Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

MP900382868

” So this is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,  we pray that your name will always be kept holy. We pray that your kingdom will come—  that what you want will be done here on earth, the same as in heaven. Give us the food we need for today. Forgive our sins,     just as we have forgiven those who did wrong to us. Don’t let us be tempted,   but save us from the Evil One.”

During the past few months at the Good News Group (for adults with learning disabilities) we have had real times of sadness. A mother, a father, a brother died. Then a man who had come just once to our group before becoming ill, died too. His housemates were very sad.  We were all sad with them.

God does not shield people with learning disabilites from the pains of life. They experience pain, hurt, rejection, sadness, illness, death as we all do.  Thier ability to understand what has happened and communicate how they feel may be different, but still, they are affected.

Our response has been to listen, care and most importantly PRAY, for and with the people in our group. with individuals and as a whole group. Pray underpins our relationship with our Father in heaven.  We talk to him and tell him how we feel and ask him to help us and those we know are having hard times.

We talk to God about how thankful we are for so many things. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Bible and how much God loves us.

PRAYER.  We need it. All of us.

Here are some practical ways we have found helps us in our understanding and practice of prayer…

1) Using Makaton to sign prayers.  This helps us all slow down to pray so that those who take longer to process what we are saying can keep up.  The signs support the understanding of the words and our members love to join in.

2) Involving our members in coporate praying. Each week we ask someone from the group to give thanks for our food before we eat.  Some like to say their own prayer, some like to read a prayer off a card (supported by Widgit and Makaton symbols) and some like to just do the signs as a team member says the prayer.

3) Listening during out chat / social times to what has been going on the the lives of the people we serve.  They are quite used to us responding by praying that now people will ask us to pray or ask to pray with us in the service.  We have group prayer times during the service where smaller groups can express their needs or pray about something we have been learning.

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It is in the area of personal prayer we would like to see our members learn and develop.  One or two of our members do speak about their personal prayer lives and it would be a good idea to ask them to tell others in the group about this.  As the team prays and looks to the Lord to move our group on, the area of prayer needs to be central.  We have already discussed setting aside a quiet area during our meeting so that anyone can go and sit for a time in contemplation or invite someone to pray with them.  I am considering having some objects on a table to help people focus.  These would certainly be a Bible (we have some graphic Bibles that our members like) and perhaps a candle and cross.  I liked the idea I discussed with a friend recently of having prayer pebbles which can be placed at the cross to signify we have left our cares with Jesus.    www.widgit.com have some symbol supported prayer booklets that may help people pray if they don’t know what to say.

Please pray for our group as we explore a deeper engagement with prayer for our members.  Do you have any ideas you have used or seen others use?

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