus had the power to talk to God and they hoped he had the power to teach them too. Refer back to the three words. He told them that they should tell God they love him, ask him for their needs and say sorry for the things they had done to hurt him. He would always hear them, even if it seemed like they had to wait for a while.

The Bible says that we can pray to God in the same way that Jesus taught his disciples. It says that when we talk to God today, he still hears us and will still answer us.

Optional prayer time:

Give thanks to God that we can still talk to him today. Ask him to help us talk to him more, to tell him we love him, to ask for his help and to say sorry.

 

Message for Zechariah! – Advent

Bible base:

Luke 1:5-25

Teaching objectives:

To show that Christians believe God answers prayers. Sometimes the answer is unbelievable, but they believe he can be trusted.

You will need:

  • Chewy fruit sweets which are sold in tightly-wrapped paper.
  • Clothes to dress up two pupils – one boy and one girl – as old people, eg a tweed jacket, a shawl, an old-fashioned handbag, etc.
  • Two envelopes addressed to Zechariah, with ‘God’ written on the back as the sender’s name. One envelope should contain the words “Your wife, Elizabeth, will have a son’ and the other the words, ‘He will persuade people to turn to God and will prepare the way for God’s Son.’

Introductory activity:

If you are doing this assembly as part of a series before Christmas, ask the pupils what presents they are hoping to receive. Alternatively, at other times in the year, ask if anyone has a birthday coming up. Ask them to raise their hand if they want to tell you about the presents they would like to receive.

Ask three pupils to come to the front of the assembly hall. Ask them if they are right or left-handed. Put a chewy fruit sweet wrapped in paper in their other hand and ask them to unwrap it using only that hand. Encourage the rest of the pupils to cheer them on.

When they have finished, ask them why they kept trying to get the sweet opened. It is because they wanted to eat it. If they didn’t care, they would have given up.

Today’s story is about a man called Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Just like our volunteers, there was something that they really wanted. It wasn’t just a sweet however, and they had wanted this thing for many years.

Choose a boy and a girl to come to the front to be Zechariah and Elizabeth. Start to dress them up in costumes as you build up a picture of what they were like.

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a long time ago in a hot country a long way from here, but to help us imagine them more easily, we will dress them up in modern clothes. They were also very old – older than your grandparents – so we will dress them up to look like older people.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had lived a long and good life, and had been very happy. But one thing in their life made them very sad: they had no children. They both loved children, but they had never had any of their own. Now they were so old, there was no chance they could have a child. This was the only thing in their life that really made them sad. Encourage the pupils at the front to look sad.

The Bible says that Zechariah and Elizabeth loved God very much and had always tried to obey him in everything they did. Because they loved him so much and believed that he loved them even more, they used to talk to him all the time about everything they were thinking and feeling.

They believed that God was very powerful and that he was the only one who could help them. Every day they would tell him about how much they wanted a child.

Zechariah was a priest, and one day he was in the temple on his own, praying to God when something amazing happened: an angel appeared! Zechariah was very afraid, but the angel told him not to be. He was sent from God to give Zechariah a message.

Give one of the envelopes addressed to ‘Zechariah’ to your volunteer. Ask them to open it and read what it says:

‘Your wife, Elizabeth, will have a son.’

At last, here was an answer to their prayers! But that was not the end of the message.

Give the pupil the second envelope to read out:

‘He will persuade people to turn to God and will prepare the way for God’s son.’

God had heard their prayers and had answered them, but his answer was even better than they had imagined. Not only would Elizabeth have a baby, but this baby would have a very special job, preparing people for God’s son, Jesus.

The message was so amazing that Zechariah found it very hard to believe. Elizabeth was so old! But Elizabeth believed the message for one simple reason.

Ask ‘Elizabeth’ to check on the back of the envelope to see who the message is from and tell the rest of the assembly.

Elizabeth knew they could trust this message because it was from someone they knew: God. She knew that God loved them and wouldn’t lie to them. Now God had answered their prayer in an amazing way!

Luke’s Gospel is an exciting message to Theophilus (only mention Theophilus if you have already done the previous assembly) and to us, but this is the first exciting message within his story. Christians believe it is a message that shows us that God is in touch with people and answers their prayers in more incredible ways than they could ever imagine. Elizabeth’s son was John the Baptist, sent to prepare people for an even more exciting message still to come.

