One of the disciplines that we, as parents, want to pass on to our children is the “habit” of prayer. This is an area in which I am certainly growing and have, by no means, “arrived”. So in an attempt not to be hypocritical, let me share some ideas we have tried, and are trying in our home which I hope will serve as an encouragement to you and your family.
Meal Time Prayers - Prayer before partaking of food is an excellent, built in opportunity to bring our family before the Throne of Grace. Be careful not to allow this time to become rote and dry, almost sacrilegious; just something we routinely do before “digging” in.
If our prayers have lacked heart-felt authenticity, our children may have begun to think the “blessing” is a mandatory prayer before meals, almost in the same vein as a good luck charm. If you pray, God will bless. If you don’t pray, you might receive a curse, or come down with a stomach virus, or choke on your spinach, or something worse! We can inadvertently convey that idea of curse vs. blessing by the lackadaisical way we approach our Holy Father in prayer, by the repetition without passion of phrases that become mundane and meaningless.
Here are some suggestions:
- Teach on prayer. Talk to your family about why you pray before meals and convey your convictions about the privilege of prayer. Confess any regrets you have for how you may have been careless before, and commit together as a family to approach prayer with a new fervor.
- Set an example of prayer. Make it a priority to pray together before meals as a family. If you understand the awesome privilege of approaching a Holy God with thanksgiving for His provisions, it will come across in your words and in your attitude and be contagious to your family. Consider the fact that your children are learning patterns of prayer set by your example; therefore take advantage of these opportunities to teach them "as we walk along the way", and be intentional in your discipling of them.
- Try being creative, and less predictable. Don’t always lead in prayer the exact same way. Some meals you may sing the verse of a hymn as your prayer of thanksgiving. Other days you may quote Scripture in your prayer to the Lord. Some days you may cry out for God’s mercy during difficulty or remember someone in prayer that is needing God’s special touch. Other times you may ask another family member to lead in prayer. (Remember, not as a punishment, but as a privilege.) Variety is the spice of life, so spice up your family's prayer life by incorporating some new strategies in expressing your gratefulness to the Lord!
- Remember the Lord. You have the great privilege of leading your family to the throne of grace. Meal times are regular times to stop your busyness and remember the Lord. Your prayers could include times of confession for sins realized, adoration for God; including who He is (His character) and what He has done (His works), and asking for His help when remembering people and situations that are of concern to you. But meal time is an especially poignant time to express thanksgiving for all of God’s provisions. It is a time during the day when you stop and humble yourself, recognizing that you are not in charge, you are not the source of anything good in your family - but God is - and you thank Him heartily for His goodness to you and your family.
- Be thankful. Not only is it commanded in Scripture to be thankful and to offer thanks, but it is a good strategy too. Thankfulness is contagious and it transforms self-centered hearts into hearts of praise. Thankfulness raises a soul from the mundane to the Majestic. Being grateful and offering thanks to the Lord in every situation is what brings the Lord glory due His name.
Stopping and expressing gratitude to the Lord at the beginning of every meal becomes a natural way we, as parents, can begin to teach our children about the privilege of prayer. As we quiet our souls before Him, and bring our family before His throne of Grace, we receive mercy and find the richness of having our hearts turned toward Him.