By Cheri Fuller
A number of years ago my friend Beth suffered serious head injuries in a car accident. Comatose in the ICU for 36 hours, Beth had to stay in the hospital three weeks. Consequently, she and her husband were very sensitive to car accidents and whenever they heard sirens, they prayed for the victims. When their daughter Emily grew old enough to participate, this five-year-old became part of their "ER Prayer Team."
"Emily, I'm driving and need to pay attention," her mom said if they were on the road and an ambulance sped by. "Would you pray for this person and the family who'll get the news? And for the doctors in the ER who'll take care of them."
For Emily, praying for accident victims became just as natural as praying for her two friends at church with disabilities who've had several surgeries, or for an unchurched girl in the neighborhood.
It doesn't take a crisis to find reasons to pray with your children. There are plenty of everyday problems, situations, your own needs and the needs of others to pray about together. And when prayer is your first response instead of a last resort, you help your kids learn the value of going to God with the little things as well as the big things.
When I speak on prayer, moms often ask me, "How can I teach my children to pray?" Here are some ways:
Be a pray-er yourself and ask your kids to partner with you in prayer. Just like chicken pox or the common cold, motivation for prayer is contagious. Kids catch it from parents who practice prayer and talk and listen to God with their children in the spontaneous moments of living together. The most powerful teaching tool you have is to respond with the energies of prayer to all of the needs, burdens, concerns, and problems you face.
Help your kids see things around them as a visual aid to prayer. When they see a disabled parking spot, they could pray for those with special needs and disabilities. If you're driving and hear a siren or see an ambulance speeding down the street, ask one of your kids to send a prayer heavenward for the emergency room workers who will treat the injured people and for safety for the ambulance drivers. Many are hit by cars in route to or from an accident. And just as Beth did, bring your kids into the prayer circle when there is a problem or emergency situation you see or hear about by giving them a prayer target or a focused, specific thing to ask God.
Pray conversationally. Instead of saying a rote prayer over meals or formalizing prayer, speak to God as a friend, using simple, conversational language and short sentence prayers rather than long, flowery, formal words. Then kids think, "I could do that" and are more apt to talk to God in their own way and know that He hears them. Encourage your children that short expressions like, "Help, God," or "Thank You, Lord, for___." are wonderful prayers. And give them a hands-on way to pray, like putting a globe in the middle of the dinner table and letting each child spin it and pray a short prayer of blessing for the country their hand lands on.
Ground your prayers in God's word. Have your kids ever said, "I don't know what to pray!" when you ask them to? Teach them how the Bible can shape their prayers. When kids learn to pray God's word, their prayer vocabulary increases and they grow in confidence because their prayers hit the target and are right in line with God's best for their lives. Praying verses like Phil 4:13: "Lord, thank you that I can do all things (even my hard math homework) because you give me strength" or Psalm 106:1 "Thank you, Lord! How good You are!" can jumpstart their conversation with God.
As you take the ordinary experiences of life and turn them into prayer moments with your kids, you'll be guiding them into a closer relationship with their heavenly Father and an invaluable source of help and grace for the rest of their lives.
Lord, strengthen me with Your Spirit to be a praying mom, one who doesn't only teach my kids about You but lives in continual conversation with You so they'll know that they can go to You any time day or night and that You will listen and answer.
Copyright 2005 Cheri Fuller, adapted from When Children Pray (Multnomah Publishers) and The Mom You're Meant to Be: Loving Your Kids While Leaning on God (Focus on the Family)
(Use only with permission of author.)
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