This form of prayer theatre began in 1995 when we were using Jo Salas' book called Improvising Real Life to attempt to create a new show for our company. Jo's book tells about a form of theatre in which an audience member tells a story or dream and then the players act it out.
One day while we were praying before rehearsal, we prayed for a man in our church who was desperately ill in the hospital. We prayed that God would go to his room at the hospital and heal him and return him home to his family. Suddenly we realized that we could easily create an image of our prayer by acting it out. We did, and the prayer took on a more vital reality for us. We decided to pray that same prayer, using the same dramatic form, on Sunday morning in worship. Since I am a worship leader at our church, this was easily integrated into the service. Our church has always made room for spontaneous prayer from immediate congregational concerns, so the groundwork had been laid.
Again the prayer was quite moving, and the man did return from the hospital, both in the prayer and in life.
We used this same format of praying later that year, in a drama workshop, where we prayed for a broken relationship in a household within the church. And in a Sunday School class in Wisconsin where a woman had just been tragically killed in a construction accident. We used it again at a pastor's conference on our campus where we prayed with a pastor whose parish was filled with single parent homes. In each case, the prayers were vital and moving.
1. A prayer leader asks for a request.
2. The leader specifically restates the desired result for which we are all agreeing to pray.
3. The person offering the request agrees that this is their prayer.
4. The leader offers the key roles to the actors. The roles should include God, and if enough actors are available, the entire Trinity is represented.
5. The leader begins the prayer by addressing God and affirming that we have come to offer a real prayer.
6. Music begins under the leader's introduction to the prayer. Actors also begin.
7. The prayer is enacted silently, but it is not clean mime. There are physical responses vocalized.
8. The leader sometimes side coaches.
9. When the action has arrived at the desired image, the actors freeze.
10. The leader completes the prayer by affirming that this prayer is prayed in the name of Jesus. No further summary is necessary. Music out.
11. The leader may ask the person who gave the request if this is indeed what they wanted us to pray. They may also comment on how the prayer affected them if they wish. An adjustment to the prayer is permissible and sometimes necessary. As verbal prayers sometimes are prayed via a process of struggle for words, so enacted prayers sometimes are prayed through a process of struggle for images.
The central value of enacted prayer is that it provides a specific image of the reality of our request.
A Note from Rich Swingle (RichDrama.com)
Enacted Prayer is derived from sociodrama. For information I recommend Sociodrama: Who's in Your Shoes, which was co-written by my sociodrama mentor, Patricia Sternberg. It may be purchased at RichDrama.com/BookStore.
For information on Bibliodrama go to Bibliodrama.com.