I am sure most of us can finish that line. It is a common prayer taught to children to say before they eat. While teaching the importance of prayer is a good thing, I can't help but be drawn back to Matthew 6:5-14. Jesus tells us not only tells how to pray, but how not to pray.
As I prepared the Bible lessons this week for Lil' Man, I felt my heart yearning for him to have a true understanding of prayer. Our focus for the next few weeks is "Praying to our Father". I want him to know what a truly wonderful, intimate, and humble time it can be. I began my Google search how to teach children to pray and I found myself dismayed with most of the search results. Many of the suggestions that popped up were rote prayers for children to learn. I found prayers for bedtime, meals, when they are scared, etc. This is not what I wanted for my children. Jesus said "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard for their many words.". I feel like that is what I would be teaching my children to do, babble.
I think we all, in some ways, have done this...myself included. I am not only guilty of the "babbling prayer", but have led my children to believe that is how to pray. Prayer time was almost tasking. A list, if you will, that had to be checked off as you talked to God. A prayer that was not much different than a rote prayer memorized as a child. I want my children to know that prayer is not something done out of routine, but out of a desire to be close to their Heavenly Father. I would much rather them forget a prayer at meal time than say a prayer over their food "because that is what you have to do".
Prayer is intimate. I think of the conversations my husband and I have about life, love, and family. The kind of conversations no one else is privy to hearing. We are not babbling out a bunch of nonsensical words just to be heard. There are times when the conversation is light and amusing; there are times when the conversation is deep and thought provoking. I want my children to discover the beauty of intimate conversations with the Father. The kind of prayer that is not trying to sound "smart", not trying to compete in "holiness" with another person, or trying to come up with the most words...no, I want something more for them.
So, again, I was back to how do I teach them this? You don't teach them how to pray, you show them how to pray. Is that not what Jesus did? Matthew 6:9 - "This, then, is how you should pray...". I know I make a lot of mistakes in parenting, but the one area I want to never fail is in raising my children to love the Lord, follow Him no matter what the cost, and fulfill His calling in their lives. I don't have the "right" answers on this subject...or many others. I can only go by what I feel God is leading me to do and looking to His truths.
This week, we, as a family, have really focused on praying to our Father. When routine prayer has been a big part of your life, it is hard to break away. Although hard to break away, it has been a blessing to begin to see the results. Out of the prayers we share together as a family, my hope is then that my children will be able to go to their Father during their own private time and bask in the special moments spent with Him.
In clarification for some of what I have written...I am not saying we never prayed...I am saying we fell too often into the prayer of routine. I am sure there are many people who have figured this out sooner and are tsking at this blog entry. If you, however, are like me - learning and growing as I go, then I hope this blog entry makes sense. It is not an entry to judge or mystify others. This is me sharing what has been on my heart; my hope and desires for me and my family.
**As a little bit of humor to my post...today Lil' Man was praying and part of his prayer (after telling God that he liked our chickens) was that we go to Walmart to get avocados. My favorite part about it, he said it so honestly and not as a "I want a new car" type of request. He never mentioned it before we prayed or after we prayed. It made me smile (and laugh inside a little).