June 28, 2010

Little Pray-ers

 We've never been big fans of the rote prayers like "God is great, God is good."  We wanted our children to learn from a very early age that talking to God is a natural thing.  I would never expect my children to greet their daddy each day when he returned from work with a poem that said,
 "Daddy is great, daddy is good, 
thanks for working so I can eat my food."  

That would be ridiculous.  Why, then, would I teach my children to talk to their heavenly Father that way?  If God is merely a religion, then there would be no need for dialogue.  But I have a personal, daily relationship with God.  I speak to him; He speaks to me.  It is not a relationship built on rhetoric.  Therefore, I desire for my children to learn to talk with God as naturally as they communicate with their earthly father.

Our bedtime prayers are a time for us to teach our children how to talk to God.  It is an intimate, one-on-one time with each child.  Unless, of course it is very late and we all pray together for the sake of time.  (Just keepin' it real.)  Some nights we have a conversational prayer.  By this I mean we talk about things, pray about them; talk about some more topics, pray about them; rather than mommy's turn to pray ... child's turn to pray.  
This is the perfect time to let my each of my children know specific things I am praying for them.  I often pray aloud during our nightly prayers that our son will grow to be a leader and a man of God.  He hears me say this and even though he can't quite grasp all that a "man of God" means, he knows my desire for him to seek God as he grows.

One of the rewards has been his excitement over getting to pray.  Usually at dinner my husband will ask "who would like to pray?"  Immediately, our son says, "I do!"  While his meal-time prayers are still developing and often hunger-driven for speed, it delights my heart to see his enthusiasm to pray.   I've recently observed some eye rolling from family members because they think he just wants to be the one to pray so we can eat sooner.  I see it as a man of God in the making.  If it charms my heart this much to watch my children pray, I can only imagine how delighted their heavenly Father is.


ashley said...

Thanks for the encouragement in this area! Y'all are such good parents. :)

Joy for the Seasons said...

My sister and I did "God is great" and "Thank you for the world sweet" prayers growing up. :) We have not taught our kids that, though. Prayer is difficult to teach without modeling, something I am working harder on this summer.

Kellie said...

Yes, those are precious moments to teach our children. You are so right when you said we shouldn't do rote memory prayers. We need to talk to Him as we would someone standing next to us, because He IS there!! That is exciting to her about little man. :)

Tracey said...

So sweet...and what an awesome blog post!

Love your family!!

Runner Mom said...

We've done the same thing with our boys, and it really does make a difference. We still do prayers together at night (as long as we're all here!!)We take turns--the boys and my husband and I. It strengthens all our prayer life. Thanks for sharing!!

Sandy said...

So true! I love to hear all of them pray, & it was so sweet one night at the beach that after he finished, he thought of something else & wanted to know if he could pray again. "Of course!" I said. He then prayed for the 2 ladies that his sister has been praying for over the last 2 months: women on 2 different episodes of "The Dog Whisperer" she watched with me who flaunted their lack of belief in God. One is a Hollywood comedienne, & it so inspires me to realize that M. has been praying for her consistently to come to know Jesus. And now, her faithfulness in doing so has inspired the little man to also pray for them. We all can learn from one another the importance & privilege of prayer!

Julie @ Sweet Chaos said...

We have a "set" bedtime prayer and then each add "special" things after that. I feel like it's important to give my kids something definite and concrete to "know" in their heads--sort of like the words to a hymn, it can comfort in times of desperation :) However, that being said, I LOVE to hear their prayers after we've said the group prayer. Its amazing to watch their experience and growth with God. Ignore the eye rolls--keep up the good work!

Dawn said...

i love that you are sharing your relationship with them. modeling your love and His. we do both here. recite prayers and conversation prayers. but when my heart is at a loss and the words will not come, i am always thankful for the prayers that have been etched on my heart... the ones that are automatic and swift... the ones that come to me when my own words are lost.

Samantha said...

I love that your little man is so eager to talk to God. :-) I have a 4 year old who is equally as eager. It is so sweet and tender. And I agree that modeling prayer for our children is so critical. We pray both "conversationally" as you described and with written prayers in our home and church. I was raised in a church where praying written prayers was considered inauthentic or rhetoric as you described. Now that I am in a church that uses a prayer book, I can see how wrong that teaching and my resulting perception was. Yes, it is possible to read the prayer out of the book and allow it to be empty words rolling off the tongue out of habit. That can be the case in a conversational type prayer too. Prayer is what you put into it. We have beautiful prayers in our prayer book that are steeped in Scripture and there is much power in praying God's word back to Him. Like a previous commenter said, sometimes it is a comfort to have words committed to memory when you feel at a loss for words. It is also wonderful to be in a room full of my brothers and sisters in Christ and join together in an earnest prayer that echoes through the rafters as we all pray it together. I can remember a time when my husband was still in seminary that I was feeling such intense spiritual dryness (Satan really worked over-time on the spouses of the students in seminary!) and I was blessed to attend a retreat for ministry wives from a variety of denominations. I was feeling such refreshment from the worship, from the time alone where I could just focus on being in prayer and Scripture, from the sessions I was attending. It was a glorious time! That night in our main session, the guest speaker they had brought in for the retreat was giving her testimony and speaking to us and in the midst of her message she made a comment about people who just pray rote prayers out of books and how they never really talk to God and how impersonal their relationship with God must be. I was absolutely crushed! I took that so personally--I felt so misunderstood and judged by her. It wasn't even relevant to what she was speaking about. I don't know why she even said it! But I can tell you, I didn't hear another word she said for the rest of the retreat.

We should absolutely teach our children to pray, and we should teach them in the way we feel led, but we should always be careful not to pass on judgement and bias. I'm as surprised as anyone at what richness these written prayers have added to my daily walk and worship.

Gretchen said...

My kids can be quick pray-ers, too. But you know what, at least they're developing the discipline of prayer. I can't imagine daily prayer when I was their ages. Also, even though I know prayer is conversational, I tend to pray the priestly blessing over each of them (Numbers 6:24) as they hop out of the minivan to school.

I echo one of the above commenters: you're such a great parent!

Evi said...

Thank you for your refreshing reminder.