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Rite of Passage Prayers for Teens Receiving Their Drivers' Licenses

CrossfireRemember when you got your driver's license? Remember the first trip out on your own — just you in the car (probably your parents' one-and-only car if you are older)? Now it is time for your child to get a driver's license and to take that first solo drive! "Yikes" is your response! And "Yipee!" or "This rocks!" is her response as she eases out from the driveway into the stream of traffic. What happens after she goes around the corner. you can only guess at and pray.

For youth, receiving a driver's liscense is a rite of passage that marks a whole new level of independence and freedom. It is mobility come of age. It is freedom. It is the opportunity to handle responsibility of a monumental kind. It is a primary marker on the journey to adulthood. For that reason, it is a crisis in the community: "crisis" coming from the Greek word for opportunity and danger. It is a turning point or moment of decision from which much or all of the future will be determined. It is not the whole journey to adulthood; but along with confirmation, getting a job, and going to college, it is a significant milestone. In Luke 2, Jesus was taken to the Temple at age 12. There he took upon himself a new freedom to test out who he was to become, but he worried his parents deeply; and the community, symbolized by the elders, wondered what this young man was up to in asking such questions.

Rituals of passage allow the community/family and the person in passage to own what is happening or what has happened. At their best, such actions or enactments actually effect the change from one status to another. Perceptions are changed. Status in the community is transformed, and relationships are reoriented and reaffirmed.

The following are some ritual resources and prayers for use with youth receiving their driver's licenses. Families, congregations, and pastors should adapt them and include symbols, actions, and expressions that are full of meaning in such rites.

A Family Ritual

In the context of a family meal, gather to celebrate this milestone in the journey to adulthood.

Create a statement of understanding about the privilege of being a driver and about the use of the car (whether it is a family vehicle or one that will be more or less exclusively the teen's vehicle). The statement should be one that embodies mutual respect and appropriate consequences. This is a form of covenant making. Offer prayer. (NOTE: The italicized words in the prayers below indicate where choices or adaptation may be necessary. This could take place at the table or with the new licensee in the driver's seat.)


God of our past and our future,
you bring us to a new moment on our journey:
name, has a driver's license tonight/today
and all of the delight and responsibility that goes with it.
As a family we celebrate
with wonder the passage of the years
and his/her maturing from childhood to youth.

Family members reflect on the transition from childhood to adulthood:

He/she was a boy/girl. Now he/she is ____ [age in years].
It seems like just a few days ago, he/she was learning to walk: now he/she has learned to drive.
We used to drive him/her to soccer practice. Now, he/she will go on his/her own.
We confess that we are both proud and apprehensive. We see an adult emerging, and we imagine the risks and dangers.
God, in your love and grace, we bless [Name] for the journey ahead.
Surround him/her with your alertness; fill him/her with your good purpose; protect him/her in times of temptation and danger; let him/her learn responsibility from whatever happens; bring him/her through living with consequences to the fullness of life in union with your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The newly licensed driver:

Lord, I am so excited about the opportunity to drive that I almost can't sit still. Thank you for my family and their love. Thank you for their support and affirmation; for their trust and willingness to entrust me with use of this/their car. Make me alert and attentive whenever I am driving. Remind me when I am tempted to take risks that there are consequences to my actions. Protect me and guide me along every mile I drive. I want to drive as a steward of the life you have given me. Amen.

All pray: Our Father . . .

All may offer signs of love and peace.

A Ritual for a Congregational or Youth Worship Experience

This service or some parts of it could be included in a Word and Table Service on Sunday morning. If used as a stand-alone service, hymns or songs may be added.

This outline is only suggestive of one approach, and it is offered to stimulate local ritualization. Whatever is done should be honest before God and true to the realities of the people and the cultural context. The sermon for the day could, in the context of the lectionary texts, allude to the meaning and experience of getting a driver's license, but it need not make it the sole focus.

