Teaching Our Children to Pray

praying_children
We were driving somewhere. We are always driving somewhere. To a practice or a lesson or an appointment. A siren came from behind us, then we saw the lights and I pulled over. The ambulance zoomed past. “Say a prayer,” I said. “Why?” asked the little voice in the back seat. “Because somebody is in trouble and needs our prayers.”

The morning drop off always fills me with emotion, as my kids clamor out of the car with their winter gear, backpacks, sneakers and homework. “I will be praying for you all day.” I say. “I love you with all my heart.”
“By Mom, I love you too. I will be praying for you too.”

Our cat, Frasier died a few years ago. We still talk about him. The death of a pet brings up all sorts of questions about heaven and God and where he (the cat that is) is. We buried him under our magnolia tree. It was the saddest day ever. We read the book, “Cat Heaven” and everyone shared what we loved about Frasier. We told God we were thankful that he got to be our pet.

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A few years ago our daughter fell out of tree and broke her femur. It was bad. Really bad. On the way to the emergency room she was in shock and started to fall asleep. “Stay awake” I said. “Let’s name all of the My Little Ponies.” “Pinky Pie,” (Lord, hear my prayer), “Rainbow Dash,” (Lord, hear my prayer), “Minty” (Lord, hear my prayer)…..

There are a lot of things we teach our children. We teach them manners. We teach them hygiene and self-care. We teach them skills and tricks of the trade that we have learned on our own or have been passed down from our parents and grand parents. But I would make the argument that one of the most important things we can teach our children is how to pray.

We need to teach them that God is not a genie who grants wishes, or gives you an A or the winning goal. Rather we need to teach them that God is ever-present.

My mother taught me to pray. At bed time we always prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray dear Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray dear Lord my soul to take.” That prayer always freaked me out. I really didn’t mean it. I always added the line in my head, “but please don’t take my soul tonight, I have plans tomorrow.”

Nevertheless, there was something comforting about the nightly ritual of my Mom and I visiting God together and taking account of the day. What was good about it, what was difficult, where did I see God?

If we want our children to have a faith life, a prayer life, we need to have a prayer life.

My Mom always had a prayer-book by her bed. She was always yearning to go deeper into a meaningful relationship with the Divine. I always admired her for that. I watched her go into her room for times of silence and meditation. I watched her read books by Thomas Merton and Joan Chittister. She modeled and still models a prayer life I hope to attain.

Dear God,
I had to remind my children of many things this morning. I had to remind them to brush their teeth and put on their shoes and get their library book and remember to practice. I confess that I forgot to remind them that you are with them every moment of every day. Maybe it’s because I forgot that for myself. I forgot to remind them that you are with them when they take their test. Maybe it’s because I forgot you are with me when I am tested. I forgot to remind them to look out for the kid who is having a hard day. Maybe it’s because I am not looking out for my neighbor. I forgot to remind them to count their blessings. Maybe it’s because I forgot to count mine. Lord, give me the presence of mind to be present with you so that I can model for my children what it means to have a life a faith. Not because it’s the pious thing to do, but because I need to be in relationship with you just as much as they do. Please be with our children today as they step off to school. Be with our teachers and all who come into contact with our kids. Give them the skills and patience and presence of mind to see them as your children. Be with every parent today who in reminding their kids of everything, has forgotten the One Thing that truly matters. Wrap us in your love and shroud us in your grace, we pray in the name of your Son, Amen.

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