Prayer flags are a kinesthetic way to engage faith through words, symbol and art. This ancient practice is said to have started in the Buddhist tradition. People write and draw prayers of good will, peace and strength on colorful fabric. Then, the flags are taken, sewed onto twine and hung in the community. As the fabric tatters and frays from the wind, these prayers are said to bless the world.
This beautiful practice is effective in any community of faith, hope and love. And, all ages can take part! Recently, I led a group of kids, age 5-10, on a creative Advent prayer flag project. Advent symbols were the focus of our prayer. However, you could use this idea in any way that fires your imagination! There is no right or wrong way to do create a prayer flag. Remember, the process of creating IS the prayer!
What you will need:
6″ x 9″ Foam Scratch Boards, Found Here
Cotton cloth cut up into 8” x 10” rectangles; ironed (I chose natural)
Ball point pen
Paint color of your choice ( I chose a royal blue)
Foam brush or roller
I broke this project into three weeks with the kids I lead at church for our weekly Worship Arts program. I normally lead two separate groups of 8-10 children for a 20-25 minute period. My instruction will be based on the process over three weeks. However, if you are doing this as a personal project or with adults, it can easily be done in a single session.
The first week, we talked about symbols of the Christmas story. They were given a sheet with some simple Advent symbols drawn to spark their imagination: heart, fish, crown, dove, sheep, manger, star, etc. Next, they were each given a foam sheet to draw their symbol on. These foam sheets are great! All you need is a ballpoint pen and it makes an impression into the foam. I used the 6”x 9” sheets, but they come in different sizes. I reminded the children to draw their symbol large on the foam. Most of the kids created 2 sheets in about a 20 minute time frame. This is how it looks drawn:
The next week was fun with paint! I played around with different tools for the paint. Paintbrushes didn’t work great… they left large streaks on the fabric. Foam rollers worked okay, however, you have to make sure you roll enough paint on the roller. The foam brushes worked the best, however, again, it’s easy to get streaks, so you have to be a bit careful about streaks going in the same direction.
If you are doing this with children, here are my notes: I had plenty of extra fabric cut so the kids could make 2 or 3 impressions. There was plenty of fabric that went into the garbage because the print didn’t come out dark enough. I also had two other adults helping that day with 8 kids per 20 minute session. Two adults helped the kids brush paint on thick enough and then they came to me. I’d help them rub their impression onto the fabric, then move it to a large table to dry. Honestly, there were lots of moving parts this week… I could have used one more adult… it was intensive!
The final week was the finishing touches! This week, we added metallic marker and glitter. The instruction was to add a small amount of metallic marker to highlight a little bit of the prayer flag. Then, they were given glue and told to make a border adding a bit of glue to one or two more areas on the flag. I used t-shirt boxes to put the prayer flag in and then each child sprinkled their flag with glitter into the box. They were placed on the floor to dry!
The fun part about prayer flags is to see them hanging all together! These flags would be cute as single flags, but they are much more beautiful and festive to see fifty of them hanging together. I am grateful to attend a church that supports the arts and celebrates this type of addition. I used a hole punch to make holes in the fabric and wove all the flags together with twine. They are hung them in the welcome area outside of our fellowship hall. White Christmas lights and Glitter tulle ($3 a roll from the wedding decor section of Wal-mart) finished this off beautiful!