Prayer, one of the most powerful aspects of the Christian life. It is an amazing thought that we have the opportunity to communicate with the God of the universe. The key is communication. Effective communication involves both talking and listening.
Almost a year ago, I received a new title. Dad. Let me tell you how awesome it is. Sure it has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Recently, I also moved into a new role in church ministry. I’m now a Next Generation Pastor. This means I still work with students and families but I now also oversee the Preschool and Children’s Ministries. I LOVE family ministry. Sharing Jesus with mom and dad, their 8-year-old, and 14-year-old, excites me. It wakes me up and keeps me up.
This month our pastor has been doing a series on prayer. Prayer is one of those things I have always tried to teach on, model, and be a major part of any ministry I have been blessed to lead. With that being said, in my own life, I have experienced seasons in which frankly, it has been hard. Not so much because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, but rather that I didn’t make it a priority. I got busy doing a lot of “Christian” things and I allowed my prayer life to slip.
So how do we teach our kids to pray? As a new dad and a pastor of almost seven years here are my thoughts…
1. We must first model it. In the Gospels, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11). He not only gave them a model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), He modeled it Himself (Mark 1:35, John 17). As parents and ministry leaders we have to do more than use the phrase, “I’m praying for you.” I have had many people send me text messages saying, “I’m praying for you today.” I have had very few of those people actually pray with me. Don’t hear me wrong, telling people you are praying for them is great. Send them that text message every time, it is definitely worth it. After you send that text message, take the next step, follow up. Maybe pray with them the following Sunday. The more times we do things like this, the more our kids will realize prayer is more than something we do before a meal.
2. We must teach the “why” before the “how” or “what.” There is great power in understanding why we do the things we do. Teaching our kids why we pray is no different. Have conversations like, “What does it mean to pray to God?” “What or who are somethings we should be praying for as a family?” “Son/Daughter, how can I be praying for you?” “Will you pray with me about this?” Once families have a deeper understanding of the “why” it will make the “how” and the “what” much more significant. Why do we pray? We pray because we are Biblically commanded to but also because Jesus desires to have a relationship with us. Think about your best friend(s). I bet you don’t go very long without communicating with them either over the phone, email, or social media. Why do you do this? Because we value what they have to say. You desire to know and grow in your relationship with them.
3. We must make prayer more than a “wish list.” For many Christ followers, prayer becomes nothing more than a “what I can get out of it” outlet. “God bless me, take care of this need, and oh yes, thank you for this day.” Read Jesus’ prayers to the Father. Take a look at John 17.
John 17:1 (HCSB), “Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You…”
This prayer was not about Jesus. It was about the glory of the Father. We must teach our kids that it is okay to ask God to bless us and take care of needs. However, our prayers and our Christmas gift list should not sound very similar.
There are two things I try to pray for often. First, are the lost people I’m in direct contact with. I pray that I would be a faithful example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they so desperately need. Second, is the nations. This includes the people groups where the spreading of the Gospel is limited and missionaries are in difficult settings.
Practical Advice for Praying as a Family Unit:
1. Prayer before a meal. Traditionally, if Christian influenced homes don’t do much praying at all they tend to bless their meals, even if it’s every once in a while. Next time you sit down as a family for a meal, go to the table 10 minutes early before you start eating your meal. Spend that 10 minutes praying as a family unit. Pray for each other.
2. Prayer for a missionary and/or church planter and their family. Place a picture of a missionary/church planter and their family somewhere visible in your home. Encourage each family member to pray for the missionary/church planter and their family once a week. Having a visual will be a great reminder. Pray for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
3. Prayer for your circle of influence. Have each family member write down two people in their circle of influence (friends, teachers, pastors, coaches, etc.) that they can lift up in prayer. Allow each family member to voice these prayers aloud.
4. Parents, pray over your children. Mom and dads, don’t miss this. When your kids go to sleep, spend time with your spouse praying for your kids. Pray that they would fall in love with Jesus and love Him more than anything else. Pray that the decisions they make in life would honor and glorify God. Pray for their future spouse.