Our journey with 'family prayers'
So Anna Robinson started this discussion over on her blog about family prayers and talking about what they are currently doing as a family, and linked up to MissionalMumma too. I encourage you to have a quick read of both the blogs, because they both have some great ideas and perspectives on family prayers.
Family prayers are going to look and feel different with every family and that is great. Please don’t read Anna's, MissionalMumma's or this blog and feel inadequate (or proud(!)) regarding what your family devotionals do or do not look like. The most important question is: what is God saying to you personally about family prayers right now, in this season, and what are you going to do about it?
A quick contextual note: my boys are currently 7, 5 and 2. Daniel, my 7 year old is able to sit and concentrate on something he wants to be involved with. Joel (5) and Kaleb (2) are not! Joel in particular finds sitting still incredibly difficult and gets distracted really easily. This makes family devotionals a real challenge! This is a blog about our journey with family prayers - a journey we are still on. It is not meant to be prescriptive of what your journey should look like but rather a personal reflection that you get to read!
As a church community here in the last couple of years we have been praying every day except Saturday together for half an hour. Currently we are doing that four times a week over the Summer (remember we're Southern Hempishere!) and to reflect a different rhythm this year. Our kids have been in and out of those times, and have participated for bits, but at least for the moment, they are not interesting in participating with the whole community and quite honestly, they are often a big distraction. So, in this season, we let them play upstairs or watch ‘JellyTelly’ (which shows Christian shows) on the computer upstairs.
As a family up until recently, our prayers have been much more organic - stopping to pray in times of need - when someone is hurt or sick, or if we need to find something, or for God to provide. Or 'declarations of praise' prayers at seeing a beautiful sunset or something. We pray and read a children’s bible before bed and pray before we eat: the prayers before food often feeling rushed and formulaic and even religious; the ones before bed less so, and the children have participated with thankfulness prayers over the years but it varies from night to night currently if they are willing or not.
The idea of having a daily family devotional is very important to me, but the reality of doing it has actually been incredibly difficult. Currently we are settling for a 5-10 minute slot in between Mark and I’s personal quiet times in the morning (we split the time we have before community prayers in two in the morning for our personal quiet times.) To be honest, getting all the boys together willingly is a struggle. When we first started, we began by reading a short psalm together. The two younger boys rarely, if ever, engaged. We then had a time of thanksgiving and prayers for needs. We started a notebook where we wrote down the things we are praying for, with a column to fill in how and when God answered those prayers. The notebook was exciting for Daniel, our 7 year old who can read and write, but an opportunity for Joel, our 5 year old to escape!
We have prayed hard about our devotionals together - we know they are important, but they have been a real struggle to find things the boys will engage with. Currently we are reading a book together called ‘Sticky Situations’ by Betsy Schmitt and Joel has been engaging with the different scenarios in it each day and guessing the right answer. There is a verse to look up to help choose the correct response and Daniel (7) particularly enjoys that. We then each say something we are thankful for, something to pray for and we pray quickly. Generally the boys don't want to pray out loud themselves but we continue to give them the opportunity.
To be honest, I don’t feel satisfied with our family devotions. I would love my children to engage more - to want to pray out loud more or to even willingly participate. I would love to have a time of worship together. But at the moment, like MissionalMumma, we are keeping it simple and just working at making family devotions something regular and expected and normal in our household.
And I do see my children engaging with God at other times during the day and bringing up the things that have been learned in the devotionals or other times to encourage one another. So I know that at the moment, at this stage of our life, 5-10 minutes is great and just what we are meant to be doing right now.
The other thing that I need to keep reminding my striving-perfectionist self is that there are also lots of other opportunities in the day to bring God into the day and I need to embrace them - musical family worship might happen once a week when we stick on a Scripture memory CD (Seeds Family Worship is amazing!) but it does happen. But on the other side, I recognize that small intentional steps make a huge difference. With that in mind, we are also trying to memorize a verse a week as a family using the app ‘Fighter Verses’ which has a short kids’ foundational verse to learn with an accompanying picture.
Like everything parenting, we are trying to prayerfully be intentional in our family devotionals and step by step, keep inviting God in to show us how and what is right for now. The inspiration to do the ‘Sticky Situations’ devotional came straight from the Holy Spirit and has been a turn around in Joel engaging, but we know new seasons will come too and we’ll have to ask God’s help to show us the right things to do in those too.
So it is my turn to pass the baton - how about your family? Do you have organic or formal spiritual times together or both? What do they look like? What is God (not my or any other blog!) saying to you about family devotionals at the moment? What are you going to do about it?