Optional prayer time:

Give thanks that God heard Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers and answered them. Thank him that he is still in touch with people today.

 

Prayer – Parable of Pharisee and tax collector

Aim

To help pupils understand that prayer is part of a relationship with God.

Bible base

Luke 18:9-14 – the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

You will need:

A mobile phone

Preparation

  • Arrange, in advance, for someone to be waiting for a phone call from you during the assembly. It could be your mother or father or someone posing as them. Alternatively, you could arrange for the person to phone you during the assembly (when you are ready, dial the number you want and let it ring a couple of times as a signal to the person to ring you back).
  • Rehearse the phone conversation in advance, along the lines indicated in the Content section below.
  • Rehearse your reading or telling of the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14)

Content

Phone home!

1. Begin by saying that you have got your mobile phone with you this morning (show it to the pupils). Comment how amazing it is that you can speak to anyone you like, as long as they are near a phone, within a few seconds. How is that possible? There are not so many messages rushing around the earth. This phone is not even connected by wires or cables! The technology is incredible!

2. Mention that you were told that ‘orange’ ones were good, but the shop only had black ones in stock!

3. Suggest that you could make a call, here and now, from the assembly! Explain that you know someone who is in, because you always have a chat on the phone at this time of day. Tell everyone that it’s your mother or father (don’t say the number!). Say that everyone will have a chance to talk to him or her. Ask the audience to keep very quiet until you give a signal and then they must shout, ‘Hiya Mum (Dad).’ Give the audience a practice at doing this before you phone.

4. Make the call and during the (pre-arranged) conversation, make sure you include the following:

  • Say thank you for something;
  • Say sorry about something;
  • Ask for a favour;
  • Make it appear that you are listening to some advice (eg by saying something like, ‘OK I will’);
  • End by saying, ‘I love you’ so softly that you have to repeat it, to your ‘embarrassment’! Let everyone say ‘Hiya Mum (Dad)!’ and end the call.

5. Comment that your mobile phone is a good one but it’s got its limitations. For example, you have to keep it turned on and the batteries fade; it has to be within range and, as with any phone, the person you are trying to call has to be in and has to want to talk to you! Say that you doubt whether you could talk to the Queen, although there was a Canadian journalist who once managed it!

Talk with God

1. Explain that you have another mobile phone that’s usuable any time and at any range. It has free rental and there are no charges for calls. It’s called ‘prayer’. Christians think of prayer as being like a two-way conversation, a bit like using the phone. Then add that they may have noticed, though, how some people treat phones as though they are made for one-way conversations! They forget that there are two parts to a phone. Ask if they have ever had that sort of experience? (Hold the phone, outstretched, away from your ear!)

2. Comment that some people treat prayer like that, too. They keep on talking at God, instead of having a conversation with him.

3. Read or tell the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) from a contemporary version of the Bible.

Application

  1. Make the point that although we may not feel good enough to pray, that is the very attitude God is looking for in prayers! Instead of long, formal prayers, the Bible shows people talking to God as a person – which is what he is!
  2. Remind everyone that during your telephone call earlier, there were three very important things you said: there was a ‘thank you’, a ‘sorry’ and ‘a please’. And those are exactly the sort of things that many Christians try to include in their prayers with God: telling him about all the things that have happened to them and are going to happen; all the different ways in which they have felt, happy, angry, disappointed. Conversation with God – prayer – is about being real with someone who is always at the end of the line, never out, never switched off, and who never has flat batteries!
  3. The conversation you had on the phone earlier also included your listening to some advice and being reminded of some things you had forgotten. And there was also a chance to say how you felt about your mum (dad). For the Christian, these things are part of prayer too.
  4. Conclude by reminding everyone that conversation is part of a relationship; and prayer is part of our relationship with God. Like all relationships, it needs working at! Encourage pupils to talk with God. It’s good to talk.

 

 

Jesus always listens – Nicodemus

Aim:

To help the children understand that Jesus listens when they talk to him. He is happy to hear their prayers.

Bible base:

John 3:1-21. Jesus and Nicodemus.

You will need:

  • A collection of objects that make some kind of a noise, eg a cup and saucer, an alarm clock, an egg timer (wind up kind), a hand bell, a radio, etc (try to include the radio or something else with words – a cassette player, a talking toy!)
  • A deep box for your objects, with a hole made in one side, large enough for your hands to go through.

