I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.
Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on firm footing.
Psalms 143:6,8, and 10 NLT
I love the saying “Caught not taught.” With parenting so much of what our children learn is from what they see, what they catch us doing. (We all know this can be both a good and bad thing.) Even still, our efforts to find those teachable moments definitely needs to be made. One thing I was recently prompted to talk about in depth with our children was prayer. My kids “catch” me praying regularly. We strive to pray with them at bed time, dinner, and other given opportunities, so I believe they are learning how to pray and the importance of praying often. The question that came to my mind was “Do my children know what the purpose of prayer is?”
In the words of David Platt “God has designed prayer as a means by which we might grow in love for Him, on a moment by moment, day by day basis.” (If you’d like more on that you can listen to his sermon The Privilege of Prayer.)
I agree and believe that when we understand prayer from this truth, it changes everything. When we come to God with a desire to commune with Him, know Him, and love Him more, it will certainly impact how we pray. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Not our little kingdom, HIS Kingdom. Not our wills and what should be’s, HIS perfect will.
So, do my kids know why we pray? Let’s find out. 🙂
Me: Tonight we are going to talk about prayer. Can you tell me what the purpose of praying is? Why do we pray?
Ryann: Umm cause we’re talking to Jesus. And its nice to Jesus. Cause when we pray it makes us happy.
Micaila: We pray because its important to Jesus and because its loving to Jesus and it cheers you up.
Caleb: For food and for God.
Ryann: Oooh Oooh! For other people!
Caleb: Nooo I wanna say thaaat!!! (Tone change) For other people.
Me: Those are some good answers…..
Ryann: What does it really mean? Because you didn’t seem happy with my answer.
Me: (I had to laugh, I didn’t think my expression showed disappointment lol) You’re answers are good but there is more to why we pray.
Since my children are almost nine, seven, and three I really did feel these were pretty good responses. But it also confirmed that it’s important to teach our kids the biblical reasons why we do the things we do. If we don’t teach them, they will merely be going through the motions of tradition and run the risk of becoming like those Paul referred to in his second letter to Timothy- “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Or they may become teenagers and later adults who view God as an estranged parent you only talk to when you need something or call on when you’re in distress, but ignore all other times. Or worse yet, view Him as a genie we recite our self serving wishes to.
A few more questions I asked were:
Do we only pray when we want or need something?
Will God always answer our requests the way we want?
Is that wrong of Him?
I was thankful that my girls answered a resounding “no” to all these questions. I lost Caleb to some foam wrapping he found inside a game and decided to crumble all over our living room. 🙂
I proceeded to teach the girls the acronym “P. R.A.Y.”
P- Praise God for Who He is and what He’s done.
R-Repent of sin and ask for forgiveness.
A- Ask or make requests to God.
Y- Yield yourself, your life to Him.
This led to even more meaningful conversation as we talked about the attributes of God. Some examples the girls gave without prompting were “He is kind.” “He is merciful.” “He is perfect.” We discussed what all those words mean and more practically what this would look like for them. Talking about things a nine and seven year old might repent of like impatience with others, delayed obedience/disobedience, being dishonest, poor attitude in school, and being selfish.
What amazed me was what my kids do know. Praise the Lord! Yet there was much they didn’t know or at least couldn’t yet put into words, I assumed they knew. We finished our time by praying through the acronym and it was really wonderful.
“Holy Father, Thank you again for the opportunity to partner with you in raising these children. As Ryann reminded me tonight, You ARE perfect, therefore completely trustworthy because all you do is good and right. I know I’ll make mistakes, as will our children, but I pray we would be diligent to build them a solid godly foundation that, no matter what, they will return to You, the Way, the Truth and the Life. “
Luke 6:47-48 “I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.”
Jeremiah 33:3- “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”