Monday, April 19, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 9; Intentional Prayer

As a young mom, I knew I wanted to be intentional about praying with and for my children, but I didn't know what that would look like on a day-to-day basis. I knew, and still know, the importance of prayer for my children, but it hasn't always worked out in the ways I thought it would.

As I've looked back over these "Intentional Parenting" posts, I've noticed a theme here: I'm intentional about the things that are hardest for me to carry out. Does that make sense to you? I hope so. I think that what I mean is that I sense the importance of being intentional about the things I find so hard to be intentional about.

And prayer is one of those things.

My husband tells stories of busy school mornings, hustling to get out the door like every family. In the midst of the early-morning scurrying about, his mom would stop to pray with her three sons. My mother-in-law sent her sons out the door every day protected with the armor of God, bathed in prayer.

I fear sometimes that my girls may or may not tell such stories to their husbands someday. Much to my shame, I have not been as consistent about sending my girls out the door covered in prayer as perhaps my mother-in-law did.

Some days, sure. On some good mornings, particularly when the girls were in elementary school, we would stop, huddle by the front door or in the car, and pray for their day. My intention was to help them see that at every moment, not just at mealtime, we need to turn to the Lord in prayer and that at every moment, not just at mealtimes, He hears us.

I hope that lesson has caught hold over the years as I've tried different ways to emphasize the importance of prayer in their lives.

Sadly, the habit of praying before school has gotten lost as my girls have grown. They leave the house often before I've had my first cup of coffee and, sadly, not much prayer happens before my first cup of coffee. My goal of intentional prayer has always been important to me, but it hasn't always been a reality.

No, I don't always gather my chicks around me for prayer every day, but does that mean I have failed in my goal of intentional prayer? No way. Because, for me, prayer has become an even more integral and important part of motherhood as my children have grown.

Even though I don't necessarily pray with each of them every day, I do pray for them every day and have learned to incorporate prayer for my kids into my life in different ways.

I intentionally set aside time every day to bring my daughters before God's throne because I know how important it is. I know I cannot solve their problems, dry their tears, make everything better for them . . . but He can. And He is what they need the most, so I bring them to Him every day.

What does intentional prayer look like? Well, for me, it's being in a spirit of prayer all the time. It's connecting God with my kids and my kids with God all throughout the day. And so I pray for them when I'm alone at home, washing dishes or running the vacuum. I pray when I walk the dog. I pray for them when I drive by their school as I'm doing errands.

And, yes, sometimes I pray with them when we're talking and it seems natural and necessary to do so, but I never force it. I want my girls to see that prayer is a part of all day, every day and not just some forced talking to God at certain times and in a certain way.

Intentionally praying for our children, I think, is one of the most important things we can do as parents. And intentionally teaching our children the importance of prayer will be one of the most important lessons we can pass on to them.

So I'd love to know: how do you pray with or for your children?


  1. I pray out loud a lot with my kids. They are just beginning to grasp the idea of talking to God so we're starting off small. I like the idea of having set times that we pray consistently (like at bed time or at meals) but also praying extemporaneously throughout our days. Of course, I'm always praying for them in my quiet time. One thing I pray for is that their little hearts would be softened and tender to prayer. Boys don't seem to want to slow down long enough :)

    Fabulous post!

  2. Shelly, I'm like you in that my prayer times with my children were much more frequent in their younger years, but I do still pray with them during those specific moments when it seems needed and right. And I consistently remind them that I am praying for them and i think they believe I really am. I also have put the burden, if you call it that, on their shoulders more as they have gotten older. When my son tells me about a particular dilemma he is facing, I may give him counsel and talk it out with him, but I always tell him, "Daniel, you really need to pray about that." And I tell him, sometimes, how he should pray about it. And he tells me he does. I like to think he is indeed praying about those things. And it does a mother's heart good to think he is.

  3. I love this chart that Hillary shared on her blog, for this very thing!

  4. I like your honesty here. I always feel really guilty when I don't pray with my kids every day. It's hard to get them to move beyond a rote prayer, or a table-grace-like prayer. I haven't been a great example -- I haven't always been good at "talking" to God. But I do think that's at least part of the key -- getting comfortable with God on a daily, minute-by-minute basis. So that prayer isn't squeezed into a certain slice of day -- before dinner or before bed -- but happens throughout.

    Really good advice here -- thank you!