Presentation

Introduction

1. Start the assembly with a listening game.

  • Ask the children to listen very carefully to the things in your box, ensuring that they cannot see over the top into the box.
  • Put your hands into the back of the box through the hole. Make a noise with each object in turn.
  • As the children guess the objects correctly take them out of the box. Leave your ‘speaking’ object until last. See if the children can actually make out some of the words being said.

2. Talk to the children about whether they are good or bad listeners. There are times when it is important to listen. Talk about what if feels like when people don’t listen to you properly at all.

Story

THE SECRET VISITOR:

We read in the Bible about a time when a man came to Jesus wanting Jesus to listen to his questions and to answer them.

Tell the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night (given below). Emphasise how much Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus and how willing Jesus was to listen.

Nicodemus was a teacher. He had heard a lot about Jesus, and wanted to talk to him. But he didn’t want people to see him – so he came after dark.

‘We know you’ve been sent by God,’ Nicodemus began. ‘No one could do the wonderful things you do without God’s help.’

Jesus knew the questions in Nicodemus’ mind.

‘You are a great teacher,’ Jesus said. ‘But you still have lessons to learn. You want to please God. But being good isn’t enough. You must be born all over again to enjoy God’s kingdom.’

‘What do you mean?’ Nicodemus asked.

‘You need a fresh start, a whole new life,’ Jesus answered, ‘the life I have come to bring. You see, God loves the world so much that he has sent his Son. Everyone who puts his trust in me can have this new kind of life.’

Outside it was dark. Inside the house, the lamp shone.

‘God’s light is shining in the world,’ Jesus said.

‘But people would rather live in the dark because the light shows up the wrong they do.’

(Story from ‘The Lion Children’s Bible’, retold by Pat Alexander. Used with permission.)

Application

  1. Ask the children how Nicodemus must have felt as Jesus sat and listened to him.
  2. Remind them that Jesus still listens when we talk to him in our prayers. He is so wonderful, he knows what each person has said even if they say it at the same time. He listens wherever we are and always answers us.

Song suggestion

Prayer is like a telephone, 448, Junior Praise

God always answers prayer – Peter

Aim:

To show the children that prayer is answered.

Bible base:

Acts 12:1-11. Peter is set free from prison.

You will need:

• ‘Doors’ visual aid.

Preparation

  • Make the visual aid by photocopying the pictures on to A4 thin card or, if possible, enlarging them to A3 size.
  • Cut the doors on illustrations 1-3 so they open. Then stick all the pictures on top of each other starting with the picture of Rhoda at the bottom, then the three doors in order of size so the largest door is on the top.
  • Have all the doors closed to begin with, so you can open them one by one as you tell the story.
  • You may like to colour the illustration.

Presentation

Introduction

  • Begin by asking the children who helps them when they are lonely, frightened or worried?
  • Do they talk to anyone about their fears?

Story

  1. Ask the children to help you tell a story about some people who talked to God when they needed help.
  2. Whenever you say ‘pray, prayed, praying or prayer’ they are to say, ‘Hello Lord’.
  3. As you tell the story use the ‘Doors’ visual aid to show Peter’s escape, and allow the children time to join in the response ‘Hello Lord’ but not waiting for them if they get too caught up in the story!

Peter hung his head and tried to get some sleep. It wasn’t easy to sleep sitting between two soldiers with both hands chained. He knew his friends were praying (‘Hello Lord’) for him but what could God do now. Suddenly, just when Peter had managed to doze off, he felt someone shaking him. ‘Get up Peter. Fasten your belt, put your cloak and shoes on and follow me.’ There before him stood an angel! Peter thought he was dreaming!

Then another strange thing happened. As Peter followed the angel they walked straight past the soldiers on guard and the cell door just opened in front of them. (Open first door of visual aid.) Then the same thing happened as they reached the very outer door of the prison itself. (Open next door.) and Peter found himself out on the street. He looked round and the angel had disappeared!

Peter’s first thoughts were of his friends praying for him. (‘Hello Lord’) He set off into the darkness to find Mary’s house where they usually met. When he reached the house he knocked at the door and waited. Eventually a servant girl named Rhoda peered cautiously round the door, (Begin to open the last door of your visual aid.) ‘Who is it?’ she whispered. ‘It’s me, Peter, let me in,’ came the reply. ‘But Peter’s in prison, that’ why we’re all here praying for him,’ (‘Hello Lord’) said Rhoda. ‘But God’s answered your prayers (‘Hello Lord’). He sent an angel to help me escape,’ explained Peter.

