Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
I have to admit, I hated praying. For years as a professed Christian, I spent no more than five minutes each night. Every once in a while I might do ten to fifteen minutes, but seriously, looking back at it now I realize how pitiful that was. I was far from fulfilling I Thessalonians 5:17 where it says to “Pray without ceasing.” God was still graceful and answered many of my prayers, but I came to realize that my pathetic prayer life stunted my spiritual growth in multiple ways. I was not receiving the full blessing that comes with being in communion with our heavenly Father. Even though I spent a lot of time studying the Bible, my discernment, my ability to resist temptation, and my ability to fight the spiritual battle were all weakened because I lacked a real prayer life. But through the encouragement of a friend, I have come to enjoy prayer and to seek it in ways that I had never done so before.
Early this year, I started thinking of how I could encourage my children the way my friend had encouraged me to not only pray more but to love it. I don’t want my girls to waste years missing out on something so amazingly powerful like I did. I therefore meditated on it and I discovered that a lot of the same reasons I had disliked praying were the same reasons my children did not enjoy it either. I asked God for wisdom and direction on the things that I could do encourage them to become prayer warriors and now I want to share what I learned with you in a series of blogs. This is the first one.
This first strategy is simple and straight forward. You have probably heard this shared many times, but it works and I have seen the fruit of it this past year with my girls.
Make sure they see AND hear you pray. Children learn best from watching you, especially young children. It may seem that in their multiple distractions, they don’t notice what you are doing, but they do. They don’t miss a beat and if they don’t see you praying, they will wonder why they have to do it. Both my nine-year-old and my four-year-old are quick to point out any inconsistency with the things I say and the things I do. I, therefore, know that I have to model praying behavior for them if I expect them to listen to my encouragements to pray.
Just as important as it is for our kids to see us praying, it is also important for them to hear us praying. We will sometimes seek to pray in a quiet place away from the noise of our children. Or we might be tempted to quit praying when the kids interrupt us. There are certainly good reasons to do that and we do need quiet in our own personal prayer lives. However, I want to encourage you to also pray in spite of your children’s commotion. Even though it is hard for us to concentrate, it does something for them. It really does. Believe or not, they are listening.
A couple of years ago my then two-year-old was role playing with her toys. At one point in her story, one doll started praying for the others. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I was surprised because the words that came out of my child’s mouth were almost verbatim phrases she had heard me pray. Up until that point, I had not even known she had been listening, but she obviously had been.
Now I am getting to enjoy the fruits of modeling prayer for them. My four-year-old sometimes wakes up early and she will find her way to my war room (a.k.a. family room) where I pray in the mornings. She snuggles next to me. We have had enough conversations about what I am doing that she knows to try to be quiet, but many times she is not quiet. Sometimes she is asking me a million questions, but many times she is repeating everything that I say. The latter is music to my ears because I know that she is learning how to pray. And just this morning, I was praying and my older daughter was getting ready for school. She then found her way to the couch on the opposite end of me and bowed her head. There was no nagging on my part. I had not even asked her to come pray with me. She did it all on her own.
BONUS TIP: Form a prayer/play group. Yes it will be loud and yes it may be hard to concentrate but prayer is powerful in numbers. Just as important, your children will see and hear you pray together. What a wonderful testimony for their young lives and a wonderful way for them to learn about prayer.
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