The Importance of Praying as a Family
A few months after my grandmother passed away, my mom said something that I’ve never forgotten. “I think our family has lost a lot of our prayer covering.” I realized she was right. My dad is a second-generation Christian, and my mom a first. As far as anyone from an older generation goes, my grandmother was it. I remember thinking that I hoped my mom steps up her prayer game, and that I sure needed to, too.
Prayer is not a discipline that comes easily to me. My mind wanders, my pride or fear steps in and hinders some of my vulnerability. I get plain old tired and fall asleep. How was I ever going to help fill the void left when my grandmother was called home? How would I change things for my children so that prayer was much more a natural part of their individual walks?
Off to a Rocky Start with Praying
Prayer wasn’t something that was modeled much for me. I don’t mean that as a slight of any kind towards my parents. They did so many things so well, especially considering there wasn’t a deep heritage of faith from which to draw. We never missed church- Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and even Wednesday nights. We prayed before dinner and bed. We did AWANA, and they sent us to Christian school for several years.
But vulnerable, sin-confessing, God-worshipping prayer…it just wasn’t part of our daily rhythm.
I wanted to change that for my children. But the years were passing, and all we did was dinner and bedtime prayer. Change wasn’t going well. We started our second year of homeschooling this year, and I knew I had to get serious about our Bible instruction and prayer time.
We Need Family Prayer Time Now More than Ever
It increasingly feels like we are living in the end times. I recently heard someone describe their belief this way: “I believe we’re in the last day. Is it morning? Noon? Evening? I’m not sure. But I think it’s the last day.” Will Christ return in our lifetime? That of our children? Grandchildren? Of course, we don’t know.
But we can look around and see the world heating up. The “labor pains” referred to in Matthew 24:8 sure seem to be getting closer together. Cultural changes taking place seem to be just the sort that would be needed to facilitate the end times as described in the Bible.
If these are the end times, then we have extremely important work to do. We must fortify our kids (and selves) for what is coming.
Of course, Christians throughout history have thought they must be in or near the end times, and we’re all still here, so perhaps you disagree with my assessment. The truth is, regardless of whether or not we are living in the end times, prayer is paramount for the believer’s walk.
Jesus himself modeled prayer for us. He demonstrated time and time again how important prayer is in the life of the Believer. His regular prayer times illustrated his deep connection with and reliance upon the Father. If Jesus felt the need to be so connected to the Father and relied upon him so heavily in his day-to-day life, how much more so should we?
Finally Making Family Prayer a Priority
So, after literal years of telling myself we had to get serious about prayer and Bible study with our kids, this year we went for it in earnest. And, by God’s grace, we finally have found a method that works extremely well for us. Prayer is becoming increasingly more meaningful for my family, and I’ve found a great resource for Bible instruction that works even with our large age gap (8 years between #1 and #2 of four). Practically speaking, it’s super easy to do, which is always a mom win. It takes literally no prep, is always ready to go, and I believe it will have a lasting impact on my children.
And because it’s been so simple and effective, I want to share it with you. If you’re reading this, it’s evident your parenting heart beats much like mine in your desire to raise your kids with a lasting love for, knowledge of, and reliance upon our Mighty Savior.
Biggest Lesson Learned: Family Prayer Time Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent way too much money on things trying to help point my kids to Jesus. I’ve purchased systems, book series, gadgets and gizmos, you name it. And I’ve seen fancy systems and prayer guides for families, but I sensed they’d be more of the same- another drain on my money that ended up collecting dust somewhere. I’m sure those systems work for some people, but for me, I just needed it to be SIMPLE. Simple and something I’ll actually do.
Because really when it comes down to it, we just need to pray as a family, right? It just needs to happen.
That’s why I’m not going to create elaborate guides or a complicated system. This system is super easy. All you need are index cards, a pen, and a willing heart. And maybe a rubber band or small pencil box in which to store them.
Our Family Prayer System
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We call our prayer time Family Bible Class, and it begins with reading a lesson out of Leading Little Ones to God. By the way, if you’re not familiar with it, it is fabulous. I’ve rarely (if ever!) read a book that I felt was so Divinely inspired. This book somehow takes big theological ideas and brings them to a small child’s level. This is not a fluffy book that overly simplifies the Bible. It contains very deep principles, all shared in such a beautiful and child-friendly way. Anyway, I’m blabbering on about it. If you don’t have it yet, just get it! You won’t regret it.
After we read the day’s lesson, it’s time to pray. My husband- working from home during the pandemic and hopefully forever and ever- comes out of the office to join us. The two-year-old passes out index cards on which we’ve written prayer requests. The four-year-old, twelve-year-old, and my husband and I each pray over the people and issues on the cards. We follow a simple format that I’ll share in a moment. This prayer time probably lasts 7-10 minutes each day, though I’ve never looked at the clock surprisingly. It’s not always quiet as the baby and two-year-old cause a ruckus, and the four-year-old doesn’t always last the whole time quietly, but we’re learning. And we’re modeling our walk with Christ. And that is enough.
Tired mom or dad, it is enough.
