"Mom, I'm not going to fall"
"Mom, I won't have an accident"
"Ok, mom!", accompanied by facial expressions that tell me I'm hovering, or overprotective, or worse......nagging.
Well, as he was going down a small decline at a certain point in our driveway, he turned the handle bars of his bike just right and over the handle bars we went. He landed face down in the grass.....and there I was...literally right next to him, watching his face and body hit the ground in slow motion...or at least it seemed like it was because I could not reach out my hands fast enough to break his fall.
My first reaction wanted to be "seeeeeeeeeee, I told you".
But I held my tongue and attempted to help him up.
He was holding his tummy and cringing in pain.
My boy is not accustomed to pain. He is and has always been a pretty careful and cautious boy. Not your typical, rough, throw caution to the wind kind of boy.
A large red spot began to grow on his belly and I began to worry that he might have internal bleeding. Yes....I'm that kind of mom.
His face became flushed and I got a tad worried.
"Let's walk to the house so we can get you some water". I said, trying to reassure him.
We took about 3 steps when he stopped me and said
"Mom, before we keep going, let's pray first".
"Good idea son. I'll pray".
So I prayed over my son and for my son.
This is my boy.
He's a praying boy.
Not only does he love to pray but he loves to be prayed over.
How did he become a 9 year old boy whose first reaction was to pray when he found himself in situations that are stressful or uncertain?
We are a family that prays when things are stressful or uncertain.
But that is not the only time we pray. We pray pretty chronically.
Our kids are growing up, seeing, knowing and believing that being a follower of Jesus should permeate every aspect of our lives. From choosing carefully where we go to church, how we spend our free time, how we think and act with others, and especially how and what we pray for, we are modeling for them what it looks like to put everything under God's governing. Basically we are showing them that living a life of "Coram Deo", which is what keeps us people of integrity. Coram Deo simply means before the face of God.
According to R.C Sproul, he writes
Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.
One of the simplest ways we help our children see that we are people of integrity is to pray....and pray often.....chronically even.
We didn't used to always be a family that prayed chronically....but over time and as our kids got older, we have grown to become a family that prays more and more.
It started with a few "get to" opportunities. Here are a just a few.
1) We "get to" pray at bedtime
We pray at bedtime, every single night, together as a family. We actually take turns praying...even the kids. We want to teach our boy how to lead his own family in prayer. We want our girl to know how to pray for her own children when she has her own family. We are giving them plenty of opportunities to know what it looks like, what it sounds like, and what the condition of our hearts ought to be when we pray.
I have discovered that our kids mirror our prayers. If we pray to God, always with an extended hand and posture that says "God give us", then our kids also pray with an extended hand. When we approach God with a posture of thankfulness and humility, then our kids approach God with that same thankfulness and humility.
It's really quite simple.
Listening to our children's' prayers not only gives us a glimpse into how we as parents are modeling prayers, but we can also see how we can help re-direct prayers, not only for them, but for ourselves as well.
So....every...single...night.....regardless of where we are at or where we are sleeping....we pray all together as a family before our heads hit our pillows.
2) We "get to" pray before every meal
We pray before each and every meal....yes even in public or extended family gatherings (we don't have many Christians in our family line so it's actually abnormal for us to pray in these situations), and of course we also pray in restaurants. We have made it a habit to pray before each meal regardless of where we are eating.
We intentionally want our kids to always be aware of WHO is providing for us. We want our kids to connect God to our daily provision of bodily sustenance. It's easy for our kids to see tangibly that daddy has a job and that his job pays for our meals, our home, our bills, etc. However, we want them to see beyond that. We want them to see that God has provided my husband's job at this particular point in our lives, has placed us in this specific city and state, in this country of wealth, at this point in history......for a reason - to bring God glory.
When we pray for every single meal, we help remind the kids that God has orchestrated our lives up to this very meal and point of comfort, not because we have earned it, or because we deserve it. As easily as God allows blessings, we want them to know the blessings could be taken from us. We want and need to teach them that in-spite of blessings or wants, we still get to thank God for whatever it is we have or don't have. Every meal is an opportunity to give God praise and thank Him for any and all provisions. Its even extra nice to help them thank God for dirt, gardens, water, sunshine, and chickens. There is nothing in our food chain that we neglect in thanking God for.
My kids often get confused when they see people who they know are Christians and notice that they don't pray before mealtimes. I have had to explain quite often that not all Christians feel the need to pray before each meal. When they ask "why", I simply answer with "I don't know"....and I'm not just saying that to appease their question. I simply don't know why professing Christians don't pray before every meal, even in public.
I have often wondered if others find it unnecessary....or embarrassing...or maybe they believe that prayer and thankfulness to God for daily provision can become ritualistic if done too often. (which I discuss in point 4)
Or.....maybe they simply just forget. I mean, I get it. When food is sitting right in front of them and the smell of deliciousness is just too much to bear, its just easier to immediately dive in...without any hesitation or a thought about their God that provided their sense of smell, their taste buds that taste and their ability to bite down on whatever their mouths are biting into.
