As parents, we want what’s best for our children, including a life of strong faith, values, and prayer.
Sometimes it can seem like a daunting task — how do I teach faith to my children? How do I help them understand things that sometimes I don’t even understand?
We may search for the “right words” to say, or the “right book” to recommend, or the “right youth group” to send our kids to — and these things are not unimportant. But the most powerful way for us to teach our kids faith, values, and prayer is to live them.
When we bring faith and prayer home from church with us — when kids see us praying and living our faith in the “small stuff” as well as the big stuff — they notice. And they especially notice when our faith reaches out to them, too. The most effective discipleship begins when my spiritual life intersects with my everyday interactions with my children.
Although Jesus often slipped away to pray privately, he also taught his disciples to pray. As I reach out to teach prayer to my children, I can invite them to join me or at least contribute to my times of prayer.
If my child feels uncomfortable praying out loud I can encourage them to pray silently or give them paper and ask them to write or draw their prayer. Most children would be glad to pray, either aloud or silently, for a friend about whom they are concerned. We can talk about things we are each thankful for and pray accordingly. Meals and bedtimes are great times for my family to grow beyond “Thanks for the food,” and “Now I lay me down to sleep.” (Pray! Kids magazine and When Children Pray by Cheri Fuller are great resources for more ideas.)
As my family becomes more comfortable with various kinds of prayer, we can grow to see that prayer is not so much about asking God for stuff as it is about acknowledging God’s work and presence in the daily circumstances of life. This truth compels me to more actively seek to pray anytime and to invite my children to observe or join me.
This invitation to pray takes many forms. Sometimes it comes in the form of a spontaneous outburst of praise of gratitude to God for his love or singing a familiar worship song together. Sometimes it’s expressing an observation of God’s creative genius in nature.
In the difficult circumstances of my life or the lives of others I pray for God’s peace, for hearts to be open to his love and comfort, and for God’s will to be done. I pray for God’s intervention so that God will be glorified. Sometimes I do not know how to pray, so I tell my kids that. Then I confess it to God in their presence. On occasion we ask our children to pray for us when either one of us is struggling. This models a natural dependence on God with our emotions and circumstances.
We haven’t got it all figured out, but we continue to work at being more open to bringing our prayer to life in ways that are visible to our family. It’s good for us and it’s good for them.
Apply It Now:
- As I think back on the significant events and emotions of my week (for me and my children), what are some little, but natural ways to discuss faith or incorporate prayer into my interactions with my children?
This post is an excerpt from our book, How to Grow a Connected Family.
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