‘That’s wonderful,’ said Rhoda, and before Peter could get inside she’d shut the door and run upstairs to tell everyone the news. Poor Peter had to go on knocking until someone actually believed Rhoda and she came downstairs again to let Peter in! (Open last door fully to reveal Rhoda.) Everyone listened carefully to Peter’s story and then they thanked God for answering their prayers (‘Hello Lord’) in such a wonderful way.

Application

  1. Ask the children what they think Peter’s friends might have asked God to do for him.
  2. Sometimes God does far more than we can ever imagine, and answers our prayers in amazing ways.
  3. Sometimes God says ‘no’ to what we ask him for. We may not understand why; we have to trust that he knows what is best.
  4. One thing we can be sure about is that God always hears our prayers and answers them, even if the answer is ‘no’ or ‘not yet.’

Prayer

After this story it may be appropriate to ask the children to think of something specific that they can ask God about – either for themselves or something that is topical locally or at national news level.

Song suggestion

 

Danger in the Den – Daniel

Aim:

To help the children understand that God is always with them in whatever situation they may find themselves.

Bible base:

Daniel 6

You will need:

  • Some photos of personal friends (as large as possible)
  • A few simple props to help your acting volunteers, for example a crown for King Darius, a card headband with Percy written on it, a rug, etc

Preparation

Look carefully at the story in Daniel 6 and at the script, noting the places props will be used.

Presentation

Introduction

  1. Show the children your photos. (Those nearer the back could have a closer look later if they are unable to see.) Tell them why you enjoy being with your friends, how they may have helped you when in difficulty and about things you have done together.
  2. Point out to the children that however special your friends are, they can’t be with you all the time and they can’t always help you.
  3. Explain that Daniel, a man we read about in the Bible, found out there was only one special best friend who could always be there and always help.

Story

Choose a few volunteers to act out the story as you tell it using the props where appropriate.

A long time ago in a distant land,

many hundreds and thousands of years ago,

there was a man called Daniel,

and a great king called Darius.

Daniel had worked for the king all his life but unlike many other men at the palace he always spoke the truth.

Also Daniel knew that God was wise, strong, loving, the greatest.

Every day, morning, midday and evening he would talk to God like a friend,

tell him about his day,

about problems at the palce,

what sort of mood the king was in,

anything and everything

and God listened.

King Darius admired Daniel and listened to everything he said carefully.

Daniel always spoke the truth

and because God had give him good advice,

he was always having brilliant new ideas.

The king always took notice of what Daniel said

and the other important people in the palace became more and more annoyed.

‘Who does he think he is?’

‘He makes us look stupid!’

‘I hate him.’

And they began huddling together in corners of the palace grounds, trying to come up with some idea about how to get rid of Daniel.

Eventually one man, Percy, came up with a cunning plan. Although King Darius appreciated Daniel’s honest approach, he was very vain and liked people saying nice things about him.

One morning, when Daniel was out seeing to some important business for the king, Percy went into the royal apartments, threw himself down on the Persian rug and said,

‘O Great and Wonderful.

I can hardly bring myself to breathe in the presence of your majesty.

Please allow me to grovel at your feet.’

‘Certainly, dear boy,’ said the king.

‘Your majesty’ Percy continued, ‘the people know you are handsome, strong and very wise.’

The kind smiled. ‘Do they?’ he said.

‘But perhaps they do not know quite HOW WONDERFUL you are.’

The king frowned. ‘Don’t they?’ he said.

Why don’t we make a new law which says the people can only pray to you and to no one else for the next thirty days?’

‘Excellent, excellent,’ said the king. ‘Let’s do it.’

Percy grinned sneakily, bowed and left the throne room.

And so it turned out that by the time Daniel came back to the palace, a new law had been written and sealed by the king and was to be enforced by a whole division of palace guards. Daniel heard about this new law as he reached the palace gates.

The king welcomed him as usual.

He told Daniel of the new law he’d devised by himself without Daniel’s help.

‘Congratulations, my lord king,’ said Daniel. ‘Tell me about it.’

So the king told him about the law and the people having to pray to him alone.

‘Aah,’ said Daniel, ‘and what will happen to those who disobey?’

The king told him that Percy had come up with a good idea.

