The other day while flipping through the radio in my car, I stopped on a speaker talking about the four components of a prayer. You probably remember these components from Sunday School: Praise and Adoration, Asking for Forgiveness, Petition, and Thanksgiving. When teaching a child or new believer to pray, I can see the benefit in being able to break down the components, explaining why we practice prayer in this fashion, and teaching a biblical understanding of prayer. But the missing step seems to be teaching our children how to move beyond the basic formula for prayer and showing them how to connect with God in a very personal way.
Several years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was facing some tough life choices, and honestly God and I hadn’t been on real speaking terms for many years. I was just going through the motions as a Christian. Broken and wounded, I begged a friend to guide me, and, to my surprise, she refused me. She was quite candid in telling me that life would not get better until I was willing to give everything to God, to allow Him to walk me through this situation. A little hurt and frustrated, I sat alone in my home office, wondering what to do next. I was too far from God to find meaning in some type of prayer formula. I needed to experience God in a raw, real, and physical way. I remember the concept of Breath Prayers. Breath Prayers are short, sound bite prayers that can be said in the space of a single breath and repeated throughout the day. So, this is where I started. Breathe in, “Lord, strengthen me,” Breathe out, “Lord, show me the way.”
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
Over time, I became less dependent on Breath Prayers and was able to grow in my relationship with Christ. I was seeking a more intimate connection in my prayer life. I wanted to dwell in Christ, and I wanted Him to dwell in me.
“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20)
Fast forward a few years of growing and building on this relationship. Lately, I have been faced with new challenges to stretch my prayer life. For months, one family after another in my circle has encountered heartbreaking challenges. One friend has cancer, another lost a child late in pregnancy, another faces divorce, and another struggles to make decisions for her aging parents. In each of these situations, I have been brought to my knees in prayer.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)
Each morning as I walk miles on the country roads near my house, it strikes me that these walks have become a time of conversation with God. On these mornings, prayer can become raw as I cry out for understanding. I become thankful, gaining a sense of gratitude for His provision, and peaceful as I seek His comfort for these families. These are the prayers that feed our souls and connect us with God in ways we have not known before. This is the level of prayer we want to teach our kids. This is the relationship we want our kids to experience.
Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)
There is great benefit in teaching our children the basics of how and why to pray, but I encourage you to focus less on the mechanics and more on the conversation. Model authentic prayer for your family and pray for the desires of your heart. Make prayer a regular part of your family conversation instead of saving it for dinner and bedtime. Seek deeper understanding of prayer through Bible study.
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22)
As I wrap up my walk this morning, I am thankful for the way prayer can feed our souls and give us peace as we rest in our relationships with Him. We are blessed.
Christine Clark is the Ministry Coordinator for the Family Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church. She has a passion for supporting parents and helping them gain confidence and tools to be spiritual leaders in their homes. She is blessed to be the mom of a high school freshman and the wife of her college sweetheart for more than 20 years. She is also an avid sports fan who loves all things football, especially in the fall in Texas.
I met some new friends on my walk this morning… I’m sure they enjoyed the conversation.