Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Children's Prayer Time

Knowing what to do and what to say during a prayer time does not come naturally for anyone, especially not for a young child who doesn't truly have a personal relationship with the Lord yet. My children relate with God about as well as a 3 and 4 year old can, but it's not like they always relate well with anyone, let alone Someone they can't see, touch, and hear. The burden to make the relationship between God and our children happen is still on my husband and I but our goal is to teach them the steps they can take to build a strong relationship with their Lord; steps they can continue to take throughout their lives.

We have a "daily" (well, almost daily...) prayer time set out for our children, which we make a priority and help them with. It is modeled on our own personal prayer times but shortened and simplified for their understanding and attention span. I have written it on a small sheet of cardstock, illustrated with stick figures and colored by our daughters. After the prayers have been said, we read a short selection from a children's Bible and draw a stick figure illustration related to that Bible reading in a spiral bound notebook "prayer journal". Our goals are to:
  1. Provide opportunities for our children to encounter God personally. This won't happen all the time or even most of the time but if it happens just once or twice every 10 years it will still be worth the effort.
  2. Teach them how to pray. It may seem like a small thing, but removing even the small obstacles will encourage a deeper commitment to Christ.
  3. Make a relationship with God accessible to our children at their level. Luke 18:16.
The "Adoration" is covered well in our family prayer time, which takes place right before our children's personal prayer time, so we verbally make the connection for our children and move on to the next picture on their prayer chart. "Confession" is a prayer that they repeat after me and goes something like this: "Jesus, I love you. Please forgive my sins and please help me to be cheerful and obedient today. Amen." "Thanksgiving" is illustrated with a few wrapped presents and each person is supposed to come up with at least one or two things to thank Jesus for. "Supplication" is sub-divided into family, sick, neighbors and friends, and special intentions. For each subsection they are supposed to name at least one person they know who fits in that category and I ask Jesus to bless each of the people we just named. Sometimes we also take a moment for them to close their eyes and listen, but this can be like lighting a stick of dynamite: I never know what they'll come up with.

We've used 3 different children's Bibles with our children as well as a couple different devotional-storybooks. Our goal at this point is still just to familiarize them with the Bible and the stories in it. Eventually we do want them to read a good translation and the read the whole Bible, but I see no reason to read a difficult translation to a young child rather than a more understandable yet still faithful translation that they will learn more from.

Our daughters are quite proud of their prayer journals, with good reason. Each day we sketch a little picture related to the Bible reading and they color it in. The goal is for them to interact in some way with what was read in the Bible. This works so well that they can usually repeat the gist of the story to the parent who did not read it to them. So if my husband reads to them and draws the sketch, they can tell me what they read well enough that I can pick out the next day where they left off instead of repeating the same reading. We have read all the way through a children's storybook Bible I think 3 or 4 times and are currently reading through our first Gospel in the International Children's Bible. We are willing to skip parts if we think our children are too young, though we plan to read/have them read through the entire Bible several times before they are adults.

This entire process takes about 15 minutes/day. We've already seen many benefits in it, most especially in our children's familiarity with Christian topics and their childlike desire to please God. It takes some effort on our part, but the rewards are so great that they far outweigh the trouble it takes. Anything with rewards this great for only 15 minutes/day Works for Me.

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