Teach Them to Pray
For the past five weeks, I've written about teaching the Bible to your children. I've talked about putting the Bible first in your day, making it one of your subjects and making sure you get that subject in. Here are some priority items from previous blogs to impress the Bible on your children's minds:
Work on Bible memory: Choose one verse a week to memorize; review it every day and make each child say it on his/her own.
Help your children memorize the books of the Bible, along with a general overview of what each book is about.
Read the Bible at every mealtime, even if it's just a small portion.
There is, of course, much more that could be written about putting the Bible first, but I will save that for another time. Those three bullet points provide plenty of healthy Bible habits to work into your family life for now. And if those three are done, you'll have gone a long way toward discipling your children in God's Word.
For this month, I'd like to focus on teaching your children to pray as part of your homeschool education. Most people are very shy about prayer; it does not come easily or naturally to us. Often when asked to pray out loud, we can feel a bit of anxiousness rising within us. Somehow we feel we have to say something special or profound or flowery, but our minds suddenly go completely blank and we feel like a deer in the headlights. Prayer, just like reading or playing the piano or any other "skill," has to be taught and practiced before someone feels comfortable with it. If children learn to pray out loud regularly at an early age, the awkwardness and self-consciousness of it will begin to fade. The more we do anything, the easier and more natural it becomes.
When children are first starting out to pray, they need to be coached a bit on what to pray for, how to address God, and what kinds of prayers to pray. We teach them to give thanks to God for the many things He has given, to ask God to meet our own needs and to meet the needs of others, and to worship Him for who He is. When they hear us pray out loud, they learn to model the things we say. Our words and thoughts help shape their words and thoughts. When we coach them and give them words to say in forming their own prayers, we help them overcome their shyness about prayer.
By praying daily with our children, we are also teaching them without words that our strength and help comes from the Lord. Prayer is a way of acknowledging our dependence on God, whether it's giving thanks for the food we eat each day or whether it's asking for His help in the daily responsibilities we are called to shoulder. This acknowledgement that all we have is from Him along with the awareness of our deep need for Him in the daily duties of life forms the basis for our prayers.
When the Bible and prayer were kicked out of the public schools by mandate of law, our public schools began to experience a serious decline in educational standards and output. The charts revealing this change are quite telling. So it is important for us to think through the answers to the questions of why we are homeschooling and how our homeschooling differs from the public schools. Integrating the Bible and prayer ought to be at the top of our list of reasons.
When we pray, we are admitting our need for God's blessing, and we are actively asking for His blessing and work in our lives. We are also acknowledging that attempting to do life apart from Him does not work and ends up in vanity and futility at best or in grievous depravity and degradation at its worst. We need to pray.
Begin each school day (and every other day, for that matter) with prayer. Pray around the family circle. The very youngest who is just learning to talk can be led to pray. At the end of the day, pray around the family circle again, thanking God for His blessings and praying for any needs that came up in the day.
Psalm 92:2 says that we should declare God's loving-kindness in the mornings and His faithfulness every night. When we pray in the morning, we are saying without words that we believe God cares about us and wants to hear and answer our prayers, to help us in our needs; it is a declaration of our trust in His loving-kindness. When we pray in the evening, we are recounting the ways He has revealed His faithfulness in answering our prayers.
As we become more aware of our own need for God in the daily things of life, we are led to pray more. Prayer dependence on God is one of the most important things we can teach our children. It's one of the most important things that we ourselves need to learn. All else is presumption, self-reliance, and arrogance.
So if I were to ask you, "How is your school different than other schools?" or "How does your school reflect that you are Christians?," would you answer, "We pray together—everyday"? I hope so.