Note: Even if you aren't a parent, read on! There's a message for you, as well!
For the past year or so we have been working on teaching our children how to pray. I’ll confess it has had its ups and its downs. Just when I think we hit a milestone and one child is beginning to feel confident in prayer, something changes and that same child is now silent.
I never want to force spiritual disciplines on my children. However, I want to foster an environment where practicing them is taught, modeled, and encouraged. Reading a Bible story each night is something we easily do. Prayer, however, has been more of a challenge.
So, how are we starting this new year with hopes of our children learning to love the act of prayer?
We are starting small.
Small, simple prayers. Each night at dinner, we are rotating who prays. It can be as simple as “Thank You, God, for our food” or something more elaborate. Each night before bed, we ask our kids to specifically pray for one thing. We give them a prompt, such as “What is something you can thank God for today?” or “Who is someone in your class you can pray for tonight?” And then we ask them to pray a simple sentence prayer based on the prompt. If they want to pray for more than that, great! If not, we praise them for their prayer, reminding them that God loves it when we talk to Him.
It’s a work in progress. My son usually wants to thank God for a toy of some sort. We try to redirect this prayer into something more “real.” For example, my son often wants to pray for Lightning McQueen. We redirect this to “Thank You, God, for a house where I can play with my toys” or “Thank You, God, for Mimi and Pops who gave me my Lightning McQueen car.”
Is it working? Some days – yes! The other night my daughter wanted to thank God for “math.” (Not sure why, but hey, we went with it.) When she prayed, she turned that prayer into this: “Thank You, God, for Mrs. Lawson and Mrs. Willet who teach me math at school.” Perfect! Other days aren’t so profound, but we are continuing to practice and model the importance of prayer.
And, as an aside, starting simple doesn’t just have to be for kids. There are days when I have trouble praying. There are weeks when I feel like I’m in the wilderness and I wonder if anyone hears me. What do I do? I continue praying. I pray small, simple prayers. God doesn’t care how long we pray or how eloquent our words – He just wants us to talk to Him … listen to Him … spend time with Him.
If you’re struggling today to find the words to pray, start small. Find something to thank God for. And, if that’s as far as you get, that’s okay. Continuing to practice spiritual disciplines in the midst of life’s storms is a true sign of spiritual maturity.
Photo Credit: Jordon Rudesill