There are parts of my day when I feel like all I do as a parent is correct my children or break up a fight. I mean, we are really just teaching them to be humans instead of wild animals, right? But then there are other moments when I get a glimmer of hope and see their hearts toward God. Those are definitely my favorite.
As parents, we are the primary faith trainers for our kids. Yes, they learn a lot from church, but they learn more from watching us. Especially when it comes to prayer.
Our most consistent time of praying with the kids is at bedtime. They get all snuggled in bed and we hear a little more about their day. And then we pray. I have to admit that by this point, I’m usually exhausted so sometimes I tend to fly through our prayer time. It’s the typical “Thank you for the day, don’t be scared, now it’s time to fall asleep and don’t get out of your bed” prayer. Ok, maybe not quite like that! We do pray for their character, their hearts for God, their peace as they sleep and anything else they might be facing. But more often than not, I rush through it because I’m ready to get on my own pajamas…until a month ago when it all changed.
I was going through the same bedtime routine with my oldest son, but as I began to pray over him, a thought popped in my head…Teach them how to praise God in prayer too.
Now there are times I think God is saying something to me and then there are times I know He is. This is one of those times I knew. In that moment it hit me…I had failed to teach my kids how to praise God first in prayer. But I knew just what to do because a week earlier we started an advent activity as a family about the names of Jesus. Definitely God’s perfect timing!
So I started my prayer over that night with my son. Instead of flying through it, we took our time and I taught Davis how to start with praise. He chose one of the names of Jesus that he had learned about and praised God for it. It went something like this…“God, you are the Alpha and Omega. Thank you for being our beginning and our end.” Short and sweet!
Maybe you’re wondering why I want my kids to learn how to praise God first in prayer. I’m so glad you asked!
Praising God First
If you’re standing in a very large room and look up, the ceiling is big. Now imagine you’re holding a piece of paper. It’s small. And definitely smaller than the ceiling. But while you’re looking up at the ceiling, if you hold the piece of paper in front of your face, all of a sudden, the ceiling disappears and the paper is the only thing you see. Now it seems to be bigger. (Illustration from How Great Is Your God sermon, Sugar Creek Baptist Church)
This is often how we approach prayer. The paper represents all of our confessions and petitions…what we ask for or sometimes complain about as we pray. The ceiling represents the greatness of God.
When we focus on the greatness of God first, it changes how we see ourselves. It changes what we ask for. Praise puts everything we’re about to pray for into perspective (the ceiling is big again and the paper small).
I want my kids to have a prayer life and be confident as they pray. But I also want them to understand that prayer is not a time where we just dump our want list off and wait for it to happen. Instead it’s our opportunity to quote back to God the characteristics of His great nature.
Praising God Together
It’s a great privilege to teach our kids how to praise God. And thankfully it’s not complicated! For our family, we use the names of God as our guide. I love what the Bible says about knowing His name…
“Those who know your name, put their trust in you…” (Psalm 9:10)
Our heart is that as they learn of God’s greatness through His names, they will trust Him more and more each day.
To make it easy, we created a print out that we keep by the kids’ beds as a quick reference with the names of God. We let the kids pick one each night. They begin the prayer time by praising God for His great name and we finish by praying over them.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not this super spiritual moment with an eloquent way they praise God. It’s usually short and to the point. But they are making a habit of praising God first. And I love that we get to do it together!
If you want to start making this a habit for your family too, here’s the download of Praising God Together. To take it a step further, you can get the book I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God. It goes into detail of the names of God we listed on our guide with Bible stories, devotions and prayers. Our kids love it! We hope these resources bless your prayer time with your kids like it has ours.
Question: What is your favorite name of God that you can praise Him for today?