I’ve been in plenty of youth ministry prayer times, and have led them myself, where we have prayed passionately for this or that young person, for strength for ourselves, for God to intervene. This is a valid form of prayer. But all too easily it becomes a way of us trying to persuade God to do what we think should happen. It’s fakery – we are pretending that we know what is the Godly thing to do, and if we just pray hard enough, God will join up to our campaign.

The best youth workers are the old ones. Talk to any youth worker who’s been doing it for 3 decades or more. They know that youth work, like any form of ministry to humans, is essentially mysterious. There are depths in people, and in communities, that we will never reach, motivations that will remain covered over, hurts that complicate lives despite the love we lavish on people. Young people will not conform to the cultural stereotypes we read about in the last ‘Gen whatever’ report that came out. They will respond to our approaches in confusing ways. They will tread paths that make little sense to us.

So when we pray for those we serve, we remember that if people are mysterious creatures, and if God is mysterious, then change and transformation will surely take an unexpected route.