“The Hopes and Fears of all the Years…” An Advent Prayer Space.

2nd November 2023

Advent is (and means) coming. Last Advent I ran an Advent prayer space in a Sheffield school for 180 children from Year 1 to Year 6. Advent/Christmas is a busy time for schools, but it is a time when they are often open to experiencing the season through interactive and reflective activities.

I chose 9 Advent themes – Good News, Hope, Peace, Light, Waiting, Gifts, Doors, Love and Joy – all areas those of all faiths and none can relate to.  

Although I have been involved with prayer spaces before, I was again astonished at the children’s respect for the space and the honesty/thoughtfulness and depth of their responses.

The Head visited the space at the end of the day, when it was full of (anonymous), often heartfelt, reflective responses written on sticky notes, pieces of cardboard and gift labels etc. She was quiet as she read through what her pupils had written. She commented that she hadn’t realised the enormity of the situations that some of them were dealing with and asked to keep the notes, so that she and the staff could consider them further, thus reinforcing the value of prayer spaces. 

Teacher response: The prayer space made it clear to the adults that the children have greater concerns about the world than we realised, yet they are filed with hope for the future.’ 

Pupil response: You can be honest – express how you feel and not how other people tell you to feel.’ Pupil aged 10.

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee…”

NB Below are the photos and a summary of each activity if you would like more detail. At the very bottom are photo’s of the prayer activity descriptions.


The Bible says that God loved the world so much he sent his son to earth.

Hold a little plastic red heart in your hand and for a few minutes think of the people, places or animals you love. Place the plastic heart gently into the bowl of water. You may like to write the names of who/what you love on a paper heart and hand it on the tree.

I used: small plastic red hearts, bowl of water, hearts to decorate table, paper hanging hearts, light up battery operated stick tree.

An example of a pupil response: ‘It was nice to reflect on people that we take for granted sometimes.’ Pupil aged 10.


Mary had to wait and prepare for Jesus’ arrival. Advent is a time of waiting and getting ready for Christmas. Sometimes waiting is not easy. Sit and wait as the sand, snow or water bubbles go through the timers. You may like to write on a clock shape what you are waiting for.

I used: lots of sand timers, snow globes etc. paper clock shapes, pens, blue tac.


The Bible says Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Sit quietly and watch the shapes the lava lamps (may get hot) make. Just rest, be calm and quiet.

I used: cushions, fairy lights, lava lamp.

A pupil response: ‘I enjoyed sitting still and watching the lava lamp. We don’t have a lot of chance to do that because we are always busy working.’ Pupil aged 9.


The Bible says Jesus is God’s gift to the world and the Wise Men brought gifts to baby Jesus.

We can give gifts that do not cost any money. For example – listening, a smile or understanding. What free gift could you give someone? Write your idea on a gift label and hang it on the tree.

I used: gift boxes, gift/luggage labels, pens, light up battery tree, jenga bricks with suggestions on.


Advent calendars have lots of doors to open. They help people count the days until Christmas.

What would you write or draw behind the door of an Advent calendar? Write it on a post-it note and stick it on one of the doors.

I used: laminated photos of doors, post-it notes, blue tac, pens, Christmas story advent calendars.


The Bible says we can hope for what we do not yet have. We may need to wait patiently. 

What are your hopes and dreams. Write down your hopes and dreams on a piece of paper. Roll it up and put it in a hole in the wall.

I used: coloured paper, pens, wooden life size bricks with holes in them.


In the Bible joyful angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.

What makes you feel happy or joyful? Write your ideas on the long piece of paper – you might like to draw a smiley face.

I used: roll of wallpaper lining paper, Sellotape, felt pens.

Good News

The Angel Gabriel brought Mary some good news – she was going to have a baby! 

Think about a time you were given some good news. Write it on the phone shapes. Be thankful for your good news.

I used: a white robe on hanger hung on wall with tinsel. Photocopied phone shapes. Blue tac.


In the Bible joyful angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.

What makes you feel happy or joyful? Write your ideas on the long piece of paper – you might like to draw a smiley face.

I used: roll of wallpaper lining paper, Sellotape, felt pens.


In the Bible Jesus says, ‘I am the light of the World.’ The world can sometimes feel like a dark, scary or sad place.

What would you like to change about our world? Write your thoughts down on a piece of cardboard.

I used: a large wooden hand holding a globe, torn up pieces of cardboard, pens.