Men: Lead at Home (6)

Last week I posted some thoughts on individual prayer and prayer with my wife.  Today I’ll focus on prayer in the family.  Some of the things we do as a family to keep focused on Jesus include a morning breakfast bible story, praying together at meals, and praying together at bedtime.

Our schedule is currently such that we are all able to be home together for breakfast and dinner nearly every morning/evening of the week so we seize this time to connect.  At breakfast we use a children’s bible story book which has a verse to read, a brief story, some questions, and a Scripture passage to read.  Typically I read the story, Meg reads the passage, and we talk about the questions together while one or both of the girlies sit on my lap.  The whole thing takes about 5 minutes or less (matching their attention spans).

Dinner time is the one that is easiest for us to fall into the rut of routine.  Typically we just say a quick blessing over the food and get down to business (the one year-old doesn’t wait to get down to business in case you’re wondering).  What we’re aiming for here is for our dinner time to evolve into a more purposeful conversation focusing on talking about ways in which we’ve seen God at work in our day.  This does two things: it stretches the girls to see how Mom and Dad actually live out the stuff they’re always talking about and it stretches Mom and Dad to make sure that we’re reflecting throughout our day on ways that we do, in fact, see God at work.  Bedtime prayers, then could be an extension of this – praying over people and situations that we have talked about at dinner.

Currently, we say a brief prayer at bedtime thanking God for each person in our family; next we say Aaron’s blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 (Iris has been rehearsing this with me for over a year now which is sweet to my soul); we wrap up with a prayer that Iris concocted involving everything she knows about Jesus.  It goes something like this:

Dear God, thank you for Jesus.  Thank you that you sent him to be born in a stable in a manger in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph with lots of animals around.  Thank you that he grew up in Nazareth and became a man and died on the cross for our sins.  Thank you that he rose from the dead and went up into Heaven.  And thank you for blankie blankie.

In case you didn’t know, blankie blankie (Iris’s name for her beloved blankie) is an honorary member of the Trinity in her world.

I love our current bedtime routine, but I don’t like the fact that it is always a routine.  I don’t want my girls to simply memorize words, I want them to encounter God and know that we can pray anything – not just a set of words that we always pray.  As you can see, a lot of this is a work in progress.  We’re okay with that.  The worst thing you can do is nothing so doing something – even if it totally looks like a work in progress – is better than nothing. The other side of that is that with little kids, it’s always going to look like a work in progress…

To the men out there: How do you lead your family in prayer.  If you have little ones in the house, how are you cultivating a love for the Word in them?  What are some things that have worked for you prayer-wise?  What has been frustrating and not worked?

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~ by toddbumgarner on March 5, 2009 12:12 pm.

One Response to “Men: Lead at Home (6)”

  1. I have a wife and two little ones, 17 and 26 months old. I lead my family in prayer by praying with my wife, with my children and all of us together. At my boy’s ages, interactivity in language is minimal. I do most of the talking and if I want them to understand I have to keep it simple and related to tangible things.

    We do pray thanksgiving at meals, which is not just a hollow ritual (although a person could make it one). The word teaches us the difference between clean and unclean, that God has made all things good and nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving because it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. The focus of our prayer is not just the appropriate gratitude for the things we have received, but an acknowleding of that sanctification, and that we also are sanctified by faith in the name of Jesus. In this way we focus our prayer on the gospel and the reconciliation afforded us by Christ’s work.

    I’ve never required that my boys perform a ritual before eating, but the older one will bow his head and pray in his own words before eating even when I am not leading him. He is imitating me. I am pleased that he is being trained by my example, but I care more about his heart attitude than his outward expression.

    I never told him to bow his head, so when he started to do it I explained to him we do that to show reverence to God, and I explained that we can also look up. God told Abram to look up, David looked up to direct his prayers to God, and we’re told in the Psalms and Prophets to lift our eyes.

    Both my little ones have learned to lift their hands in worship. Again, I only ever taught them this by example, and they often take the initiative to do it at appropriate times. If we start to worship at meetings of the church, they clap their hands and their arms go up. Of course it’s cute, but I am also mindful to protect them from the admirations of people expressed in such a way that the little ones begin to think they are the focus of worship time.

    When we pray and say, “Amen,” it’s a que for them to lift a hand in praise — they seem to have decided that was appropriate on their own since I don’t do that.

    They’re accustomed to the name of Jesus, and they’re familiar with songs about Jesus. One song in particular I always sing at bed time.

    When I pray with my older son, I invite him to pray and allow him to include the things he wants to pray about. He always has a list of things to pray for that he tells me. We pray for each thing on his list in a way that is appropriate according to the scriptures by putting those things in their relation to Christ. I try to focus his attention not just on tangible people and things in his life, but on the person of Christ.

    Obviously, at these ages my example in how I relate to Christ and how I relate to my wife (which is intended to be a model of how Christ relates to me) affects my children much more than the things I say. Because of this, I focus on quantity time with my boys and not just quality time.

    When I pray for them, I do pray that they come to know Christ and that they have this eternal life, but I also pray more “baby steps.” Right now, as toddlers, the most important thing for them to learn is that they are under authority. God has put them under my authority and my wife’s and when they rebel and disobey they are not just making it difficult for us, they are defying God. I take the authority God has trusted me with as a serious responsibility that I will give an account of. Therefore I pray that God will help my children learn obedience and submission to authority. I know if they do not get this they will suffer terribly long after their rebellion ceases to be a mere irritation or bother to me and my wife. I pray God would open their hearts to my appeals to their conscience expressed by the rod and reproof.

    In reproving them, I direct them with the word. I will use whatever God has said that is appropriate to instruct them. Common situations call for instructing them that God is pleased when they obey papa and mama, when they disobey, they are disobeying and displeasing God (Eph 6:1) I remind them to do all things without murmerings and disputings (two year olds have a penchant for disputings in case anyone doesn’t know). I teach them that God hates the one who stirs up strife with his brother. I also show them the way to correct their behavior and have them do it. I am mindful to commend them when they do the right thing.

    When they are older and we’re able to converse more interactively, I will be able to use the word in helping them to probe their heart in situations that require it. It is a quick and powerful discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Right now they do not talk about what they are thinking or feeling, but when they begin to they will come to know the word as this sword that exposes us naked before God, but that we have an advocate in Christ with whom we can boldy approach the throne of grace to obtain mercy and help in time of need.

    At their present ages, everything will be well with my sons as long as they obey papa and mama, but as they get a little older there will be times when they will begin to face situations where there is no one to guide them and they will depend on their conscience and training to help them make right decisions. At that age my focus in prayer might be less on unconditional obedience and more on their attentivness to the Holy Spirit. I would pray for his guidance to them and for him to put them in rememberance of the things they had learned. As they become older still, there are many more specific things to pray for, but as toddlers at present I am focusing on their relationship to godly authority.

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