Many of my posts are simply applicable to any preschool parents. I realize that this post might not apply to your faith or your religion, but here’s what we’re doing in our home based on our beliefs. I hope it is helpful to those who are of similar beliefs.
It begins simply – with a prayer before a meal. Once she could speak, we started having Becca say the blessing. It’s very basic. “Dear Jesus, Thank you for our food. Amen.” It’s not anything other than a basic realization of the need to stop and say thank you.
As she has grown, the prayer over her at bedtime went from a silent prayer in my head while feeding her her bottle, to a spoken one, to now one that she actively participates in.
So how do you do this with your kids? It depends on their ages and also their level of vocalization and understanding. I started simply by having her think of anything or anyone she wanted to say thank you for. It’s important for the concept of saying “thank you” to be introduced BEFORE telling your child they can ask God for things. We are all selfish beings, but children don’t understand their selfishness or have an ability really, to control it. So before you equip them to ask, equip them to THANK.
It’s easy for little ones to quickly think of THINGS to be thankful for, so after a few weeks of merely saying thank you for one thing, prompt your children to think specifically of PEOPLE they are thankful for. Rotate different nights whether you have them think of a thing or a person, and if you’re working on counting concepts, maybe have them think of TWO things or TWO people. Once this concept is fully grasped, you could easily combine them – Thank God tonight for two people AND two things. Becca loves for me to hold up my fingers and then fold them down when she has said one.
Once your little ones have grasped the things and people concept in their thankfulness, add in thanks for an activity they got to do that day. It helps them to think back through their day, and decide something that they really enjoyed that was special. Then add your people and your things as well. A sample prayer might sound like ours last night (1 activity, 2 people, 3 things):
Mommy: “Dear God, thank you that we got to______”
Becca: “Color pretty pictures today. And…. two people… thank you for Mommy and for Daddy.”
Mommy: “And please help Daddy to feel better and his tummy not hurt anymore.”
Becca: “And thank you for my pirate ship, and my rocking chair, and my lamp.”
Mommy: “And thank you for Becca, and for Baby Grayson. Please help them to sleep good tonight and have sweet dreams and keep them safe all night long. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
Then, as you begin to roll into asking God for things, explain to your child that as you’ve been modeling (I always say the last part of the prayer the same), we can ask God to help us with things. We can ask God to help us to sleep good, to remember to be kind to our siblings, to remember to use respectful words, to help us to obey Mommy and Daddy even when we don’t really want to, etc. It’s important that a child knows they can ask God for help, and that He will listen. We won’t hear an audible answer, but He will be there listening, and He WILL provide us the help and encouragement we need just when we need it. That’s an important concept for children to understand.
It’s important to explain to children who then understand the concept of asking God for help, that God isn’t like Grandma and Grandpa or Santa Clause. We don’t ask him for THINGS. He isn’t the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. We don’t just pray and ask God for STUFF. And sometimes when we ask him for something, the answer might be “no,” or “not right now.” For example, if we pray for healing for someone, they might not get better, or they might even die. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us or that person. It just means that His plan is WAY bigger than we can understand, and His timing is very different than ours. It could mean that his way of healing them was to make them not ever have to suffer anymore – at all.
Obviously this concept is really tough. As an adult, I struggle with it. But I think you’ll be amazed – children have faith that can move mountains. They dream big. They imagine. And many times their faith can be strong because they have the ability to pretend and to believe. Becca went running all over the house two days ago looking for God because as she said “Mommy, I hear a voice. I think God is talking to me. I have to go find Him.” That’s faith. I told her “God is everywhere. Maybe you need to just stop running around and just sit down and listen.” (Zing. Turn those words right around at myself. How often do we as adults go running around, when really we just need to sit down and listen?)
In Matthew 18, the disciples were fishing for a complement. They asked Jesus in vs 1, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” Don’t you know they were waiting for Him to say “well, you are because you are my disciples.” But that is NOT what He said at all. Instead, he called a child. “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.'” (18:3-5). A child-like faith is IMPERATIVE to enter Heaven. So don’t EVER underestimate your children and their ability to understand God’s promises for them, or their ability to communicate with Him. You just need to guide them along the path so that they’ll learn how to begin that communication process.
An additional note:
If you’re looking for a fabulous way to introduce your kids to the Bible, you’ll definitely want to purchase this book (aff link) The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. It’s a fabulous version of the Bible that you can truly start in the beginning and read a story every night to your child and walk them through the Bible. It’s a fabulous lead-in to your prayer time. I’m so thankful that my best friend got it for our kids!!!