‘Oh,’ said Daniel.

‘The new law says that anyone praying to someone other than me will be thrown into a pit of lions.’

‘Oh dear, oh dear,’ said Daniel softly.

And he kept saying this to himself as he went home, talked to God and climbed into bed.

In fact he kept on saying this to himself even in his sleep – a sleep troubled by dreams of bright eyes, golden manes and very large teeth.

The next morning, everyone started praying to the king, but Daniel talked to God instead.

At mid day, everyone still prayed to the king, but Daniel talked to God instead.

In the evening when everyone else was praying to King Darius, Daniel was talking to God.

All the people were too afraid to disobey the king.

But Daniel could not desert God, his oldest friend.

Of course, this is what Daniel’s enemies wanted.

Percy and a few friends had sneaked round to Daniel’s house to spy on him.

Daniel made no secret of what he was doing.

He sat by the open window, talking to God, as usual, like a friend.

After they saw this, his enemies went and told the king that Daniel was still praying three times a day. The king looked very serious and sad when they told him what had happened, but had to agree that Daniel had broken the new law. Daniel was arrested and bundled off to the king.

Daniel said, ‘I’m sorry for disobeying you, my lord king, but God is too good a friend to give up.’

The king understood, but Percy reminded him the law had been broken, a law written and signed by the king himself.

The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God rescue you!’ and Daniel was put into the pit where the lions lived.

The entrance was sealed and the king went back miserably to the palace.

All night King Darius walked up and down in his dressing gown.

In the morning the king was at the entrance to the pit at first light.

‘Daniel, Daniel,’ he called ‘Was your God able to save you?’

‘Yes, your majesty,’ said Daniel, ‘God sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths. They did not harm me at all. Isn’t it wonderful? I knew God wouldn’t let me down.’

The king was overjoyed to hear his friend alive and gave orders for Daniel to be pulled out of the pit. The lions roared ferociously but everyone could see that Daniel had not been hurt at all.

The king said, ‘My dear Daniel, it is wonderful. This just goes to show that GOD IS THE BEST FRIEND TO HAVE after all.’

Application

  1. Talk about Daniel’s feelings when the law was made, when he was in the lion’s den, and when the lions didn’t hurt him.
  2. Make the point that God is with us, as he was with Daniel. We can trust him to help us if we ask him.

Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiving those who hurt me – WW2 prison camp

Other themes:

fear, prayer, the Bible, heaven

The Problem

Listen to this and think what you’d do if you were in Emma’s situation.

It was the first day of secondary school – but already Emma knew she was going to like it. Her parents had asked if she could be put in the same group as her two best friends. And it had worked out. She’d met up with them outside the school a few minutes before and they’d been directed to a classroom to wait for their group tutor.

The last year in the old school had been a miserable one for Emma, and all because of Lisa Jo, who’d bullied her – she’d poked fun at her, got her into trouble, it had just gone on and on. Emma’s only friends had been in another class. But now it would be OK.

Late ones were still coming in. Suddenly Emma felt a shudder run through her. Lisa Jo had entered the room. She looked different though – lonely, unsure, gone were the swagger and the smirks.

She came right up to Emma whose heart had begun thumping.

“Looks like we’re together again,” Lisa Jo said. “Look, Emma, we didn’t get on last year, but what about making up, being friends from now on?”

Emma’s fear turned to anger. Friends? With Lisa Jo? No way. She hadn’t even said sorry, she only wanted to be friends because she’d been split from her old mates. So – just forgive and forget? As if last year never happened? No way!

Now think:

Is Emma right or wrong to think this way? What would you do in her situation?

(You could discuss this or pass on to the main story.)

The Story

Now here’s a true story.

When the guards slid open the door, Corrie Ten Boom could see only darkness inside. Outside was bright sunlight. In there it was as dark as death.

“Quick! Get in! In!” one of the guards yelled.

Corrie and the other women hauled themselves up into the darkness. There was no choice – the guards had guns. It was the carriage of a goods train, but now it was being used to transport people. In seconds the carriage was so full that Corrie was pushed up against the back wall. Many of the women were crying, some were screaming. How glad Corrie was to have her sister Betsie with her. And how glad she was that God was with her. She was not afraid, not deep down. For what was the worst thing these German soldiers could do to her? Kill her? But then she would be with Jesus for ever.

