“. . .and God bless Hop-along Cassidy and Topper.” Hop-along Cassidy was an old black and white TV western; Topper was his horse. I was three and my parents were embarrassed. You see, they had invited our pastor to eat dinner with us, and I wanted to say the blessing over the food. Of course, that prayer has become my connection with that pastor even into my adult years. He has never forgotten; years later he chuckled the story to my college friends, much to my lighthearted embarassment. But neither have I forgotten that episode; my parents had encouraged me to pray when I was very young.
As our children grow up, it is the right thing to ask them to pray. In our home, each one had a day of the week that was his or her day to say the blessing over the meal, just part of our routine. There is no substitute for asking God for help. And many times God waits to be asked.
Philippians 4: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Sometimes our kids turn the tables and teach us to pray. During a particularly stressful time, as a young dad, I was anxious and quite upset about numerous things, trying to figure out what to do, how to get things done. My five-year-old daughter Anna came joyfully into the room carrying her little children’s Bible. “Listen to this, Dad,” she said. “The wicked do not ask God for help. Isn’t that neat?” Then she turned on her happy little heels and left the room. But those words hung in the air, soaking into my spirit, altering my attitude, giving me the word I needed for the moment—pray.
Praying is saying to God, “I need you.” Failing to pray is saying to God, “I don’t need you.” And that is exactly what the wicked say. Which practice are we teaching our children?
Gathered tips on teaching kids to pray: Krista shared this idea in one of our workshops: “We are teaching our two-year-old to pray, ‘As I lay me down to sleep. . . ‘” This is how children learn. . .by rote. Teach them a memorized prayer: “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for this food. Amen.” Bedtimes, mealtimes are easy times to incorporate a short prayer.
Another time to pray is trouble time. Kris and Bob had taught their son to pray when he was in trouble. At age seven, he was in trouble; and as mom (Kris) entered the room, paddle in hand, Josh called out loudly, “DAD, DAD.” Kris said, “Dad’s at work; he can’t hear you.” Without missing a beat, Josh cried out, “JESUS, JESUS.” Kris tried not to laugh but couldn’t help it. Josh watched in wonder as Jesus delivered him from trouble—that time.
Question for next week: Share with us how you have seen your example affect your children and what they do. (Just click the white envelope below.)