Family Prayer

Family Prayer

As the parent of a rather strong-willed three-year-old boy, I know the value of routine. We have a routine for naptime. A routine for washing hands. A routine for brushing his teeth. These actions not only are made easier through repetition, but they also become engrained as habits. So I know the benefit of intentional repetition, and we’ve made a routine for our family that is the most important thing we do together. Every night, we pray as a family.

The Bible says to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul encourages parents to bring children up “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (6:4). Part of this training is from direct guidance and correction, but a large part—perhaps even the largest—comes from children’s resemblance to our friends in the good ol’ Phylum Porifera family of absorbent animals. You might know them better by their work for Scotch-Brite. I’m talking about sponges, and they share this unique feature with our kids: they soak up everything.

If you have a small child and you’ve ever unintentionally let slip a word when you smashed your thumb or got rear-ended, you know what I’m talking about. Hearing a word one time is all it takes, and suddenly it’s their new favorite expression. Because as much as kids are like sponges, they’re also like Big Brother and Santa Claus—they are always watching. Like the Eyes of Texas, their eyes are upon you. So it is imperative that we model for our kids the behavior we want them to emulate.

The fruit of the Spirit is a pretty safe bet: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). Children also need to witness how we relate to God; they’ll learn more from watching our relationship with the Lord than from anything they read or hear elsewhere. If they see that we put very little time into the relationship, have better things to do, or engage out of apparent boredom or a weary sense of duty, then they will not have the same foundation as if they witness a hunger to know God, a deep, abiding respect for His holiness, and a commitment to dedicate time every day to pray.

What this looks like in your family may not be the same as in mine. The important thing is that you are modeling that relationship and commitment for them, and if you are doing it out of sincerity, it will also be a blessing to you as you seek God and lay your needs before Him. We pray at every meal, but at bedtime we say a family prayer all together and then each person says one thing he or she is thankful for or has a need about. Because my son is three, sometimes he has the sillies and wants to wiggle and giggle through the prayer. Sometimes he doesn’t want to kneel or throws a fit if one of us starts the prayer and he wanted to go first. These become teaching moments to help him learn the respect and attention we need to give to God, and he is learning. We’ve been doing it with him for years, from before he could talk and pray along with us.

And every once in a while he’ll come out with something that he wants to pray for and it will simply blow us away. There’s something special about hearing my child praying for me or thanking God that I’m his Daddy. What a blessing.

Your child will form habits of one kind or another. So take that step, make it routine, and stick to it. The family prayer—it’s not just for mealtimes.