If neglect of prayer is for this last reason, I guess that's a good enough excuse. The flesh that governs is just too gosh darn overpowering. I get it. I'm sure God gets it too. Heck that's what grace is for....right? (ooze sarcasm)
3) We "get to" pray before road trips
When we embark on road trips, whether on a plane or in a car, before we leave the driveway of our home, we pray. Before we leave hotels rooms, we pray. We want our kids to know that we are trusting the God of heaven and earth with our plans of travel. We want to instill the fact that we know God is sovereign over every single molecule on the earth, and that includes our little family in our comings and goings. We show them we are placing our trust, not in ourselves, but in God to bring us back home together as a family.
We used to live in a tiny town in the middle of the desert in West Texas. We used to have to drive 2 hours in any direction to get to grocery stores and/or doctors. Oftentimes, we would end up driving home in the dark on desolate roads after a full day of shopping for a month's worth of food or doctors appointments. Sometimes we encountered heavy rain on the road. Sometimes we came across fast moving desert fires caused by drought. Many times there were just large animals crossing the middle of the road that would cause too many accidents at night. We all knew the danger and the weight of driving home down long lonely desert roads and we got into the habit of praying while driving. If we ended up in any of the above situations, we would pull over on the side of the road and pray for continued safe travel. This habit helped our kids see that we were at the mercy of God for safety. We helped them see that we knew only God could keep deer, large elk or wild pigs off the road when we found ourselves driving down roads littered with these large vehicle destroying animals.
Sometimes, if we found ourselves wanting to get home as fast as we can, yet encountered deer after deer, or elk after elk, or strong rain, my then 6 year old son would ask us to pull over so we can pray because he would remind us that we forgot. Instilling a dependence on God through prayer in our children will oftentimes remind us, their parents, that we are a praying family. What a beautiful thing when our own children remind us to pray when we forget.
4) Last but not least.....we understand the "we get to" pray
Every once in awhile I hear from other people who excuse themselves from chronic prayer. They reason, or at least try to convince me that they don't want their prayers to become ritualistic in nature - meaning they don't want their prayers to become empty words uttered to God simply because that is the expected outward behavior of people who call themselves Christians. I get that. I don't want my kids to pray empty ritualistic type prayers either. So how does one alleviate that?
I think one way we can combat the empty prayer syndrome is....well....don't pray empty prayers. We must get into the mindset that praying to God is a privilege that not all people in the world have. The fact of the matter is, God is not mindful of everyone's prayers. He is only mindful of people he calls his. He is mindful of those that He died for.
In Isaiah 1:15-18 God says to Israel, his unregenerate people
When you spread forth your hands I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.Did you catch that? He hides his eyes and does not listen to the prayers of people who are unclean and full of evil doings. So what is our only hope of having God not turn away from our prayers?
John Piper puts it this way:
What must we do in order to have our prayers answered? When I say "we," I have in mind Christians, that is, people who are trusting Christ—that what he did purchased their salvation, and what he said is true and the best advice in the world. As far as unbelievers are concerned, there is one prayer that we know God answers for them, the earnest plea to Christ for salvation. Whether God answers any other prayers of those who reject Christ is irrelevant. It is irrelevant whether persons who throw away eternal life and insist on going to hell are given a few earthly pleasures along the way. The only thing such pleasures will do for them, if they persist in their unbelief, is to make their guilt and their torment all the worse because they don't use them as an occasion for repentance.
If Jesus Christ had not come into the world and died for our sins, then the wrath of God would not be removed from us. The power of God would all be aimed at our destruction. But, as Paul says, "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). And in dying for us and bearing our sin in his body (1 Peter 2:24), Christ propitiated God; that is, he appeased the wrath of God; he satisfied the demands of God's justice. The result is that for all those who hold to Christ the wrath of God is turned away, and in its place there is mercy. God no longer opposes the sinner who trusts in Christ; instead he now is working for that sinner's good. In fact, he is rejoicing over him to do him good with all his heart and with all his soul (Jeremiah 32:40f.)
God is mindful of prayers voiced by those that are his - those that are bought by the blood of his Son. If we are then his, if we have been adopted into the family of God, if we have placed our trust in Christ's death for salvation, then we are given the GREAT privilege and gift of being able to approach God's throne of grace and talk to him like the awesome Father that he is.
We can read these words with deep thankfulness -
Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7–11)
Jesus was and is that good gift. He is ultimate of all earthly gifts. Anything added to the gift of salvation that is secured in Jesus is simply trifling bonus stuff that will inevitably perish. Our eternal life in Christ will never perish.
Knowing we now belong to God and how close He is to us through Jesus, how can we approach God with empty ritualistic prayers?
Going back to Isaiah 1:15-19, Jesus is the one that washes us clean. Since we are now clean, we now have God's ear. Jesus helps us look to do good, helps us seek justice, motivates us to correct oppression, defend the fatherless and plead for widows. That is really something to pray about.
So, instead of looking at prayer as something we have to do because of expected norms that we place on ourselves......we now can look at prayer as something we "get to" do. We are able to model and instill in our children the great joy in the "get to" of approaching God as His children, dearly beloved and accepted as righteous.
Not only are we showing our kids that they "get to" pray....but we, as parents, are also kids that "get to" pray.
Parents that depend on God inevitably are able to model to their kids what dependence on God looks like in the every day stuff of life. A life of integrity is evident. God is glorified in it all.
Oh, and by the way, my son was fine. Just a little scrape or two. Thankful that I did not have to take him to the emergency room.