Opening Verses
(One or more of the following may be read or said together)

O sing to the LORD a new song,
for God has done marvelous things.
(Psalm 98:1)

Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
(Psalm 91:14)

Let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
(Psalm 5:11)

I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
so I shall be saved from my enemies.
(Psalm 18: 1-2)

(One or more Scripture passages may be read)

Psalm 8: Divine Majesty and Human Dignity
Psalm 121: Assurance of God's Protection
Psalm 150: Praise of God's Surpassing Greatness
Philippians 4:4-7: "Rejoice in the Lord always . . .
Do not worry . . ."

(One or more of the following prayers may be offered, perhaps with the youth or youths who have recently obtained their driver's license(s) standing before the congregation.)

Classic prayer for adventure and journey:

Lord God, you have called your servant(s)
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only knowing that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A contemporary prayer for admission to the community of drivers

O God, yours is the beginning and the ending of our journey:
We thank you for these youth and all that has brought them to this moment.
We thank you for
their keen sense of adventure,
their confidence, and
their willingness to take the risks that go with learning to be among us as adults.
We thank you for all that makes them and us ready for them to be drivers.
Be with them in all the times of their venturing into life;
Always be alert in them to what lies ahead, behind, and beside;
continually enjoying the ride and attentive to the destination;
and bring them at last to everlasting life,
through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Here, free intercessions may be added.


Pastor (standing with the youth and parents/guardians and speaking first to the young person newly licensed):
In the rapid succession of changes in you, we see in you the emerging of the adult God created you to be.
We rejoice in your courage and growth that brings you to possess a driver's license.
Maybe it is more than a private possession that you own.
Maybe it is a sign of the community's trust that you will use your privilege well.
Will you remember society's trust in you and use your license in the bonds of our community for the good of all?

I will, with God's help.

Will you enjoy this new freedom as a good gift of God through the community?

I will, with God's help.

Then the pastor speaks to the parents/guardians:
You have come to a moment you looked forward to and feared.
Will you entrust to God anew this young man/woman, recognizing that with all new ventures there is risk and possibility of error in judgment?

I [we] will, with God's help.

Will you negotiate fair and appropriate boundaries in arranging for shared use of family vehicles?

I [we] will, with God's help.

The pastor speaks to the new driver and parents/guardians:
Will you, together, have fun, laugh, and cry together in negotiating the corners and turns of the road ahead so that God is glorified and you all remain in love and happy to be family?

We will, with God's help, and a lot of patience.

The pastor may ask the congregation if they will love and support these people as they make this passage together.

Song or Hymn

The Faith We Sing, 2163, "He Who Began a Good Work in You"
The Faith We Sing, 2032, "My Life Is in You, Lord"
The Faith We Sing, 2076, "O Blessed Spring"
The Faith We Sing, 2245, "Within the Day-to-Day (stanzas 1 and 4)"
The Faith We Sing, 2036, "Give Thanks"
The Faith We Sing, 2195, "In the Lord I'll Be Ever Thankful"

A Litany for One Getting a Driver's License
(The bold type is said by youth, including those who don't yet have a driver's license. Those who have recently received drivers' licenses might hold the cards up for all to see at the line: "Well, at last . . ." For the last line, parents/guardians and new drivers could hold up the car keys together.)

Well, at last: my driver's license!
And freedom! Awesome!
And power! Awesome!
And privilege! Awesome!
And responsibility. Huh?
And an insurance increase. Oh no!
And sharing keys. Oh well.
Well, at last: my driver's license!

O God.
O God, this is great.
O God, this is a great step.
O God, this is a great step into your future.
O God, in this culture, this is about as big as it gets when we're sixteen.

Well, at last: my driver's license!

Come, Holy Spirit!
Come, Holy Spirit; with the fire of your love.
Come, Holy Spirit: Come and make holy elation of our happiness.
Come, Holy Spirit: Come and seal this new status of "driver" with dignity and awe-filled responsibility.
Come, Holy Spirit: Adjust our attitudes; quell our nerves and worries; keep us alert to new drivers on the block.

All: At last: the driver's license has come:
The waiting is over and the keys are in our hands.

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Daniel Benedict is retired from the Discipleship Ministries.

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