Praying out loud with a young baby seems to have absolutely no benefit for your baby.
Your prayer reaches God, but your baby is too young to understand. In fact, toddlers might loudly say “Amen!” in an attempt to end your prayer and regain your attention. The first time it happens, you may giggle unexpectedly. Unfortunately, Nana love does not prevent it. I have giggled during prayer as a parent and as a grandparent. I also remember that as an older child I thought it was funny when one of my sisters or I was able to make a parent laugh during prayer.
So why do I believe in the huge importance of Nana love prayer with babies? Because babies grow up. And because children learn from us. And we don’t know when God starts to give them his peace through prayer. Maybe from day one.
What is important for us to make time and space for—even when it is not convenient—impresses children as important.
There is no magical day on which they reach understanding. They gradually figure it out. Likely they’ll never know when prayer first made sense to them. If you haven’t been praying with your children yet, I encourage you to try it. Even if you need to talk to God about your feelings of awkwardness privately beforehand, show your children the importance of talking to God out loud together.
Just tell them it’s time to talk to God.
If you are starting a new habit with older children, explain that since God wants us to talk to him regularly, you want to do it together and not just silently. Don’t worry if they shrug or make a face. You’re showing them the importance of prayer through your persistence. God will reward that effort.
I remember that each time one of our toddlers first said “Amen!” in a happy voice after us, we were thrilled.
Did that mean she had any idea she was talking to God? No. She probably just knew her saying it would bring her positive attention. But was she on a path of learning how to talk to God regularly and effectively? Yes.
We were also amazed at how young they were when they first learned to be quiet while we were praying at the dinner table. True, it took significantly longer for them to be quiet for the whole reading of the Bible passage and devotional. And even then, their behavior was not always consistent.
We had to be ready for interruptions for quite a while. But with our infant daughters—as is now true with our active, toddler grandson—we saw them understand quite early the reverence they saw in us during our quiet prayer time.
At first it was hard not to giggle as they tried to engage us to distract us from prayer or devotions. It’s hard not to engage with our grandson when he sometimes calls, “Nana!” and “Gaga!” during prayer. But they will understand in time that Nana love and Grandpa love involves praying with them and for them.
As we persevered as parents, our children learned to respect prayer and eventually to participate.
We’re sure our grandsons will too. The thrill of hearing a child earnestly pray out loud for the first time is something unlike anything else.
What has gone well or been difficult for you in praying with your child or children?