Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Talking With God: Eleven Times it Can Fit into Your Family Life

Our youngest daughter padded barefoot up two flights of stairs from her bedroom,wearing a flannel nightgown, a well loved stuffed animal in tow, past the living room, to the loft where her daddy was sitting at his desk. Once in his office she climbed on his lap and hugged him. He hugged her in return and spoke to her in low tones for a minute before placing his hand on her head and praying for her. When he was done she smiled up at him. They hugged quickly and she was on her way to play until she had to get dressed for kindergarten.

Do your children hear you pray for them? Do you pray with your children? Not just giving thanks for the food, or a quick bedtime prayer at the end of the day, but really pray. It doesn't have to be long, but it should be truly talking to God. 

I know I am guilty of repeating the same words over and over day after day in my prayers, but I would never talk to someone else doing that. (My kids might differ saying I tell the same stories over and over. But one only has so many stories and it is so enjoyable to tell them. I digress.) We tell our children that prayer is "talking to God." I believe we should exemplify that conversation in our children's hearing.

The best way to teach someone to pray is to pray aloud with them. When we pray out loud, it should be a continuation of the conversation we are having privately with God. A familiarity and yet reverence. A discussion of what we know about God, what He has promised in His Word, what is on our hearts, and what is occurring in our lives. When we talk to God like this in front of our children, they learn what prayer truly is--not an eloquent written out prayer, not a rote repetition, but an opportunity to talk over our lives with the Almighty God.

When do we have opportunities to model prayer for our children?

  1. Before Meals -- This is probably the time when most people pray and they say similar things "bless this food", "thank you for this food", and don't forget, "bless the hands that prepared it." (If someone says this when I have cooked, my husband always asks, "Are your hands tingling?") While I don't suggest praying until the food is cold, I propose that we say more than these phrases that are repeated so often. Mention something personal, meaningful and truly say thank you to God. This is a good time for children to start praying out loud, too. My older grandchildren can say, "Thank you for this food and that Grandma and Grandpa came to visit" or a simple "Thank you" and some of the younger ones already say, "Amen!"
  2. After Meals -- We always had breakfast together and before we let the kids rush to get ready for school, my husband would pray for them. This often included requests like: that they would be a blessing to someone, for protection, help on a test, health issues, special events of their day, and that they would learn well. It only took a minute, but it was another example to them of God's interest in their daily lives and how to talk to Him about it.
  3. During Devotions -- We tried to not tack on a prayer at the end of our family devotions, but make that an integral part of our time with God. We asked the kids what they could give thanks for and what they wanted prayer for. Then we often prayed youngest to oldest so that my husband closed in prayer. If you have a tween or teen who isn't wanting to pray, I don't recommend forcing it. Pray for the events in their life yourself and privately pray for their spiritual life. You can tell your kids you what you are praying for, but don't sermonize them in your prayers.
  4. On Daily Trips -- In Colombia we lived around the corner from the Director of our children's school for MKs who drove a big van to school. Sometimes we needed her to add our kids to her carload and they told us that if you drove to school with Mrs. Afanador, you knew you were going to spend the time praying. No one was forced to pray, but most did. What a great way to head out into the day!
  5. At the Beginning of a Longer Trip -- We usually do this as we start down the road. Of course, the driver keeps his eyes open as one or more of us pray for safe travels and give thanks for the opportunity to travel.
  6. Along the Way -- We recently attended a conference with our youngest daughter, now an adult working at her first full time job after college, where we were exhorted to pray. As we were on our way home (a many hour journey in the car) someone suggested we spend some time in prayer. The three of us prayed together for about an hour. The next morning we continued another time of prayer together. What a joy! Maybe something comes up--you see an accident, the weather has changed, or you get lost (that's me!)--that you want to talk to God about. Do it out loud. 
  7. Upon Arrival -- As you pull up to your day's destination, thanking God for getting you there is a great reminder to our children that God is watching over us.
  8. In the Beauty of Creation -- When you see some of God's spectacular creation you can come to God in prayer and praise Him in song! How about My God is So Big, America the Beautiful,  or  the second verse of How Great Thou Art?
  9. Going Shopping -- I am constantly praying while I shop. I don't want to waste money on things that won't last, I won't use, or I don't need. I also want to get things at a good price. Sometimes I want something very specific. So I tell God and ask Him for wisdom. When my girls were teens, I sometimes prayed with them as we headed out to buy them clothes. Any mother of teenage girls knows that can be a time of conflict! Praying for God to provide and help you to agree is a good idea.
  10. When Something is Lost -- "Mom, do you know where my ____ is?" That rang out often in our house. And I have been known to mislay things as well. So many times we stopped the panic to pray and God immediately brought to mind a place to look. Lo and behold! There it was! Sometimes God answers right away and that is an encouragement to keep praying.
  11. At the End of the Day -- Much more than "Now I lay me down to sleep..." this can be a great time to review the day and thank God for what He allowed to happen, to turn over to Him things that might keep us from sleeping, and to pray for the next day. 
You probably won't pray at all these times in any one day, but it's good to keep them in mind and make them more of a habit in your life. Keep the words fresh, really talk with God, and teach your children to pray.

What opportunities do you use to pray with your children?

Megan, a fellow blogger, has all adult children at home. She says she gets them to the table this way: Fix family favorites. Ask them what they want...give a little teaser the night before or text them during the day and tell 'em what's for dinner. They love that they don't have to go out, buy food, or cook every night. 

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  1. Yes, this is good stuff -- and so Deuteronomy 6 in its intentional and yet natural approach to prayer!

    1. Thank you Michele. I hadn't actually thought of Deuteronomy 6, but it does fit right int here, doesn't it?

  2. Oh I love this! This is who we are! People who find every excuse to pray and aren't ashamed to bring their children with them to the throne!

  3. This is a great post even for those of us without children, Sharon! It's so convicting that I don't pray often enough, and I love the tips you've provided for ideas (that I can modify to my childless life) on moments we can stop to pray. Thanks!



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