Prayer Time Method
As far as the actual praying goes, there are lots of different acronyms and methods of praying that you could choose from. Covering them all is outside the scope of this post. We adopted the ACTS/CATS system based on my experience as an educator. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. These words are not what most would think of as “kid-friendly”. However, I believe it’s important for our kids to learn theological words, so I try to make them a natural part of our lives while also naturally giving context. For example, for supplication, I might say, “Ok, now it’s time for supplication, where we ask God for what we need.”
Here’s how we use this method:
Adoration- We worship God for who he is. We try to focus on his characteristics here and not what he has done for our family. This was inspired by Teaching Kids Authentic Worship (which is actually FREE right now to read on your Kindle app!). It’s a pretty easy read and convicted me of the importance of teaching my children to worship. The main idea is based on a study that showed that worship was actually the “glue” that kept kids in the faith as they grew up. When kids have a right view of God- how big and powerful and amazing he is- when they really learn to worship him, they tend to have a sticky faith. Jesus also modeled adoration in his prayer. If Jesus begins his prayer with worshipping God, it’s a good bet that we should, too! In our case, when possible, I try to tie the adoration part of my prayer into what we learned about from our Bible study that morning. In this way, I model for my kids how we can connect what we’re learning about God to our worship of him.
Confession- We confess our sins in front of each other. This was a little uncomfortable at first (and still can be sometimes), but I think it’s been probably the most impactful part of our prayer time aside maybe from worshipping God together. I don’t force my kids to confess in the group, but my husband and I model it hoping they will do the same. We also have explained the importance of confession. We try to model sincere and specific confession (that is appropriate to share with our kids) rather than generic “help me be a better person” type of confession. So, for example, I might say, “Lord, you are a holy God, and I know I am a sinful woman. I think thoughts that are not honoring to you, and I sometimes don’t see people as your special creation that you love. Please forgive me and help me to see others as you do.”
Thanksgiving- We thank God for who he is and what he has done. I again try to tie this in with our Bible study from the day as well as specific things that God is doing in and for our family.
Supplication- We ask God for what we need. This is where our index cards come in. We pray through the entire stack in a week, with a few special requests always kept at the top of the pile so they are brought before the Lord daily. The specifics of our index cards will be shared in the next section.
Categories of Our Prayer Requests
We create an index card for each prayer request we have. When a prayer request is answered, we keep it in our pile as a praise card for as long as seems appropriate.
Our index card prayer requests fall into a few specific categories:
Family– Every member of our family- immediate as well as grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins by family- has a card. So, my parents share a card (Nana and Grandpa), my sister and her husband and kids share a card, etc.
Leaders– We pray for the President and Vice President, our governor, and other American leaders. We pray that they would humble their hearts and seek to lead us in a godly way. We pray that they will come to know Jesus if they don’t know him already and that they will make God-honoring decisions. We ask God for his will to be done in our country.
Pastors and Missionaries– We pray for our pastors specifically by name, missionaries around the world, and for the Gospel to spread.
The Persecuted Church– We pray for our Brothers and Sisters who are suffering for the Gospel. We ask that they will be encouraged and comforted and that the Good News of Jesus will spread through their ministry.
Friends– We pray for family friends that have needs we know of. For example, a family friend has cancer, so we pray for her daily. Another family we know is going through a divorce, so we pray that God will comfort the children and give the parents wisdom.
Our School Year and Day– We homeschool, so we pray that God will be with our day. We ask that he will help us to value learning and to work to the best of our ability for his glory. And we pray over the entire year, that it would be one in which we would grow a lot in our love for God, his world, and our knowledge.
Prayer Has Changed Our Family
I don’t want to make it sound magical. Some days my four-year-old still complains that he doesn’t want to do Bible Class. Every day we have to wrestle someone because it’s hard for little ones to sit still for the entire Family Bible Class. But, our Family Prayer Time has changed us. I think it’s most changed my husband and I. But we’re also seeing changes in our kids.
Our four-year-old is becoming more able to pray. He takes his card and prays thoughtfully for whomever it holds.
We’re more disciplined. By making this a priority and starting our day this way no matter what time our day ends up starting officially, we’re establishing a strong routine for our kids that centers on God.
We’re more gentle and kind with each other. Prayer has softened us in some really great ways- kids and parents.
We can see our kids striving to be more obedient. This is especially evident with our middle schooler who, even in the throws of puberty, so obviously tries not to argue or speak disrespectfully to us.
It’s humbled us. Confessing in front of each other has humbled us in some really great ways. And spending time in adoration each day keeps us in our rightful place as compared to God.
We’ve become more sympathetic. Our kids are sympathetic to the knowledge that my husband and I are learning and trying to do our best as parents, but that we make mistakes. Likewise, humbling ourselves has helped my husband and I to be more sympathetic towards our kids as they learn and grow.
I’m sure there are more ways Family Prayer Time has impacted us positively, likely ways that we won’t fully appreciate for some time to come. For now, though, we are grateful to finally have a system that is working for our family, simply and without much fuss, and that is pointing us all to Christ.
Family Prayer Time doesn’t have to be Complicated in Order to be Effective