There were eighty women in the carriage now. They were just able to sit down with their legs wrapped round the person in front. It grew unbearably hot. The train began moving but it didn’t help much.

As Corrie stroked her sister’s feverish forehead, she thought back through the last years, back to when the German army had invaded their country, Holland, soon after the start of World War 2. It was a terrible time for everyone, but the Jewish people suffered the most. Corrie saw them being pushed into trucks to be taken to the prison camps.

As they prayed for them, Corrie’s family had the idea of building a secret room in their house where Jewish people could hide from the patrols until an escape route could be found for them. But someone betrayed them and the family was arrested, to be taken to Germany. Corrie and Betsie had been able to stick together, but they didn’t know how long they would be allowed to live.

On the fourth day the train clanked to a halt.

“Out! Get out!” shouted the guards. “You walk now!”

The women were so weak but what choice was there? Finally they saw their destination: Ravensbruck prison camp. As Corrie and Betsie entered the massive gates, they knew there was almost no chance of coming out alive.

All the women were taken to the shower room. Corrie’s heart started thumping when she saw that everyone had to undress in front of the guards. For under her dress she had hidden her precious Bible and some medicine for Betsie. They’d be discovered and taken away! No, it mustn’t happen!

“Dear god, please…” she murmured.

Just then Betsie, even sicker now, needed to be taken to the toilet. “Use the drains in the shower room,” said the guard harshly. The sisters moved ahead of the queue of women undressing and went in.

“Dear God, please…”

Yes! There in the corner was a pile of old benches. She could hide the Bibles and medicine behind them, together with Betsie’s warm sweater.

Later, after their shower, Corrie slipped over to the benches and pushed the things under the prison dress she’d been given. “Thank you, God, thank you,” she prayed.

But – wait – what was this? A guard was searching the women on the way out of the shower room. Corrie prayed again – she knew that the God who had answered one prayer could answer another. She stood in the line. She came nearer and nearer to the guard. The bulge under the thin prison dress was so obvious.

Now the woman ahead of Corrie was being searched. She was searched three times before being allowed to move off.

Then something strange happened. The guard didn’t seem to notice Corrie. He went straight to Betsie, next in line.

There was another search as they left the building. Same thing. The guard came to Corrie, but instead of searching her, just told her to hurry up, and then pushed her out – with her precious possessions undiscovered.

That Bible was certainly well used. Corrie would hold services in their dormitory, Barracks 28 – with softly sung hymns, whispered prayers and Bible verses telling of God’s comfort and love.

More and more women came to the services. Corrie knew if a guard came in, the Bible would be taken, and they would all be punished. But no guard came near. Only later did she find out why. Barracks 28 was famous amongst the guards for its fleas, and the guards did not want their smart uniforms crawling with fleas. Corrie reckoned each flea was a tiny miracle from God.

Long hours of heavy work and very little food weakened Corrie and Betsie, and pain, cruelty and death were all around them. But they could see beyond these things to heaven – a place of no pain or sadness, waiting for them.

And one day Betsie died. Her face was full of peace and happiness.

Two days later, Corrie was ordered to go to the prison office. She feared they’d found out about the Bible. But she was just handed a piece of paper. It said: “Released”. She was free.

But – how…why…?

She found out later it had been a mistake. But she was well away by then.

A week after Corrie’s release all the women in the camp of Corrie’s age were killed.

When the war was over, Corrie asked God, “What do you want me to do?”

And she knew that she should open homes for those who had survived the prison camps. And she should travel, all over the world, telling how much she had known God’s help and love even in Ravensbruck.

One evening, in a church in Germany, after she had spoken, a man came up to her wanting to shake hands. Many people did of course, nothing unusual in that. But then her blood turned cold. For she recognised the man. He was the guard at the shower room door in Ravensbruck. And she remembered his cruelty, his total lack of pity. It was because of him, and the many like him, that millions had suffered and died.

“I am a Christian now,” he said. “God has forgiven me.”

Corrie’s thoughts screamed out, But I cannot forgive. I will not forgive. And then she thought of Jesus. Jesus, who’d been nailed to a cross and who’d prayed for his executioners, “Father, forgive them.”

“Jesus,” Corrie whispered in her heart, “give me your forgiveness for this man.”

And Jesus did. She was able to take the man’s hand and forgive him from her heart. Just as Jesus forgave.

She went on spreading the message of forgiveness and love until she died, in 1983, on her 91st birthday.

