“Take a bath. Get your pajamas on. Brush your teeth. Okay, let’s sit down. Ariyana, sit in your spot. Maddox… Maddox, c’mon over here and sit in your spot.”
This is typically the order of operation every night before my kids hit the sack. There are some variations. We toss in a story or two if we are not super late getting finished. But the highlighted steps above are used most frequently.
“Grab each other’s hand. Heads down and eyes closed.”
Now those two sentences are said EVERY night without fail. It is prayer time.
More than just prayer time
It is more than just prayer time. Prayer time is the crux to ending the day for our children and closing to family time for the day. Not only is it our daily routine, but our kids know what to expect and DO expect it. As a matter of fact, they get quite upset if we do not pray, as a family, every night. Yes, even when they’re at someone else’s house, prayer time is a must.
It is more than just prayer time. Ariyana and Maddox may have the same or extremely similar verbiage, tonality, and speed at which their prayer is said. They even stop if the prayer does not flow exactly how it is “supposed to” when they are saying it. I like to think of it as persistence in prayer 🙂
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The difference… thankfulness
The one thing that is 99% of the time different when they say their prayers… the closing. A little over 5 months ago, there was a series at 12Stone called Family Dynasty. I highly encourage everyone to check it out, especially those with children. One of the challenges was to “Pause every day for family prayer.” Since we had already been doing that for years, we decided to throw a curve-ball into prayer time.
The kids were asked to close their prayer with just one thing they were thankful for from the day. At first, and still, sometimes now, there were a lot of “umms” and “uhs” and “I can’t think of anything.” Alyson and I would toss out ideas such as how beautiful the day was, friends, family, beds to sleep in, and so on. After we would give ideas, the kids would usually settle on a favorite stuffed animal, a toy, shoes, a car they liked, or something else random and most of the time, materialistic. Let me be clear, I’m not saying they could not be thankful for those items, but that was not the intent of the thankful closing. Honestly, I would be lying if I did not say that I was a bit frustrated and upset that they did not get the concept of being materialistic.
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.1 John 2:16
Frustration is misplaced
If you will allow me, I would like to take a quick second and depart from the story just a little. Allow me to focus on my frustration, even though this is ultimately a much deeper discussion for another time. I was getting frustrated at my children for something that a lot of people struggle with every day. Contentment is the archenemy of materialism and is a powerful thing to learn. It cannot be learned in a day, week, month, or year. It takes time to learn how to be content. How could I expect my children to just know how to pray for things outside of their possessions when I do not do the best job modeling that behavior myself?
You’re frustrated because you keep waiting for the blooming of flowers of which you have yet to sow the seeds.Steve Maraboli
We can be taught!
Fast-forward to now. Before we started the thankful closings, we realized how easy it would be for the kids to just add the same thing they were thankful for every time they prayed. Therefore, we instituted a rule that you could only be thankful for an item ONCE and no more. Where the previous stipulation was only one thankful item, the kids typically include TWO thankful things. Not only are they adding one more thing to their thankful closing, but they are also adding deeper, more thought-out things. For instance, thankful for beautiful weather, bunnies, family, friends, fun day activities, family time, and more. As a matter of fact, in addition to his first thankful item, Maddox has prayed three nights in a row, “thank you for Mother’s Day.” We let that one slide 🙂
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.Colossians 3:2
There are fewer “umms” and “I don’t know what to say” sentences being uttered and more thoughtfulness (even if there is an uncomfortably long pause) in their prayers. The pauses, however, are what indicates to me that they want what they say to be meaningful and truly thought out.
We as a family are learning how to place less of an emphasis on our material items and more on the things that matter most. It is not an easy road to travel, but it is so worth it.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefitsPsalm 103:2
Have you taken time to be thankful today? If not, do it now. You won’t regret it.