When my daughter Caroline was little, we both loved bedtime. We would lay there, in the soft glow of her Peter Rabbit nightlight, telling tall tales, singing songs and laughing about the day. Before she went to sleep, we usually prayed together.
Across the hall, things were much livelier.
Bedtime for my active twin boys resembled a featherweight-wrestling match.
Courageously, my husband Mike took them both on, eventually battling them successfully into bed. When they were finally settled, Mike would tell them a quick hunting story, with lots of animals and danger, and say a brief prayer.
Bedtime is the time when many children first learn to pray. Often, for the sake of simplicity, a standard prayer is repeated. I’ve certainly done that. Many nights, we rushed through a prayer without giving it much thought. Sometimes, we skipped doing it altogether.
But there were nights when we took the time to really pray. Caroline would often surprise us with beautiful words. Sometimes, our boys challenged us with honest, straight-from-the-heart prayers.
I am so thankful for those times. As a mother of three, I’ve learned that praying with your children can be a struggle, but it is priceless.
What I wish that I’d known:
Be brief. Children have short attention spans, so marathon prayers make it hard for them to follow along. Avoid using standard phrases and clichés; instead, let the words flow from the heart.
Make it personal. When we ask our children what they want to pray about, their prayers are more meaningful. Talking about what is important to our children helps us understand them better and provides a great opportunity for bonding.
Don’t give advice. Prayer is a shared conversation with God. Avoid preachy comments to kids in your prayers. Prayer is not a lecture.
Include praise. Prayer is more than merely listing what we want. It is beneficial for children to learn to praise God in their own words. Praising God deepens a child’s understanding of Him.
Remember. Making an “answered prayer list” with our children is a great faith-building tool. I regret not making one. Remembering God’s provision together multiplies our gratitude and joy in prayer.
My children are grown now and live in different cities (even different states). I don’t have those bedtime opportunities to pray with them anymore, but I am thankful that each of my children now have a prayer life of their own. I wish I had done more praying and known more about it, but I am thankful for each night I spent sharing my heart and my faith with them.
If you have young children (or grandchildren), remember the opportunity to pray with them is f l e e t i n g. Even though you may be busy or very tired, take the time to teach your children about God. Pray with them and for them–it doesn’t have to be perfect or deeply theological–just pray from the heart, while you still have your children with you.
I love this quote from The Circle Maker (a great book on prayer):
“You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. Prayer is your highest parenting privilege.” Mark Batterson
5 Things to pray for our children:
- Give our children pure, honest hearts. Help them speak truth to others and to themselves.
- Remind them of your deep love every day. May they never feel unloved.
- Help them to listen to you and then to do what you say.
- May there never be a day when they walk away from you.
- Help our children to become a blessing to everyone in their path.
The main points of this post are featured in the April/May issue of Focus on the Family Magazine. I am thankful to have a small part in this publication that ministers to families across the world!