Time of Reflection

Think now: are you holding a grudge against someone, unwilling to forgive them? Is the wrong they’ve done greater than what those camp guards did to Corrie? Is it greater than what those Roman soldiers did to Jesus? Yet they forgave.

Just take a moment to think about this.

Bible Bits

This is what the Bible says:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

“You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13)

(Jesus’s words to Peter about forgiving again and again – Matthew 18:21,22 – are appropriate too.)

Prayer

Father, help us to be ready to forgive, never to hold on to a grudge. This won’t be easy. Like Corrie, we need your help. Amen

Variations on a Theme

The pupils could be reminded of the section of Joseph’s story which shows his forgiveness for the brothers who had put him in a pit and sold him into slavery (Genesis chapters 37 and 45).

Brother Andrew

Two wrongs don’t make a right – taking Bibles to Communist countries

Other themes:

honesty, prayer

The Problem

The boy in this story has a difficult decision to make. Listen and think what you would do.

They watched the football sailing through the air, directly on line for the Deputy Head’s window. They knew what was going to happen. And there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Cra-a-ash!

They stood, all six of them, dead still. For they knew what was going to happen now too. And there was nothing they could do to stop that either.

Here he came now. Talk about angry. No-one got angry like Mr Short, the Deputy Head.

“Right!” he bellowed. “Who kicked it? I want to know now. Now!”

His words seemed to echo round the playground. But none of the six lads said anything. Mr Short glared at them one by one. He stopped Jonathan Hill.

“You, boy! You’re going red in the face. I bet it’s you.”

Steve, another one of the six, felt for Jonathan. He was a good mate. But Mr Short was right. It had been Jonathan who’d kicked that ball. Of course, it was an accident, pure fluke.

But Jonathan didn’t say a word. He just went redder and redder.

“If it’s you,” snarled Mr Short, “I’m banning you from the school football team for the rest of the term.”

What? Steve silently groaned in dismay. But Jonathan was the best striker!

Suddenly Mr Short turned on Steve. “You – Steven Thorpe – you’re an honest lad, I know that. Tell me the truth. Did Jonathan Hill kick that ball through my window?”

Steve felt his mouth go dry. What could he say? If he said yes, that would let down his mate, and the team – they’d probably never win a match without Jonathan – so it would let down the school too. Yet saying no would be a lie.

“Well? Yes or no?”

Now think:

What would you answer? Can you see that saying no could lead to complications like the others being accused? Anyway Steve doesn’t want to lie. But is “yes” the best answer?

(You could discuss this or pass on to the main story.)

The Story

It’s hard to be completely honest when it might get us in trouble, perhaps even harder when it could hurt other people too. Here’s the true story of a man who made a tough decision – and stuck to it. He’s from Holland, his name is Andrew and he’s known as Brother Andrew. His surname’s a secret. I’ll tell you why later.

Andrew loved to travel, especially to the mysterious countries behind the Iron Curtain. This was the name given to the border that separated Western Europe from the Eastern European Communist Countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia.

In the fifties you couldn’t easily get permission to visit these countries unless you were in a group with a guide, but Andrew was able to get away from the group to meet local Christians. He was sad to see what a hard life they had. You see, the Communist governments taught, “There is no God” and they didn’t like people who disagreed.

So it could be hard for Christians to get good jobs, their churches were being closed down, and Bibles were very scarce.

As a Christian himself, Andrew wanted to help. “What do you need?” he asked.

“Above all,” they answered, “we need Bibles.”

Andrew could understand this as he loved the Bible himself. It gave him comfort and help, so he could imagine what God’s words of love could mean to people who were suffering for their faith. But how could he get the Bibles over the border?

He managed to get a permit – called a visa – to travel by himself to Yugoslavia, another Iron Curtain country. And some old friends gave him a car, a bright blue Volkswagen, which he filled with Bibles and Bible booklets.

Andrew knew that he would be stopped at the border, knew the car could be searched. If the Bibles or booklets were found, that would be that – they would be taken away. But what if he were simply asked, “Are you carrying Bibles?” He decided then he would not lie. Jesus had called himself the Truth. So how could Andrew lie if he was following Jesus?

It was a long drive from Holland to the Yugoslav border. On the way he remembered how Jesus had made blind people see. Now Andrew wanted him to do the opposite. He prayed hard that the guards would not be able to see what he was taking to the Christians.

