“I want to pray with you.” My 3-year-old daughter told me that at 6:40 A.M. She woke up early to pee pee on the potty and asked what I was doing. I had woken up at 5:30 A.M. to spend time in Bible study and prayer. I was only halfway through my prayer requests when she woke up so I told her that I was praying. And she said, “I want to pray with you.”
This was a little frustrating. I had been trying to wake up early to read the Bible and pray. I could have reacted in a couple of ways. It would have been easiest to get irritated. After all, she was interrupting my prayers. Or I could have rejected her kindly and told her no. After all, this was daddy’s special time to pray by himself. But instead, I told her yes. She climbed into my lap and I led her to say a brief prayer.
The Holy Spirit used this experience to teach me a few lessons about how to pray with my kids:
Lesson #1: Interruptions are Opportunities
Early morning is the best time for me to focus and be alone. In order for that to happen, I have to wake up while my family is still asleep. But you can never predict when a 3-year-old is going to wake up. Sometimes she wakes up earlier than usual. And then she wants to play while I’m still trying to pray.
I used to get aggravated when this happened. I would stop praying and start spending time with her instead. But now when this happens I try not to see it as an interruption but rather as an opportunity. I turn the disruption into a teaching moment and use it to show her how to pray.
Lesson #2: Include not Exclude
If my daughter wakes up while I’m praying, I usually hope she plays by herself until I’m done. And if she asks to pray with me, I want to say no and explain that this is time for me to be alone. That seems legitimate, but what sort of impression would that give her about prayer? That only grown-ups can do it? That it can only be done alone? That she cannot participate? That she should not interrupt?
These are signals I don’t want to send. I want her to know that she can jump in and join me anytime she sees me praying. So now when I’m praying I try not to exclude her and make her feel like she should go away. I try to include her by asking if she wants to pray with me or if she wants me to pray for her.
Lesson #3: Families Need to Pray
Just like I need to pray by myself, so my family needs to pray together. This is how my kids will learn to have a healthy prayer life. I have to do more than tell them to pray; I have to show them how. My job as a Christian parent is to bring my relationship with God to show-and-tell!
So take every chance you get to pray with your kids. It can be in the morning before they go to school. It can be in the afternoon after they get home from school. It can be in the evening before or after dinner. It can be at night before they go to bed.
If you don’t pray, now is a great time to start! Your kids will be blessed from simply seeing you pray on a regular basis. And don’t pretend to be a “prayer warrior.” If all you pray are short, simple prayers, so be it. Just remember to take advantage of every opportunity you get to include your kids in your prayers.
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