You’ve decided you want to be more focused in the Christian parenting of your children. So where do you start? In fact, maybe that’s the problem you have struggled with from the beginning. With so many things you can teach your kids about what God wants from them and for them, where do you start?
Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t have a specific chapter on the perfect way to parent your children with a wonderful step by step check list. What we do have are lots of verses – many repeated multiple times throughout scripture – that begin to give us a picture of what a strong spiritual foundation looks like.
One of the earliest and easiest things to help your children understand about God is how they can talk to Him. Prayer is one of the most basic spiritual disciplines. In fact, my guess is that it is the one with the highest percentage of parents making some intentional effort to teach their kids about it.
Yet, what have you taught your kids about prayer? More importantly, what have they actually understood and incorporated into their lives? Not sure? Ask them! Younger kids especially will be likely to tell you the truth about what they know about prayer and how often they are beginning to pray on their own without adult assistance.
Once you know what your kids understand about prayer, you can begin intentionally doing things to add to their knowledge. You can plan activities that will encourage them to begin praying more independently. You can help them better understand how God answers prayers and all of the wonderful ways it can deepen their relationship with God.
Here are some of our favorite ideas to try:
- Tell your kids Bible stories that involve prayers. There are actually quite a few – especially in the Old Testament. Don’t just read them the story, discuss what happened. Who prayed and why? What was God’s answer? Why do they think God answered the prayer the way He did? Over time, your kids will begin seeing patterns. Have them share what they think those patterns are and then search the scriptures to see if there are passages that confirm or dispute their conclusions.
- Keep a family prayer journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, although younger kids may want to decorate a spiral notebook as the “official” family prayer journal. It’s a great way to remember God answers prayers and to better understand over time why God sometimes says “No” or “Wait” to our prayers. Your kids may also want to have their own personal prayer journal where they can add scriptures or journal in addition to keep track of their prayers.
- Have special focused prayer times. It’s easy to get in the bad habit of thinking prayer is just about asking God to grant our wishes. But prayer is also supposed to be a time when we thank God, praise Him, repent of our sins, share our emotions and questions and more. To establish prayer as more than just a wish list, why not have special prayer times? Maybe one night your prayers are all prayers of gratitude. Perhaps another night your prayers consist of verses from Psalms praising God. Before each special prayer time discuss ways your family can be more intentional about including these other areas in their prayers.
- Use items like prayer rocks, prayer sticky notes, prayer jars and other aids to encourage everyone to pray without ceasing. It’s easy to get busy and forget to pray for long periods of time. Or maybe your family’s prayer times have always been scheduled and formal and you want to encourage everyone to also pray independently. Making prayer rocks, leaving a prayer jar out where everyone can see it or putting sticky notes in random places with the word “Pray” on them can all be fun ways to help remind everyone to pray more often.
- Have a prayer walk somewhere meaningful. Are you kids concerned about things at school? Why not go to the school grounds on a weekend and walk around the area, praying for various concerns as you see them from where you are standing? (Most schools grounds are open to the public even if the school is closed. Check your area for any restrictions.) Or walk around your neighborhood praying for various neighbors as you pass their house. You don’t have to be showy about it, but if your praying is obvious, be prepared to answer questions those who see you may have.
- Shake up rote prayers. Rote prayers are great for very young children, because it helps them to “know what to say” when it’s time to pray. unfortunately, rote prayers can quickly become meaningless if you aren’t careful. Your kids may even forget they are praying to God when they say them. If you aren’t ready to make the switch to “original” prayers yet, try changing the routine a bit. For example pray after you eat instead of before – your kids may be more focused because they aren’t starving while you pray. Or pray when you wake up in the morning the same ways you normally would pray with them before they go to sleep. You get the idea – changing the routine can make rote prayers seem fresh.
- If your kids are older and everyone is going in different directions constantly, have a special prayer reminder. Maybe at a certain time every day, everyone stops what they are doing for a minute to pray for family members. Or maybe it’s a little more flexible and you agree that a certain number of times that day you will pray for a family member. Or if someone in the family has something important at a certain time, remind everyone to pray for that person five minutes before it starts. Family group texts also work great for prayer reminders.
What you actually do will depend upon your family and their needs. The important thing is not which activity you choose, but that you are putting focused effort into helping your kids develop and deepen their prayer lives. It’s a great way to train them to always be in communication with God.