There was the border now. Two guards. They seemed friendly – at the moment. They looked at his passport and then inside the car.

“Let me see inside this suitcase,” one said.

Andrew knew the suitcase was full of the forbidden booklets. But he had no choice. He opened it. The guard rummaged through. There they were, in the guard’s own language, in full view.

But – what was happening? The guard was turning away from the suitcase, was handing Andrew back his passport, was waving him through. He’d made it. It was just as if the guard hadn’t seen the booklets.

But – wasn’t that just what he’d prayed?

And didn’t those Yugoslav Christians welcome Andrew’s gifts!

Visas came for Andrew to visit other Communist countries. As he approached each border he prayed that same prayer and God answered. The guards just couldn’t seem to see the Bibles and Bible booklets.

All was going smoothly – until he went to cross the border into Romania, a strong Communist country. His car was full of you know what. As he came near the border he knew something was wrong. The cars waiting in front of him were, one by one, being minutely examined, the guards virtually taking each car to pieces, then putting it back together, searching every piece of luggage. He’d never seen anything like it.

It wasn’t just a glance in, a quick rummage. This was totally different.

As he waited in line he prayed, how he prayed. And suddenly he felt it right not to hide the Bibles better but to get some out and put them openly on the seat beside him.

After hours of waiting it was Andrew’s turn. He handed the guard his passport through the window, waited to be told to get out of the car. The Bibles were quite visible.

Then – it wasn’t possible – the guard handed the passport back, waved him on. Could it be happening? Was he through – just like that?

Yes, he was. Incredible. Especially when he looked back and saw them getting to work on the car behind. Everyone else – searched. But him – straight through.

Andrew realised that nothing was impossible for God.

Eventually Andrew became so well known to Communist officials that he could no longer go on such journeys. So he formed a team and trained them to go instead. That team has grown into an organisation called Open Doors.

The Iron Curtain is no more, but there are still many countries where Christians find life hard, countries like China and Cuba, so Andrew goes there now. He knows that in some places he would not be welcome – that’s why he keeps his surname a secret.

He always asks Christians what they need. They might ask for food, or clothing – one time a man asked for shoes, so Andrew gave him his own and travelled home in his socks – but usually it’s Bibles that are needed.

And God goes on helping, sometimes in strange ways. Once two young women from Open Doors were asked directly at a border, “Do you have Bibles with you?”

What could they say? The car was jam-packed with them.

Suddenly their mouths were filled with laughter. “Yes!” they roared. “The car’s full of Bibles!”

And the guard, thinking they were laughing at such a silly question, waved them through.

Time of Reflection

A lie, whether it is to help us or other people, can lead to big trouble. A writer called Sir Walter Scott put it this way: “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” Are you honest, trustworthy? Or are you spinning tangled webs that will one day trap you?

Just take a moment to think about this.

Bible Bits

God is firm about lies. The Bible gives a command:

“Never say anything that isn’t true. Have nothing to do with lies.” (Proverbs 4:24)

And it gives a promise:

“The Lord protects honest people.” (Proverbs 10:29)

Prayer

Help us, Lord Jesus, to value friendship as well as truth like Steve in the first story, but help us to see, as Andrew saw, that a lie for any reason is wrong. Amen

Variations on a Theme

Much of this assembly can be acted out by pupils. THE PROBLEM sketch needs an invisible football and a crash sound effect. The main story offers three sketch possibilities – the three border crossings. Chairs and a big grey blanket make a good car (though driving away would, I agree, be hard).

More details of these incidents are in Brother Andrew’s books, God’s Smuggler (Hodder and Stoughton) – Yugoslavia, chapter 10; Romania, chapter 15; and The Calling (Summit) – laughing, chapter 2.

“Open Doors” can be reached at PO Box 6, Witney, Oxon. OX8 7BR.

Quiz Questions

  1.  Why did Andrew want to get away from his tour group in Communist countries?
  2.  Tell me two difficulties Christians had in those countries.
  3. What did they need most of all.
  4.  How did Andrew get his Volkswagen?
  5. Why would he not lie at the border?
  6. What did he pray before every border crossing?
  7. Why was it so astounding that he crossed so easily into Romania?
  8. One man asked not for Bibles but for – what?
  9. What is Brother Andrew’s organisation called?
  10. Why did the guard let the young women pass after they’d admitted having Bibles with them?