The Prayer Game
Reviewed by Karie Firoozmand
Created by Jennifer Kavanagh, designed by Brian Homer. Self-published, 2018. Deck of 55 cards. £13.30/deck sent to North America (about $17.60 USD including shipping). Order from theprayergame.com.
The Prayer Game is a card game that consists of 55 cards with a word or phrase on each; two are blank wild cards, and the instructions appear on an additional card. The purpose of the game is to choose the cards that best describe or reveal what prayer means to you in your life at this time. Play consists of taking a card from the deck or discard pile and then discarding, so that a hand contains four cards at all times. Over several turns, you retain the cards that best “represent prayer for you,” as the instructions say.
As we played, we noticed several things. First, the word or phrase on the card did not necessarily mean the same thing to all of us. Second, there were times of insight while we listened to each other’s interpretation of the word or phrase on their card. Third, it revealed things to me that I had not realized about my own way of going about prayer.
I played twice, first with adults and then with middle school-age junior young Friends (JYFs) in First-day school. (Our meeting doesn’t have a large enough group of high school-age young Friends.) The JYF group was seven JYFs, two First-day school teachers, and me. We discovered that such a large number made it hard to get a hand of cards that we really felt described our relationships to prayer. Four players, like the adults I played with, is ideal.
The JYFs needed to look up definitions of some of the words. Among the adults, some words were interpreted differently, so I really needed to listen to others as to why a particular card was meaningful or not to them. What the JYFs liked was the fact that it isn’t a competitive game but rather a quiet one. One JYF observed that it would make a good icebreaker at a JYF “con” (shorthand for their regular conferences throughout the yearly meeting). Another said that she liked deciding which cards to keep and which to discard. She also stated that “we [her age group] haven’t decided things yet,” so that identifying with the cards in her hand should be expected to change over time. Another JYF kept the card “praise” because praise could be given to anyone, not only to God. Another liked his card because it represented “loving God enough to give him your time.” The JYFs seemed united in their sense that this game is better for adults. We all agreed it would be better with fewer players.
Indeed, I noticed how different my own choices were from what they would have been in the past. One card I kept was “communion,” which means wafer and wine to many Christians, but to me it means commingling and union with the One. I also kept “Practicing the Presence of God,” which is a phrase I use anyway in my ruminations, meditations, and worship. So using “capital-G God” is comfortable for me, but it would not have been at another time in my life.
I enjoyed playing with my small group members from the Spiritual Formation Program in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. We laughed at some of the discards, like “Wasting Time with God,” and at others, we emitted a low “oooh,” like when someone discarded “Holding in the Light.”
Lots of questions came up, like the overlap between meditation and prayer, and what “Talking to God” meant. The wild cards sparked discussion and offerings of words. We became curious about how it would be to play with others from religions other than Quaker. When we revealed our hands at the end, we tended to put them in a sequence, as if each word or phrase would be a deepening into prayer when experienced.
The final words from the adults were: “It is intriguing to contemplate what the words meant” (Jane); “I like that there are prayerful words; it naturally pulls us into a prayerful state of being” (David); “It made me think about what prayer is to me when I heard what prayer is to other people” (Linda). Since I was taking notes, I forgot to give a summing up. So I will give one now: The Prayer Game is a fun way to talk about a deep and meaningful part of our spiritual lives. I recommend it. Lastly, readers might be interested to know that £1 of every game sold is donated to Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in England.