We were doing the regular after dinner manic clean up the house before bed routine, and the TV was on in the background. Now this is not ideal when you are not watching it, especially at that time of night because it is always the news that is on, and you never know what is going to pop up on the screen. My 8 yr old is very much in tune with everything that is going on around her (especially when she is meant to be doing homework) but at this time she was meant to be picking up the toys around the floor when I saw her staring at the TV with a look on her face that was so intense. I looked up and there on the news was a report on what was happening in North Korea.
This report opened up some deep discussion for the rest of the pack up time and into bed time.
OK now I don’t shelter my children by any means, but there are some things that they don’t need to know about yet, and some things are just very hard to explain. We do live in a pretty isolated and peaceful Island, so violence, gangs, wars and the like are very foreign to my kids. We don’t get a lot of TV (there is 1 channel here) so she doesn’t see what other kids in the Western world would be bombarded with, which means when we do have the news on she is so interested in what is happening in the world. She has been known to tell her sister off for being noisy because “I need to watch the news right now”.
So back to the story… when we had finished packing up and showering and we were headed upstairs for bed, my daughter looked at me and said “Mum I think we really need to pray for that man who is being mean and we should also pray for all the people he is being mean to.” I was astounded!!! Not only was her first reaction to pray but also that she wanted to pray for the “bad guy” I thought that is a concept that I haven’t really taught her and I was super proud that she could see that even he needs prayer!
Now I know I titled this post “Teaching your Kids to pray” but to be honest I don’t think I have ever sat my children down and had a lesson with them on praying. I don’t think it is even something that can be directly taught. I honestly think the only way we can teach our kids to pray is to pray. All the time. To pray with them, for them and to get them to pray. From very early on with my first baby, I would pray out loud over things, simple things, complex things. When she was old enough to talk I would ask her if she would like to pray, sometimes she would, and sometimes she wouldn’t. Sometimes it would make sense and most of the time it wouldn’t (but I don’t think God minds one bit when a toddler is praying for her stuffed toys or that the pockets on her shorts will be pink!)
So here are just some of the practical ways that I have incorporated prayer into our lives, it is by no means an exhaustive list and I’m sure there are many more ways, but here are a few.
- Pray at bed time. I know this one a lot of people do and I think its a really great discipline for kids to learn. I also think it goes so well in the bedtime routine, and helps calm kids before bed. I usually get both my daughters to pray individually for whatever they want, and then I finish off by praying for them. Sometimes this is a really special time for praying for sick friends or praying for family members they miss, and other times it gets a bit silly with prayers for more chocolate and that unicorns could be real. I just give them freedom at this time to just pray however they want. I think its important for them to be free to really explore the concept. We always pray for protection and safety while we sleep and no bad dreams.
- Pray in the mornings before school. After the craziness of the morning routine, when they are all ready for school and before they get picked up we sit on the verandah, backpacks on backs and I pray a quick prayer over them, a prayer of protection, that they will shine for Jesus today, be focussed and work well at school and that they will have a great day. Its super quick like a 2 minute prayer and it just sends them off to school confident and ready for the day. Again I think it is a great discipline to have for them, to pray before they really start their day, to give their day to God and keep Jesus first. Disclaimer though…. we don’t always do this, time sometimes escapes us, and sometimes I just simply forget, but it is always good when we get to do this one.
- Pray at meal times. I almost didn’t put this one down because I thought its something that most families do. But I guess what I would challenge you on is shake it up a bit. Don’t make it a religious routine thing, but make it real. Ask them for one thing they are thankful for and thank God for that first, Or take turns at praying and blessing the food. The main thing is be together and being grateful for Gods provision.
- Pray when a topic comes up in conversation – For example, when they mention a friend at school was away today because they are sick, make a suggestion for that child to pray for them. When you see an ambulance go past, pray for the person who needs the ambulance. When your child is talking about something they are worried about, pray into it with them. The key here is to make it a norm, make it a regular thing, “hey I think we should pray for that”, the more you do it, it will become a habit and before you know it they will start to suggest it.
- Pray Big prayers – Occasionally and not everyday, we will be prompted either by something they see on TV – like that news report – or maybe something they hear at school and we will pray those big “intercessory” prayers. Ones that are above and beyond our situations, when we stand in the gap for countries or other people. Don’t think that your kids are too little for this, You will be surprised at how much they feel and want to pray in these areas. I find especially when we are praying for children in different countries that it really teaches them to empathise. Use a map, use a globe, get the newspaper (edit it if you have to), watch a child safe documentary to get the conversation started.
Just a few tips also for praying with your kids.
– Don’t ever ridicule them or make them think their prayer was silly (even if it was about their toy baby needing to feel better). Let them experiment and pray however their mind works. Like I said before, God loves these kids so much I actually think He loves it when they pray no matter what they say.
– When praying for countries or big situations like wars and things – filter what you think you need to. They don’t need to know all the gory details.
– I always get them to pray that the “bad guys” or people who are involved in the hurting of other people come to know Jesus and that they will stop doing whatever the bad thing is. I want my kids to know that God loves them just as much as He loves us.
– Don’t expect each prayer time to be amazing. Sometimes they won’t want to pray, sometimes they will be in a silly crazy mood, sometimes you won’t be in the best mood. Just take each moment as it comes, and give them and yourself grace. Scrap that one and try again later or tomorrow.
– Lastly, please don’t make it boring, religious or monotonous. We want our kids to love to pray and to be excited to pray. Make it about relationship and love. Make it fun, make it different and be creative with how you do it.
Those are just some of the ways I have incorporated prayer into our lives. We are by no means a perfect happy all the time family who prayer 24/7 but I do think that prayer is such a awesome spiritual discipline that we really need our children to understand and experience early in heir lives. So that when they are older, God is who they will turn to first above all the other people vying for their attention.
How do you incorporate prayer in your day to day lives with your kids? I’d love to hear about it.
Pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17