“Chaplain Richard Halverson of the United States Senate told the story of a time when the subject of prayer in schools came up just before a Senator was to give a speech to several hundred men at a church’s annual men’s dinner. In response to the Senator’s question about how many of the church men believed in prayer in the public schools, nearly every man present raised his hand in the affirmative. Then the Senator asked, ‘How many of you pray daily with your own children in your home.’ This time, only a few hands were raised.”
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, And the heart of the children to their fathers…” (Mal. 4:6)
As a father, I am learning the importance of praying for my children. But I am also learning the importance of praying with my children –with all of them together and with each one individually. Praying with my children nurtures their own spiritual life and forges a spiritual bond between you and them and God.
It teaches them how to pray. As they hear me talk with God, they learn how to do the same. They learn that talking with God is not just a liturgical exercise that occurs at church or an emergency measure reserved for the most difficult moments in life. It is an ongoing conversation between God and me, and they can do the same.
It teaches them the value of prayer. It provides a peak “behind the scenes” into my life, teaching them that my relationship with God undergirds and motivates my expectations for them. It reassures them that God is their ultimate Father, and that I am merely their servant on His behalf. It reassures them that I fully expect that God will enable them to fulfill the instructions, goals, and aspirations that I place before them in life.
Praying with my children teaches my children that our relationship involves three people – them, me, and God. This heightened awareness of the presence of God in our relationship goes a long way in cultivating the fear of God, instilling in their hearts a desire to please Him and to lean on Him for every need they have. At the end of my parenting journey, I want my children to know God for themselves in a personal and powerful way. Praising God, asking God, and thanking God together for His goodness and the answers that He gives goes a long way towards accomplishing that goal.
Allow me to share with you some ways that you too can pray together with your children.
Pray together before meals. Make your dinner meal an opportunity for children to share requests and include those requests in your prayer. On occasion, let one of your children lead the family in the prayer before the meal.
Pray together in a time of family devotion. Read a Scripture verse or passage, share burdens, confess failures and offer forgiveness. Sing a song of praise (a children’s song or a standard hymn). And pray together. Give each child an opportunity to pray aloud.
Pray at your child’s bedside. Tuck them in at night and pray with them quietly. On occasion, take time to chat about the day, or whatever else is on their heart. (A child’s heart can be quite full at the end of a day.) Close your bedside pow-wow with a prayer to the Lord that flows directly from the conversation.
Pray with your child spontaneously during the day. Perhaps they share a request or personal failure with you while you are driving them home from school. Talk about it and then pray aloud with them, turning the burden immediately over to the Lord. This approach is more than appropriate for many situations.
Pray with your child individually as part of your own personal devotions. Invite one of your children to join with you in your bedroom, den, office, or prayer closet for a part of your own prayer time in the morning. Pray for other family members together. Ask your child to pray that God will help you be a better father; and pray for them to be a victorious son or daughter. Agree together that God has heard and answered your prayer.
I trust that these simple ideas will encourage you to find regular and meaningful ways to pray together with your children. As you draw your children into prayer with you more regularly, you will be heartened by the way that your own relationship with God will blossom and your child’s relationship with God will blossom – and your relationship with your child will blossom spiritually and personally as a result. May God bless you and your children abundantly in your mutual pursuit of His presence and power.
Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
- Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989). [↩]