“God, bless Mommy, and Daddy, and Grandma, and Grandpa and . . .”
This precious prayer marked the beginning of my children’s relationship with God and their concern for family and friends. But as they grew in their relationship with the Lord, I wanted to introduce them to the huge, throbbing heart of the Father for people all over the earth. I wanted them to empathize with the plight of the lost and poor and be willing to lift those needs back to Him.
At first I wasn’t sure how to build a scope for prayer, but eventually I found some simple tools that helped move my children (and me) beyond prayers for our immediate comfort, protection, and healing to faith-filled intercession for the Church and the world.
Mommy, how do I pray?
When we become bored with prayer, it’s usually because we’re stuck in repetitive petition for ourselves. Prayer should be rich and brave.
To help my younger children taste prayer beyond personal petition, I hand made a simple prayer “spinner.” It narrowed prayer into four do-able categories: praise/ worship, forgiveness, repentance, and petition. I also broadened their scope into fifteen categories that were heavy on my heart:
- Preparation and perseverance for the second coming of Jesus
- Unity between Christians
- Caring for our earth home
- People who are like us and different than we are
- People who are hungry
- Unborn babies
- People who are sick or dying
- Missionaries – more people to share the good news of Jesus
- The leaders of nations
- People who are prejudice, who hate others because they are different
- Children who are abused or mistreated
- The 10/40 Window
- Revival in the Church across the world
- And the wild card – whatever the Holy Spirit leads us to pray for today
Each morning one child got to flick the dandy spinner. Then we prayed in the indicated category: We forgave someone, repented for one specific sin, praised God for one of His magnificent attributes, or asked Him for something specific that we needed.
Next, we prayed into the indicated broad-scope petition. There were days when that portion of prayer was based in our experience – we knew someone who was expecting a baby, or we knew someone who was on a mission trip. Usually though, we prayed about that topic in general.
I wonder how the Lord answered those halting, childish prayers. I know that one day He will make a huge reveal and we will know all. That’s part of the delicious adventure of prayer.
Mommy, who do I pray for?
We pray best when our understanding and empathy are awakened. I found that my children and I needed knowledge about who needed our prayers.
One of my best finds to that end was You Can Change the World; Learning to Pray for People in Other Countries (Volumes I and II) by Jill Johnstone. Jill teaches children about the culture of third world children in bite-sized increments and digestible short story format, and concludes each with ways we can specifically pray for the people of that nation or people group. These books are older now, but much of what she shares is still very much applicable.
For a couple of years I read one of Jill’s stories aloud on Monday and then we filled out a worksheet over the rest of the week: We colored a picture of the indicated country’s flag and named the capital city, top exports, major religion, and an interesting fact.
We also enjoyed the adult version, Operation World by Jason Mandryk. I have just purchased a new book called An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World by Brian C. Stiller for a family read aloud. I’ll let you know how I like it.
Maps also helped us experience the magnitude of the need for prayer. When my children were young we used a huge plastic floor map that I bought at a missions conference. We sat on the map around the outline of the country we were praying for. We also had a ”10/40 Window” map for the wall.
One year we added a blow up globe that we held in our hands as we prayed for people in other nations. (Yes, I had to ward off my children’s temptation to launch the ball instead of pray!)
Of course these days there are blogs and on-line unit studies at our fingertips. I just did a Pinterest search on “teach children to pray” and found lots of interesting ideas. What fun!
Our family fervor for prayer has waxed and waned over the years, but I believe a foundation was laid in those early years.
Mommy, why do I pray?
The truth is that we pray because God is calling us to. He cares, and He wants us to care too. Our family still loves glimpsing His passion/compassion by reading about and hearing first hand the true testimonies of His ongoing work across the earth. (See this blog’s “Read Me a Story” (4/16) for a listing of a few of our favorite good-reads.)
We are perpetually amazed at the lengths to which God goes to place one willing person who knows Jesus with those who do not. Recently, my husband and I were honored to be in a gathering where a Middle Eastern doctor shared about the strong, emerging Church in Syria. We couldn’t wait to share this eyewitness account with the family. In the next weeks I will be inviting a missionary family on leave from Vietnam to share their experiences around our kitchen table. Exposure to the Holy Spirit’s movement sparks conversations about God’s love for all people and His good plan for reaching them. He keeps us gasping in awe – He loves people so much!
The end of the matter is that we too are called to take God’s love to our generation. Have you found, as our family has, that we are often the answer to our own prayers?
Our pastor, Craig Groeschel, recently challenged us to ask ourselves, ”If God suddenly announced, ‘I’m supernaturally answering all of this week’s prayers in this very moment,’ what would be different in the world as a result of your specific prayers?” This statement gave me pause.
I want our family to pray specifically.
I want our family to ask expansively.
I want our family to be faith-filled and faithful in prayer.
I want our family to be willing to be the answer to someone’s prayers.
Mostly, I want our family to love well in Jesus name.
I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
This is my command: Love each other.
John 15: 15b – 17
I think that part of “bearing fruit, fruit that will last,” is leaning into mature prayer. May our asking in Jesus name be based in our love for Him and His reaching love to others.