Prayer is something I've struggled with throughout my walk with Christ. As a child, I was taught to sit, fold my hands and pray. Even as an adult, I have a hard time sitting still for more than five minutes. I don't watch much TV, and if I am watching TV, I'm busy doing something else at the same time. I simply can't stand to sit and do nothing, and for most of my life, that's what prayer has seemed like.
But, when we stop and think about the purpose of prayer--to draw us into the presence of God and interact with Him--we should be awestruck by the opportunity. Think of it this way. If Kobe Bryant lived next door to you and he offered you unfettered access to his personal basketball court along with unlimited time with him to improve your skills, would you take him up on the offer? If you're at all interested in basketball, of course you would. By turning your life over to Christ, you've already said that you're interested in what Christ has to offer. So, why is it so difficult for many of us to take Him up on His offer to spend unlimited amounts of time with us? I think the answer to that question lies in the fact that we often don't remember to whom it is that we are talking when we pray.
You're probably thinking about now, "That's ridiculous. I know who I'm praying to--God, who else?" But, do you really know who God is? Are you awestruck by His awesomeness? Are you humbled by His greatness? Are you filled with His grace? If you're like me, the answer to many of these questions is "sometimes." Too often, we try to make God fit into the box that we've created for Him. We try to make Him small enough that we can wrap our tiny, human brains around Him. But, do I really want a God who fits into any box that I can create? If He fits into my box, how can He be the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe?
If adults struggle this much with wrapping our brains around who God is, how much more difficult is it for our kids, who often see the world in concrete terms? How can we make God's greatness and the reality of who He really is come alive for them? We start by helping them to see and understand God's character through the concrete evidence that God provides in nature, the Bible and in our homes.
- Focus on the awesomeness of God's creation. Go on a nature walk. Give each child a bag. Tell your kids to find as many things as they can that God made. The only catch is that they have to fit in the bag. When you get home, give your kids a piece of paper or a painter's canvas. Let them glue the things they found onto the paper or canvas. Have each child talk about what they found. Focus on how different the things are, yet God made them all. Talk about the animals that you saw and how different they are. You can even point out the bugs you saw on your walk. Remind your kids that God made it all, every little detail. It takes a big God to make such an amazing world. Somewhere on your kids' paper or canvas, have them write Genesis 1:31, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."
- Be a picture of grace for your children. If your children have chores (and they should), walk into their rooms one morning and announce that you are giving them a grace day. They do not have to do chores today; you will do them. They haven't done anything to earn the grace day; you are simply granting it to them. After you finish doing their chores, ask your kids how they feel about the grace day. More than likely, they'll want to have grace day every day. Talk with your kids about how God's grace allowed Jesus to die for our sins. He didn't just do our chores, He took away our sins. If we feel happy and grateful that mom did our chores, then how much more happy and grateful should we feel knowing that God's "grace day" took away an eternity of separation from God.
- Look up a list of the names of God. You can find a good list here. Choose one or let your kids choose one. Talk about what that name means. Look up the verses that correspond to the name. Create a short game or activity around the name. For example, one of my favorite names of God is God, My Banner. To explain this name, gather squirt guns for each kid and a flag or banner of some sort. Explain to your kids that during Bible times, an army would go into battle carrying a banner. That banner told who the army belonged to. When God is our Banner, He is announcing that we belong to Him. The banner was also used as a rallying point. If the banner moved forward, the army moved forward; if the banner retreated, the army retreated to it. The army followed the banner. God is our leader and we follow Him. You carry the banner. Let one child be the army behind the banner and one child be the army fighting against the banner. Tell the child behind the banner that they must follow the banner at all times. The goal is to get to whatever safe place you designate by following the banner. The child opposing the banner can shoot away at the banner and at the other child. Lead your child around the yard to the safe place. Point out that while the child probably got wet, in the end they got to the safe place by following the banner. When we follow God, we may face trouble, but He will lead us into the safe refuge of His arms.
- Show your kids how much God loves them. Write down on slips of paper ways that we can show love to others. Put the slips of paper in a bucket or a hat. Have each child draw a slip of paper. Play charades and have each child act out what's on the slip of paper while everyone else guesses. Once the slips of paper are gone, ask your kids if they can think of other ways to show love to each other. Talk about how love sometimes requires us to sacrifice something. If a friend is sad, sometimes we will sacrifice a special snack to share with them or our time to listen to them. Ask them if they can think of something that God sacrificed because He loves us. Talk about Jesus's sacrifice on the cross so that we could have a relationship with God.
Check back tomorrow for how to share the When and Where of prayer with your kids.