(Recently, Kids of the Cross offered a special Parents’ Night focusing on prayer. Helen Keuning has graciously distilled the lessons, along with her own impressions and thoughts, into three blog posts for us. This is the third post. Click here to find the first post–Prayer for Children–and the second post–Prayer with Children.)
by Helen Keuning
Question: What is prayer?
Answer: Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.
During the meeting in January led by the Kids of the Cross Ministry Team, Deacon Elizabeth Stewart pointed us to this Q&A in the Catechism section of The Book of Common Prayer. As my previous two blogs about that meeting have explained, the evening focused on prayer FOR children, prayer WITH children, and prayer BY children. Naturally, there is overlap in these three categories, but it is helpful to ponder each of them separately as well.
Praying for Children: Liz asked us, what could be more exciting than praying that God would stir up the hearts of our children to respond to Him — by thought and by deeds — and that He would reveal more of Himself to them? What else is more needful in their lives?
Praying with Children: Liz cautioned us to watch out for the “sermon with your eyes closed.” We should model simple prayers that are a sincere offering of our own hearts to God, not a way to instruct our kids. They know the difference.
Prayer by Children: Liz pointed us to the Catechism to expand our private definition of what prayer by children means. So often it is easy for us to believe and to teach our kids that prayer is asking for things. Of course, God cares about the details of our lives and we do want our kids to make their requests known to Him. But we could also expand our definition of prayer and our children’s definition of prayer to include:
— Spending time with God in silence or on a walk or while listening to music
— Listening to the Lord and asking Him to speak into our lives. What if we continually asked (and encouraged our kids to ask) Jesus, “What do you want me to do?”
— Setting up a Prayer Corner or Space in our home with beautiful artwork and Scripture.
— Journaling for our kids/family the specific items of thanksgiving and requests for the day, week or month and then handing the Prayer Journal off to them to do their own journaling when they are old enough to write.
— Inviting them to rest in the Lord’s presence as they drift off to sleep. Or to offer their work up to the Lord as they fold laundry or wash dishes or even do their school work.
— Provide art materials to children and encourage them to respond to the Lord through their creativity, emphasizing that prayer can happen “with or without words.”
How could we encourage our children to develop their own prayer life? How could we communicate to them that God wants to be in communion with them? That He has things to say to them? That He desires their trust and dependence? That their cares really do matter? And that their prayers are effective and important to the coming of God’s kingdom?
If you want to explore these ideas further, here are some resources that the Children’s Leadership Team recommended:
Blessing (twelve scripture passages of blessing chosen by Church of the Cross leaders and expressed visually by artists in our community)
Psalms for Young Children by Marie-Helen Delval
A Child’s Book of Prayer in Art by Sister Wendy Beckett
Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Please COMMENT if you have other ideas and resourcesthat would be helpful as well.