When our oldest son was born nine years ago, we felt the weight and blessing of bringing a precious child into this great big world of ours. We knew the second we held him in our arms that life was indeed changed forever and there was no way we could care for our baby well on our own. We needed Jesus! The miracle of becoming a parent to a child created fearfully and wonderfully by God intended just for us…well, that is one blessing worth protecting and covering with prayer.
I remember praying over him at night as he lay in his crib and then again upon waking a few short hours later while nursing him. I prayed for his safety as he learned how to walk on wobbly legs and tiny feet. And when his baby brother arrived two years later, I prayed for him then, too. Countless prayers for our now four sons go up to Heaven each day.
There’s a blessed burden…a desperation that a mamma’s heart feels to lift her child up and ask for God’s help and wisdom, that just comes with the title of “Mom.” This privilege we have to pray for our children also extends to the joy and call to pray with them as well. My husband feels the same way. We decided a long time ago that teaching our boys how to pray starting as soon as they could talk was very important. So, to make it a habit, we began praying with them at bedtime.
Now, if you’re thinking that this sound daunting because your child is so young and will barely sit still for even a moment, I understand. We had to seriously adjust our expectations of what prayer time looked like in our home at night. Mainly, when they’re little, praying means you’re giving them the simple child-like words that go along with a child-like faith. They trust you and want to do what you’re doing. So for a very long time, we just thanked God with our children for all of the things we were thankful for that day. And for a very long time, prayer time looked and sounded more like monkeys at the zoo. Still, to this day, there is laughter and interruptions, bathroom breaks, bunny trails that lead to questions, and yes, sometimes there may be a moment of discipline while we have to settle one brother down and stop another from teasing during prayer time. All part of the learning process.
If I’m not careful, this mamma’s heart can sink into a pit of defeat and feelings of failure because still, my children struggle to be quiet when we’re praying. But, they’re learning. It’s sinking in, and God has freed me from these feelings. They’re children. They don’t have the self control of an adult. They are still learning how and why we pray. And, if I really think about it…all these years of praying before bed has actually engrained it into their young hearts and minds so much that they miss it on the rare occasion we haven’t prayed because someone is already asleep and we need to be quiet.
As our sons have grown, their understanding of why and how we pray has grown as well. And the weariness I often feel in the trenches of motherhood bring me to places in my prayer life and relationship with Jesus I never dreamed possible. If I want my children to know that Jesus isn’t just some God in a box you pull off the shelf whenever you need help, then I need to show them He’s not. They need to see how real Jesus is. That He walks with us through out our lives and in the midst of every moment of our days. They need to see what conversation with God looks like and how I rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, wisdom, and comfort. And they need to see me call out for God’s mercy when life is tough and ask for forgiveness when I’ve messed up.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
So when can we pray with our kids? What does that look like? I can tell you what it looks like for us….
Prayer looks like… me reading books with my children under a blanket. Toys everywhere. Dishes and laundry piled high. iPhone sitting in the next room…ignored. Laptop closed for a while. And a question arises about a seemingly sinister character in one of our stories, which leads to a discussion about honesty. Then we pray for God to show us how to always be truthful with others.
Prayer looks like… me having a tough day. Nothing is going right. I’m weary from all the items on my mental to-do list and my boys have nothing nice to say to one another, and then I finally remember there is a way through this mess. Prayer! So I gather us all together and very simply ask God to change our hearts, change our minds, and change our attitudes right now in Jesus’ name. This shows them that I can’t do it on my own and neither can they.
Prayer looks like… one of my sons coming into our room at night after having a bad dream. So we pray together for God to take any and all bad thoughts away, to relieve and remove all fears, and to bless him in his dreams the rest of the night.
Prayer looks like… a fellow mom and friend reaching out in need of prayer for her husband who is in the military and she’s worried for his safety, so I lead us in prayer with tears streaming down my face. And they see the raw emotion and desperation this mamma has for another mamma and her sweet family. They need to see what it looks like to lift others up in prayer and know that He is sovereign and performs miracles.
Prayer looks like… us driving to a friend’s house to play and praying on the way over that God would be in the midst of our conversations and help us be good and kind friends to those we care about.
Prayer look like… praying in the car for the man we just saw walking out of the food bank wearing plastic bags over his feet and old torn clothes hanging on his thin frame.
Prayer looks like… me pulling my child in close to ask for forgiveness again for my impatience and adult-sized expectations out of a tiny person. My son forgives me and then I ask God to forgive me, too.
Prayer looks like… my husband having a rough day at work and texting me to let me know. He needs to know we’re on his side and standing in his corner. We are. And we show him by calling him back to let him know we’ve prayed together for him. And he is encouraged. Our children need to see us supporting and lifting one another up in prayer.
Prayer looks like… one of our kids getting hurt or needing surgery and so we gather around him and pray for his healing and wholeness. They need to know that in the midst of pain and difficulty, we go to God for our help.
Prayer looks like… checking in with our kids every day to see how they’re doing. What was the high and low point of their day? We talk about these things and then pray about them, thanking God for all He’s doing in our lives, even when circumstances are difficult.
And prayer looks like… any ordinary day made extraordinary by abiding in Christ through constant prayer that is honest and real and sometimes messy, shared between mother and child.
Will you share what prayer looks like with your children?