Mom, do you pray with your kids? Here’s some thoughts that might inspire you.
I’ve prayed with my kids every night since they were little. This means I do the lion’s share of the praying while they stare at their gummy vitamins and wait for me to say “Amen” so they can eat them. This is what I’ve taught my kids about prayer—it’s that annoying thing we must do before we can start shoveling food into our mouths.
If I want them to understand God better, I need to teach them how to pray.
It’s the most foundational thing we do as Christians. Even before we can (or decide to) read the Bible, we talk to God. I start to explain this to my kids, telling them God is like a father you can talk to about your problems or things you are excited about. I know they know how to do this because they bring me problems all the time. “Dad, I can’t get the cereal box open.” “Dad, where are my shoes?” “I have an ouchie. I need you to make it better.”
Being thankful and honest about our fears are great ways to approach God. I started asking two questions every night: “How can I pray for your tomorrow?” and “What’s one thing you were excited about today that you want to tell God about?” My kids open up right away, asking for help with their science fair projects or hoping God will help them win an award in class. They are thankful for their friends or teachers or a craft they made. These two questions help me better connect with my kids. It helps them get a better picture of God.
At first these questions brought thoughtful responses and led to interesting discussion and prayer times. But before long these questions became ritual, and their answers were always the same. “I’m thankful for my friends.” “I want God to help with school tomorrow.” They give these answers with the enthusiasm of a seventh-period science teacher. It strikes me how easy it is to just go through the motions with God.
That’s really what it’s all about for me—not mailing it in with my family or with God.
I know despite all my best efforts I will never bat a thousand or bowl a 300 game or obtain any other sort of fatherly perfection. I also know how numbingly mundane parenting young kids can be. We read the same bedtime stories every night, have the same progression of bath time and jammies, and do the same tuck-in routine—over and over and over. When I’m not careful, parenting becomes a to-do list of items to check off between getting home from work and turning on SportsCenter. My goal is not to be perfect, but to keep pushing myself to get better and to fight for a stronger connection as a family every day. When I’m approaching my parent job halfheartedly, I have to change things up. And when my kids are approaching God halfheartedly, I have to change things up for them.
Sometimes my girls have profound things to say about God and prayer. Sometimes their eyes glaze over during my explanations. But we talk about these things all the time. Prayer is normal and expected—a part of our daily life, like bath time and snacks.
Rob Stennett is an author and filmmaker. His wife, Sara, and their four daughters make their home in Austin, Texas.