Our spirituality is ultimately about our relationship with Life. Any relationship requires communication. I want my boys to know they can tell the Universe whatever is on their mind so I am gently introducing them to prayer. The Universe is always on our side, even when we don’t pray, but prayer helps us to be bigger participants in the unfolding of our lives.
WHAT IS PRAYER & WHO ARE WE PRAYING TO?
For me, prayer is an invitation, an opening up to the Divine. The Divine will work in our lives as much as we allow it to.
A prayer can be offered through our words (written & spoken), actions or thoughts. They all count. Essentially, we pray with our spirit so it doesn’t matter which form a prayer takes. This blog post is more about prayer expressed in words as that is the variety most visable to our children so easiest to share with them.
In our house, we usually address our prayers to God, using the word in a non-traditional sense. Really, any word would do – the Universe, the Divine, Spirit, Source… My understanding of God changes constantly, getting less and less precise over time, but I don’t think that really matters. He/She/It/They know I’m talking to them when I pray, even if I can’t fully imagine all that they are. (You may be interested in my post Introducing my Children to God.)
TYPES OF PRAYER
I want Jake and Thomas to realise that they can talk to God in any situation, for any reason so I’m trying to offer them different types of prayer. Keeping it simple, these are the three we usually use –
Gratitude – Prayers of gratitude are an easy place to start. Sometimes, when I’m with my boys and I think of something I’m grateful for, I’ll just say thank you for it aloud eg. “Thank you for the beautiful sunshine today”. We also take turns saying grace before a meal, using the words my boys learned at their kindergarten. (To be honest, they fight over whose turn it is to say grace and it doesn’t always feel very sincere.) My post on Gratitude talks about the benefits of gratitude and other ways of expressing it.
Intention – In these prayers, we share our intentions – such as for dreams to be realised and problems solved. They may be for ourselves or for others. Of Course, God already knows what our intentions are but, through these prayers, we open ourselves up to receiving the help we need.
Chat – For me, prayer is an on-going conversation. Sometimes, I just find myself with something to say and I know God is listening so I start talking. When I’m in the car alone, I talk to God as if he were sitting in the passenger seat. I talk about anything, knowing that I am heard and that He is the best listener of all.
THE NATURE OF PRAYER
I don’t think the words we use in prayer are important but it is interesting to look at the meaning of Amen. It is a way of saying “Your will be done”. For me, that means trusting that God hears and cares about my desires & concerns. It also means that He sees the big picture that I can’t and will do what is best for everyone, for the highest good. Prayer is said in faith and we can let go once we’ve said what we have to say. When I was younger, I used to pray over the same things repeatedly. God heard the first time – it must have been so annoying! Once said, it’s said! We can trust that things will turn out for the greatest good.
When things we have prayed about don’t appear to go our way, it is not an answered prayer. When I was a teacher, I had to put the good of the whole class over the needs of an individual at times. God has the same task but with billions of people to look out for – what a job! There have been times when things haven’t gone the way I had planned but there have been unexpected gifts in the seemingly unwanted outcome. There have been times when, later, I have been able to see that it is a good thing I didn’t get what I prayed for! Sometimes, I can’t see why things didn’t go as I had asked and I have faith that it was still a good thing. And sometimes I just wake up the next day feeling differently, able to see the situation I’d prayed for with greater Love – my answer was simply a new way of seeing things.
WAYS TO PRAY WITH OUR CHILDREN
Here are some gentle ways I’ve been introducing prayer to my children.
Invite them to listen inon my prayers – This was my first step. For example, an ambulance would go whizzing by when we were in the car and I would say a short prayer aloud. When my husband was going into hospital for a small surgery, my boys listened while I said a prayer for my husband and the medical staff. Jake and Thomas always say an enthusiastic “Amen!” at the end.
Provide a script – Particularly for young children, it is hard to come up with the words for what they have to say. Some of our prayers use the same words each time to make them easier for my boys to say, such as our grace and our morning prayer. Both prayers are short with child-friendly language.
Offer for them to add bits – Usually I say our morning prayer aloud and my boys listen. Often, before beginning, I ask if there’s anything they’d like included, perhaps something they’re worried about or looking forward to. So far, I add these things in myself for them but, in time, I think they’ll want to say them themselves.
God Box – (It could be called anything. Use the language that works for your family). Currently, I initiate most of our prayers. When my boys are starting to suggest their own, this is an idea I’d like to try. They can write or draw their prayer on a piece of paper and post it into their box. The act of posting it is their “Amen”, their letting go and trusting. Every now-and-then, they may like to review the notes in their box to see what has happened since.
Remind them that they can talk to God anytime, about anything – If our children are aware that we do this, it will be normal for them. I say a lot of spontaneous prayers and will often say them aloud with my boys if I’m happy for them to hear what I have to say.
IN SUMMARY – WHY PRAY?
When I pray with Jake and Thomas, I invite them to participate but never insist. Interestingly, so far they have always chosen to join in. The words we use aren’t important, the only rule being it must be respectful – God has no interest in the toilet talk that litters their usual conversation when they think I’m out of ear shot.
I recently re-watched Rob Bell’s humorous and powerful talk on Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions. He said that most of his prayers go like this – “Here, you take it”. Knowing we don’t have to figure it all out or do it all on our own is so comforting and freeing. Our prayers are an acknowledgement of this. This is the main reason I want to share the practice of prayer with my boys.
Much love to you and your little souls,
PS:What kinds of things do your children pray about? Share in the comments below.
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