In honor of Mother’s Day, this blog post reflects on the importance of not just praying for your children, but with your children as well. Parents who love the Lord openly create an infectious environment. Kids ‘catch’ the faith. Intentional teaching is essential, but it is the incidental inculcation of values that is even more powerful. How we live and spontaneously respond to the challenges of life should reflect deeply held values – if not, our intentional efforts will fall flat.
It is the faith flavor of the home that is so radically transforming. Dutiful devotional times can never replace personal passion for the Lord. If “the words” are in our hearts, they will naturally flow into our conversations, while sitting in the house and talking. It isn’t what we try to do – it is what we most naturally do! This natural bubbling up of our love for the Lord will spill out onto every aspect of family life in a way that is natural and not contrived. We’ll offer spontaneous and worshipful thanks. When we sit by a child with a fevered brow, we will pray.
Ideas for Praying with Your Children
- Pray at every meal – make thanksgiving a habit. And let the children pray.
- During the course of your meal, ask your kids about their day – What happened in your world? Use their anxieties as cues for prayer.
- Pray at bedtime. Include a bed-time Bible story. That daily habit is a powerful and comforting closure to the day.
- If you drive your children to school, you have a great opportunity to plug into the “hurry-up” of the morning, a restful prayer. Before they get out of the car, pray for them. Bless them. Ask for God to be with them. Someone has said that Christian parents exhort their children to “be good!” – as if they expected mischief. Jewish parents exhort their children to “do something great today!” – as if they expected not only positive behavior, but excelling conduct.
- Take each of your children out, once a week for a private time with Dad or Mom. Make prayer a part of that time. Do it casually, naturally. Lace the presence of God into daily life, as if it were not a Sunday thing! It isn’t, you know. Read a scripture together. Give a Psalm as a gift to your child – read it over them. Give them other promises from the Bible.
- Table devotions. Once a week or so, do more than saying grace at the table, do a round of prayer with each family member praying sentence prayers.
- Make a family prayer list. Pray over the needs on the list – at least weekly. Do some type of weekly family prayer and worship event. It does not have to be long – 15-30 minutes will do, especially with smaller children whose attention spans are short. Do it consistently. Read Scripture. Pray. Bless the children. Review your family prayer list. Pray for unsaved family members, neighbors and friends.
- Keep a family prayer log. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary says years ago, his wife created a family prayer journal. On one side was listed – “We Asked!” On the other side – “He Answered!” Hendricks said, “I would not substitute anything for what this notebook did to teach my children the theology of prayer.” This brings reality to prayer. It makes it about real things. It chronicles the family’s spiritual journey. What a legacy!1
- During the holidays, open the Christmas cards at dinner when the family is together. Pray over the loved ones who sent the cards before they are hung on the mantle.
- Create a “sacred space” in your home where you meet for prayer – a family altar. Set aside a room for a chapel, if you have the space. If not, designate a place where the family meets God. Put out visible reminders of the sacredness of the space – a Bible, pictures on the wall, study helps, a globe or map to remind you of missions, the family prayer list, anointing oil.
Nothing should be out of bounds for prayer. As a good rabbi would say, “There is a prayer for everything!” Praying simple, spontaneous prayers, making them as natural as breathing, laces God into the ordinary. It will become a habit of the child when they are aged. “My mother always prayed this simple prayer when she covered some cut with a band aid.” Such simple, profound moments stay with you for life!
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- This blog is an excerpt for the newly released The Praying Church Resource Guide. This 650 page notebook is full of practical helps for personal, family, church and missional praying. Purchase today>
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
1 Howard Hendricks, Vinelife. (Quoted by Vander Griend, 67)