Praying with our children is so important but it can also be challenging at times. With a 4 year old and a 7 year old, we've seen our fair share of awkward prayer moments. Here are just a few, with tips on how we've overcome these challenges. At least, for the moment.
When my 4 year old gets tired she has a tendency to get a bad case of the wiggles, which can really be distracting (not to mention disrespectful) during prayer.
Maybe your little one has the same problem...
She puts her hands together well intentioned, but then the urge to do a somersault is more than she can bear.
So she slowly leans forward placing her head on the bed, pulls her knees up under her and gives a little push off her feet.
She falls to the side, decides to try again and falls to the other side.
Third times a charm, right?
As I'm praying, my hand reaches over in an attempt to hold her still, but then a foot randomly kicks me in the face.
Because my eyes were closed I never saw it coming.
My voice becomes more stern, filling with irritation and I start to lose my train of thought.
The prayer ends abruptly with a frustrated mommy and a little girl on the verge of tears because she feels so bad for accidentally kicking her mama.
Please tell me I'm not the only Christian mom this has ever happened to! :-)
Well, here's what I've found works best for controlling the wiggles.
- On those nights when you know your child is really tired, pray together right after putting pajamas on and BEFORE any reading or other nighttime ritual you may have.
- Consider starting a "I prayed well!" sticker chart where your child can work up to earning a fun reward of some sort.
- Explain to your child that prayer time is special time we have to talk to God. It's very important that we treat Him with a whole lot of respect when we pray. Sometimes just talking about what's appropriate and what isn't is enough to get the behavior to stop.
This is a tough subject to discuss with children. Not long ago I wrote a post about explaining death and grieving to my child. The question of why God allows bad things to happen, was a part of our discussion.
The reality is our children are going to find out that not every prayer sent upward will be answered the way their little heart desires. God always has a plan and a purpose in how He answers prayers. Often times He provides an answer that is far better than we realize, if only we could see things from His all-knowing perspective.
We need to be talking to our children about their specific prayer requests and teaching them how to pray God's word. We also need to help them understand God answers prayers according to His will and in His timing, not ours.
Unfortunately many of us struggle to understand and accept that reality ourselves. But it's true! When we spend time getting to know who God is and what His word teaches us, our prayers will naturally begin to line up with what His will is for us.
It's About Perspective...
My daughters often pray for God to help them have a good day. So what happens if nothing seems to go well for them that day? Did God not answer their prayers for a good day?
Well, actually, yes He did answer their prayers. This is where talking through the good things about the day can help.
- Are they alive?
- Are they home safe and sound with a roof over their head?
- Did they have three decent meals and a few snacks, plus plenty to drink?
With girls, there's often a lot of emotional drama when something doesn't go well. My daughters will get into a tiff with each other and stomp off hollering "this is the WORST day of my entire life!"
I let them have their moment, and when they calm down I discuss with them why it actually isn't the worst day of their life. This also helps emphasize the importance of gratitude in our circumstances.
The other night my 4 year old prayed for God to "keep the other kids at my old preschool missing me and talking about me!" Obviously at 4 years old she is still in the it's-all-about-me phase.
The next day I had a discussion with her about her request. I explained that God may choose not to answer that prayer for her because He doesn't want to see another one of His children heartbroken over missing their friend.
I went on to explain that when we pray we should be sure whatever we're asking God for is not something that would be hurtful to someone else, because God is love.
Lack of Desire to Pray
Every once in a while my children will be upset over something and just have no desire to pray. Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. I'm not saying it's okay, but sometimes our emotions are just too overwhelming.
The good thing to remember is that even when we don't want to pray or we can't find the words to pray, in our weakness the Spirit intercedes in prayer for us. (Romans 8:26) God knows what we need most. He knows our heart and our hurts.
So if your child needs to sit a particular prayer opportunity out, allow it. Prayer should come from the heart and never be forced.
There is a fine line when we're teaching our children the importance of praying and we're trying to raise them up in the ways of the Lord. As his/her mother, you know your child best. You know if they're just acting like a booger, or if they really need to be let off the hook this one time.
You can always discuss the importance of prayer with them during a more peaceful time when they aren't upset, and it will probably have far more impact.
What prayer challenges do you face in your home? What are some other ways we can overcome difficult prayer related questions from our children?