All three of my adult daughters have commented at some moment that the best thing we did as parents was to have family prayer time.
Does this mean they always felt that way, or that it never felt like a chore to fulfill? I’m sure not. I know we parents often felt family prayer time was something we needed to power through in our exhaustion.
But our little girls experienced some of their best answers in response to family-time prayers. They often also found that time at the end of each day to be a bit of comfort . As a family, we shared concerns together we never would have otherwise.
We sort of stumbled onto it, but we came to value it highly. When our oldest first began talking, we started praying with her at her bed before saying goodnight. Like lots of parents.
My husband and I made a point of both doing this together with her.
That is probably the conscious decision that turned it into “Family Prayer Time.”
We started with very simple “God bless Grandma and Grandpa G.” kinds of prayers. She was an early talker. At two she was praying that I would have a baby sister for her. Then one day she got suspicious: “Mom, you and Dad aren’t praying too, are you?” I had to admit that we were not praying for that yet.
When she did have a little sister, we started having prayer time together in the little one’s room. In early years, it was the youngest who went to bed first. So we prayed together in her room.
Eventually, predictably, we parents began going to bed soonest and called for prayer time when we were ready to head to bed. By then we were so much bigger and older that we preferred the comfort of the family room.
When the girls were teens, prayer time usually took 15-30 minutes. But sometimes it took long enough for a parent or siblings to become impatient and wonder if the time were worth it. During this time I’m sure having to do family prayer time was often an annoyance to our older, busy kids.
One interesting fact, however, is that I have no memory of the girls complaining about prayer time. Church, yes. Baths, yes. Vegetables, yes. But never prayer time.
I asked one of my daughters recently if she had ever resented it. She was a bit surprised by the question: “No. It was just always something I thought was normal.”
The rewards have been tremendous!
We now see our grown daughters take their needs to Jesus regularly. We see them pray with others. And we have even learned of their leading others to know who Jesus is.
All became comfortable praying out loud with others at far younger ages than my husband and I did. We believe this is because of family prayer time.
Is there a version of this that could work in your home? Or do you have a different prayer tradition that blesses you and your children?
[photo by jordan-whitt-1453271.jpg]
How much do prayers matter?
Have you ever felt nervous telling your child about something you are praying for? You know prayers matter, but you’re nervous about sharing a prayer with your child because you’re sure God’s answer will be “No.” I have.
Prayers matter more than we know, as my first daughter can tell us.
One morning hours after taking my baby and toddler to a huge neighborhood garage sale, I panicked. I realized I had left my beautiful, new stroller sitting on the busy sidewalk.
My internal debate began: –Oh, no! I can’t believe I was that stupid when I was packing the kids up.
–Please, Lord, let it still be there.
–Oh, I need to pray out loud, so that Katie can see that you are the one we turn to for help.
–But I can’t pray out loud because I know this was my stupidity and not something you are probably just going to fix for me.
–I really don’t want her to decide that you don’t answer prayer, just because your answer is No on this one.
–But I also don’t want her to think we don’t pray about things just because we’re the ones that messed them up.
As I turned the car back toward that busy corner, I explained all of this to my three-year-old.
Little Katie interrupted me, saying, “Mom, you drive. I’ll pray.”
As we drove, she prayed with folded hands and tightly closed eyes. The only way she knew to pray. She peeked every now and then and finally saw the corner.
Katie said, “There it is! I knew God would put his angels around it to hide it from the bad guys.” Today she recalls this as the first time she was sure God was real.
My second daughter’s earliest memory of prayers answered came with her detachable bed bar.
Somehow we had left it in an unknown motel.
Julia instantly decided she was going to pray and knew God would bring it back to her. Though we didn’t argue with her, we nervously thought that it wasn’t that simple.
“The mail carrier will bring it to me,” she told us. A few days later she looked out of her bedroom window and announced, “There comes the mail carrier with my bed bar!” Sure enough, a motel whose address and number we had never written down had found our address. They had shipped our toddler’s bed bar back to us. This experience created in Julia a simple, absolute faith that her prayers matter to God.
Our youngest daughter’s earliest memory of answered prayer was the recovery of her Angela baby doll.
Angela went everywhere with her but one day disappeared. We searched for hours, assuring Stephanie we would find her. When bedtime came and we had looked everywhere we knew without finding her, we were baffled.
During our family prayer time, we prayed that God would keep Angela safe and out of the rain that night. We even prayed that someone loving would find her and adopt her, if she had to be gone for good.
The next morning, walking our oldest to school, I saw notices tacked up on trees and telephone poles down the street: “FOUND. A MUCH-LOVED BABY DOLL. CALL ###-#### TO CLAIM.”
Someone walking his dog before the rain started had found her, evidently dropped out of Stephanie’s stroller. Stephanie was thrilled and knew at that moment that God loved her enough to care about her Angela doll too!
Each of these instances reminds me that God used my broken ways of bringing my daughters to him to create faith in their hearts. He showed them their prayers matter–even when my own prayers were faithless.
As a budding eight-year-old atheist, I traumatized my parents by throwing over Christianity.
Ours was an overtly Christian household, with both parents having the gift of evangelism. And my dad was a pastor. I had definitely believed when younger. But the influence of an excellent third-grade teacher—a strong humanist—changed that completely.
One night after family devotions, I announced to my family, “I don’t think I can believe all that stuff. Mrs. Allen says there is no God. People just created the idea of God as a crutch to lean on. He’s only an idea for weak people.”
My parents were shell-shocked. My dad spent countless hours explaining to me all the proofs of the reality of Jesus Christ. No dice. After months of frustration with my stubborn disbelief, my mom—in her desperation—decided to do the only other thing she could think of.
She began sharing with me daily examples of her prayers to Jesus.
She also shared how he was answering them. Bingo. I don’t remember what she was praying about most days. Certainly things in her kids’ daily lives. Probably about how yucky she felt while pregnant. I know those are the kinds of things she asked me to pray for after I grew up.
One answered prayer stands out hugely though. That day she ran into the house over-the-top excited because her dentist had prayed to receive Christ with her. We all knew she had been praying for him. She knew he had tough stuff in his life, but she also knew she couldn’t take up appointment time to talk about Jesus with him. On the day of her excitement, he had told her that he had purposely scheduled no one after her, so he could ask her more questions.
It turns out he and his new wife were going through a really rough time with their newly blended family—three teen-aged daughters. Mom’s joy had attracted him. He wanted that for his family. Later the whole family became Christians after my parents met with him and his wife together.
That day I saw the reality of Jesus Christ in the power of my mom’s personal relationship with him.
I now see that she had finally resorted to what the disciples did as the first ones to introduce others to Christ. She told me about her daily companion and Lord of her life. I had no moment of sudden realization–simply gradually returning to believing in Jesus Christ. I’m sure my parents wondered for a long time whether my faith was solid or not. I can’t tell you a time either, but I know Jesus spoke through my mom’s uncertain words to me.
I know many parents and grandparents want their children to know Jesus Christ as Lord. But sometimes they’re unsure what to do. They feel they don’t know enough. Or they feel not good enough to be the best examples.
What has nurtured your faith in the most noticeable ways? Is there an eight-year-old atheist or some other child in your life you could share that experience with?