What do you do when you have been praying regularly with your children and suddenly they won’t pray?
It happened to us a number of times. For multiple reasons. As adults, sometimes we are too angry to pray. We want time to think about what we are feeling without bringing God into it. Or we may feel that the person asking us to pray is trying to manipulate us to be on her or his side. We could even be right. It happens.The same thing happens with children.
As we know for ourselves, being prodded into praying when we are not there emotionally DOES NOT WORK.
Our children may mouth the words we want them to say, but they are still angry. They are not praying. They are simply performing under pressure. Talking to them about how God understands our anger and wants to hear from us anyway is worthless. True, but usually worthless in that moment.
We can see in the many angry psalms in the Bible that God wants to hear from us in our anger and despair, but that can be hard for our children to understand.
We need to model it. And we need to cry out to God in front of our children. They need to see that we cry to God about daily frustrations. That he is not just there to be thanked and to be prayed to for our important needs. But he is there for us for everything.
I wish I had done more of this with my children when they were young.
By the time they were adolescents, I had grown to be able to talk to him out loud in snatches at various times when they were with me. It had become my habit. Hearing me pray to God out of frustration over their situations gave them a deeper sense of who God is and what our relationship is. Just think how great it would have been if I could have started that with them as infants and toddlers. They would have known that God is there to be talked to even when we are not stopping our activity to pray and even when we are upset.
I’m quite sure I would not have vented to God about my daughters in their hearing.
My guess is that my modeling of verbal prayers for my daughters would have sounded much more positive than frustrated, because I would have been turning to God in that moment. I’ll bet I would have prayed something like, “Lord, help me and _______ in this difficult situation. Help us to figure out how to do what you want us to do.” How much better that would have been!
When I pray, I know God works in my heart.
He also works in my heart when others pray for me. The same is true for our children, especially when they hear the prayers. When children won’t pray, we need to pray for them. Even in their hearing.