Teaching our kids to pray is something that Anna and I have tried to model for our kids since they were babies. We want them to get into the habit of praying by themselves and with others and to not be shy about it. Also, we want them to know that they shouldn’t just pray when something is wrong and they need help but also to pray in thanksgiving for all the good in their lives, for answered prayers, and to pray for others. Here are some of the ways that Anna and I have tried to implement prayer into our lives.
Praying during a road trip
There is nothing better than a captive audience. Growing up, my parents would always pray with me and my brothers on road trips. We usually balked at the idea and reluctantly went along with it. We were more interested in playing our old school Nintendo Game Boys and seeing who could beat each other in Tetris. Fast forward 25+ years and now that I’m a parent myself, I am happy that my parents modeled a prayer life for me and my brothers. All those times that my parents prayed with us is paying off now. All three of us boys have kept up a prayer life as adults and are trying to pass it on to our children and nieces and nephews.
By continuing this practice with our kids, we have been able to make it a routine on our trips. Not only is it good for our kids, it is good for Anna and me as well. Sometimes Anna and I get so caught up in our day-to-day activities and to-do lists that we don’t take time to let go and let God. We are always a little more at peace after praying.
Praying before meals
Praying before meals is a tradition in many families. However, we found ourselves not praying before meals when out in public. Sometimes we simply forgot while other times we were too uncomfortable to pray with others watching.
As Jude has gotten older, we have made him make the sign of the cross and fold his hands while we pray before meals whether we’re at home or at a restaurant. This past month, he was able to recite grace word-for-word, all by himself. While he was a little shy to say it, it blew us away that he could. It is amazing how much kids pick up without letting on. While not every attempt is a success with our kids, it is important to us that we try before every single meal. Last week, Jude was especially hungry and cranky. Once food was on the table, all he wanted to do was eat. We told him that we needed to pray first, and he responded with “Prayering is sooo hard!” Truer words have never been spoken. Sometimes prayer is really hard for us as a family and when we are really hungry, the last thing we want to do is take a few extra seconds and pray. But, praying together every day makes our family stronger.
Night time prayer routine
Every night before we put the kids to bed, we take baths, brush their teeth, read to them, and end with our night time prayer routine. We have modified our night time prayer routine over the years as Jude has gotten older. We now ask him what he is grateful for and who he would like to pray for on that day. Some days he prays for his grandparents, cousins, or sister and other days he goes off the rails and prays for paperclips, lamps, blankets, and every other word that comes to mind at that moment. Regardless of his response, we keep encouraging his input and want him to know that he can talk to God anywhere at anytime.
Pray for one person a day during Lent
When Lent comes around every year it seems that I am always scrambling to figure out what I am going to give up: lattes, alcohol, chocolate, etc. This past year I decided to do something extra instead of giving up something. My intention was to pray for a different person each day of Lent. Some of the people I prayed for had a special intention that they needed answered, some were people that I was grateful for, while others were for people that I can’t stand.
Jude is right; this “prayering is hard!” I believe after the 4th or 5th day of Lent, I would forget about my person of the day. I would say a quick little prayer for him or her, but I didn’t give them the full day like I intended. I tried my best, and I hope to practice this type of prayer again next year during Lent.
When Jude heard what I was doing, he wanted to create his own calendar and do the same thing. On the day before Ash Wednesday, I came home from work and saw this plastered on the wall.
Anna had printed out some calendar sheets for Jude, and he sat down at his makeshift desk and started taping the sheets to the wall. Once his calendars were posted, he stuck religious stickers on them and then scribbled on the sheets (and on the wall). After he was done decorating, Anna started filling out the calendar with him. We kept the sheets posted in a spot where he could look at the calendar and see who he was praying for that day. To be honest, he probably did a better job at keeping current with his list than I did. It was great to see him take an interest in this at such a young age.
It is our hope as parents that our kids will continue this prayer process as adults and with their own families someday. How do you pray with your child? Do you have any special routines or unique ways that you have incorporated prayer into your life with your kids? If so, I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.