What does a child who has grown up in prayer look like to you? (Get a mental picture)
Individually, we know that prayer is important. Alone, we can pray as we wish, for as long as desired, and about whatever is on our heart. Praying alone is good, but when we come together as a family unit, the power of agreement (Matthew 18:19-20) makes prayer even more effective.
The family is the foundational unit of our lives. They are the ones we typically spend the most time with, and the ones who know most of our struggles. As such, they should be the first line of defense against the enemy and the coaches to lead our young people in finding their spiritual passions and the wonders of God. They are the ones holding the spiritual batons that get passed from generation to generation.
The church cannot mentor the next generation well when all they have is a few hours of their time. God’s plan according to Scripture is for the family (parents) to do this at home and for the church to reinforce what was being taught in the home.
- Prayer strengthens family ties through intentional times of connecting with each other
- Resolves conflict: prayer helps guide the dreams, desires, needs, attitudes, habits of the diverse people in the home (especially blended families)
- Change hearts: it creates transformation versus forced behavior
- Opens communication: times of sharing and transparency
- Encourages forgiveness and reconciliation
How does the family do this?
With so much busyness how does the family successfully build a praying unit? Little by little. Consistently. Day by day.
There’s something called an 80/20 Principle which says that small, targeted factors end in the greatest results. It shows that those who achieve most are those who are selective, consistent, and determined.
It’s the small, selective things that parents do that can produce a lifetime of fruit in their children. Rather than putting a lot of effort into a bunch of activities that have little to no eternal value, put targeted effort into the important, eternal things. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying other activities, but not at the expense of spiritual development.
If you had to prove that you (rather than the Church or anyone else) spent sufficient effort on your children’s spiritual development, could you? Could you prove your home was a place of spiritual training?
A spiritual atmosphere
Every place we go has its own atmosphere – in the natural and the spiritual. We are all affected by these atmospheres, including our children. However, it is the home that impacts us the most. Homes can be chaotic, depressing, violent, peaceful, etc., all based on what is allowed to happen there.
If you were to be honest, what atmosphere operates in your home? Is it a place like Eden – God’s model of peace and communication – or it is otherwise?
Thermometers MIRROR what is happening in the home, whereas thermostats SET the desired temperature, and keep it in range. We don’t ask someone at church to change the thermostat of our home; we do that. God expects us to control the spiritual climate of our home. And when we change it, others feel it!
The heavenly atmosphere God desires is described in Romans 4:17, “The Kingdom of God is… righteousness, peace, and joy…” And God will manifest His presence wherever the atmosphere is right.
How do we create this atmosphere?
Before we can expect God to move, we need to create an atmosphere for Him to move in.
- We invite Him.
- God doesn’t force His way into our home, or lives.
- Just like we clean and decorate our homes to make guests feel welcome, we are to clean out the sin, the fighting, the chaos, etc. that pushes Him away.
- We personally welcome Him with an open heart, and honest, open communication.
- We can set the mood with Bible reading, and worship music
- Worship Him.
- Just as Heaven is filled with worship, we fill our home with worship.
- God inhabits our worship.
- God will not stay where He feels unwanted or where He feels He’s a bother.
- He wants to be desired, and not feel like we are simply doing our duty.
- Walk with Him.
- Listen to what He is asking you to do, change, or surrender.
- Respond to that voice.
Sometimes the shift will take some time. We can’t just turn a knob or change a setting on a thermostat and get INSTANT results.
Once we have created an atmosphere to welcome the Lord, we need to include others. Instead of forcing or preaching to our family, we need to invite them to this experience.
Be aware that how adults relate to God in prayer in front of children affects how the children view God. If we relate to Him as primarily a disciplinarian, remote, or uninterested, they will struggle with knowing Him any differently. They need to know Him as both Father (Matthew 6) and Friend (Matthew 7), as Jesus taught the disciples. They need to witness His kindness, love, patience, and openness, which must be modeled by those they watch.
Launching family prayer
If prayer is not something your family is accustomed to doing consistently together, you may feel overwhelmed. Here are some practical tips to help you get started:
- Don’t worry about being perfect, just start.
- Decide when and where you will meet.
- Guard this time on your schedule
- Pray over the spot you select – The Spirit of God often lingers in a place where people meet with Him regularly.
- Decide what role each person will have
- Worship leader
- Scribe (someone to record what God says to you)
- Note: these may change over time.
How to stay on track
- Start with whomever is willing, even it’s just you.
- Be flexible, yet persistent – if one meeting fails, don’t quit, just start again
- Put cell phones away (and other distractions)
- Meet even if one member can’t attend
- Meet even if you are on vacation
- Consider the age ranges involved
- Keep shorter for younger ages
- Allow younger ones some quiet playing (they still listen)
- Don’t criticize if kids/youth don’t want to participate in leading, but always invite them to do so.
- There should never be punishment for someone who doesn’t want to participate. Prayer is a relationship, and must not be forced.
- Often letting them lead something will make them want to be involved
- Don’t criticize if others don’t pray like you (or at all)
- Incorporate the creativity and talents of the family members
- Keep track
- Keep a journal of requests and praise reports
- Regularly review what is recorded
If you are busy, remember, that priorities are made by people – we all find time to do what we really want to do
Who can lead?
- Parents, although you may feel inadequate – especially if you did not see it modeled in you home growing up.
- Wives, although you may feel out of place.
- Children and/or youth, though they may need coaching.
Get that mental picture back in your mind again of what a child who has grown up in prayer looks like. Now, what are you doing to make it happen in your home?