(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 third post–Prayer by Children.)
by Helen Keuning
Have you ever wanted to pray with your kids, but didn’t know how to get started?
At the January Kids of the Cross Parent Night, Liz Stewart asked the other members of the Children Leadership Team (Sarah Hoffner, Sonia Keillor, Andrea Lang, Andrea Pope, and Alyssa Tennison) to share specific ideas from each of their own families as a way to encourage and stimulate us in how to pursue praying alongside our children. I am taking their ideas and passing them along to the rest of you.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t do any of these practices yet and please don’t try to do them all at once! Pick one or two that appeal specifically to you and take them for a test-drive over the course of the Lenten season. Modify them as needed.
Book-end each day with prayer: The rhythms of beginning and ending their day with God establish a pattern in your children’s lives that will continue throughout their lives.
As you wake up a child, pray the fruits of the Spirit or their baptismal verses over them. Even if they are sleepy and barely awake, that’s okay! They come to consciousness bathed in truths and covered in prayers. They come to experience the truth that the devotional life is not only something they do, but something they can also receive.
Reading Bible stories before bed paves the way for praying together. Reflect over your day, give thanks, and pray for the needs of others in your lives. As part of their bedtime routine, you could pray a blessing over each child as you tuck him or her under the covers.
Set aside a specific time on Sunday morning or evening to offer thanks for the provisions for the past week and to pray for the next week together as a family. Use the “popcorn” prayer method so that each person gets a turn and the prayers remain short and simple.
Pray while you drive: As parents, we can spend a lot of time in the car with our kids. Use the time that you are driving your children to school or to an activity to pray for God’s blessing on that particular time.
Thank God for what you see out the window. If you see or hear emergency vehicles, pray for the sick and hurting in those situations and for the community helpers. Pray that they would each know the nearness of God. Pray aloud for protection as you drive in the snow or in traffic. Ask Jesus to provide for those you see on the side of the road with signs asking for money and/or food (and consider bringing along “Mercy Bags” or other ways to bless these people and so help be an answer to that prayer). Offer up petitions for the schools, churches, hospitals and government buildings that you pass by as you drive.
Pray aloud spontaneously: My own parents are not-yet believers, but my “Uncle Jim” (as he was called by all the immigrant kids in Washington D.C. whose families he helped) would often stop us in the middle of a problem or decision and say “let’s pray about this” and break into prayer. He still does that in the middle of a phone call when we are catching up long-distance. He modeled to me that we can go to the Lord at any time for help and for any reason.
Do the same for your kids. Stop and praise God aloud for a simple blessing. Pray aloud after your phone call with the relative who is going through a tough time. Ask Jesus aloud for forgiveness after you have blown it and hurt their feelings. Use the interruptions and irritations in life to model for your children how to verbally offer up to Jesus all the circumstances we experience, both the good and the bad.
Clearly, modeling plays a central role in praying with our kids. As Liz Stewart shared during the parent meeting, “So much of what contributes to healthy formation for children has to do with modelling. We can’t take children in faith to places that we haven’t been ourselves.
When we think about encouraging children in a life of prayer, we must be attending to our own life in God and through that have a deep desire to share with them an experience that has become important to us – not just in the area of seeing God answer our prayers for ourselves or other people, but in the area of communing with God.
So if that hasn’t been our experience, then it’s not something to be feeling guilty about. We come with our own need. We come saying, ‘show us how to show them.’ And therein lies the great blessing of walking the life of faith with children. It was certainly my own experience as a new mother and a new Christian, ‘Show me so I can show them.'”