Practical Basics For Family Prayer
By Kim Butts
God gave these instructions: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deut. 6:4-9). Here are some suggestions to help prepare you to begin praying as a family:
1. No pressure – Let Jesus lead and the Holy Spirit guide. One or both parents generally take the initiative to begin family prayer. Children, however, can also be the catalyst. Either way, it is the parents who will need to guide the family into this spiritual adventure. Probably the most important thing for parents to keep in mind at this point is that they don’t have to be "prayer experts." Moving obediently forward in the power and strength of Christ is most important here. He has called you to pray as a family, and He will be faithful to teach you as a family through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is vital that you overcome the "pride" factor, especially if you are not comfortable with the quality or quantity of your own prayer life. Instead of worrying that your children will "see through" your lack of expertise, let Christ be the expert – the example and the leader. Explain to your family that Jesus will be the personal "prayer trainer" who will bring you all to the throne of God. Not only will this take the pressure off you, but it will also afford you the opportunity to learn along with your family.
2. Be an example. While God does not expect parents to be prayer experts, He does expect them to be prayer examples. If you are not currently modeling a prayer life before your children, or if you do not have a regular quiet time, now is the best time to start. Your children need to know that you spend time each day with the Lord in prayer because that is what Jesus did.
Be determined to model prayer for your children, even if you are still learning about it. In addition to the individual prayer life of a parent, perhaps the most powerful witness to a child is to see his or her parents praying together. (Naturally, if two parents are not in the home, or if one is not a Christian, God honors individual efforts.)
Husbands and wives who pray together for one another, for their children, and for family issues make a clear statement to their children without saying a word. The marriage relationship is strengthened in mighty ways as each spouse hears the petitions of the other. Both partners are built up in faith and encouraged by hearing each other intercede on their behalf. If you are not praying regularly with your spouse, you may want to get your hands on a wonderful book called Praying with the One You Love by Art Hunt (Multnomah).
3. Align yourselves with God’s plan and purpose. Before you begin praying together as a family, it’s important to determine what your family purpose and plan are. Spend time in prayer, asking the Father to show you how He wants to use your family. If your goal in prayer is to honor and glorify God and to desire that His will be done on this earth – rather than to ask that your will be done in heaven – you are well on your way to powerful prayer that will accomplish mighty things in the kingdom of God.
4. Formulate a family prayer mission statement. A prayer mission statement will give family prayer time a focus. Your statement should reflect why you pray together and generally what you will pray for during your time. This statement might be something like this: "We desire to honor and glorify God through our prayer, by seeking His will through His Word and by listening to His voice. Our goal is to join with Him in what He desires to accomplish in and through us for the advancement of His kingdom on this earth."
You might want to include your children in formulating the mission statement. Once you’ve written a statement that fits your family, you will have a clear focus as you pray together. Your prayer should always agree with your mission statement which should agree with God.
5. Don’t make prayer harder than it is. Prayer is simply "talking to God." In her book The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian says, "Prayer is acknowledging and experiencing the presence of God and inviting His presence into our lives and circumstances. It’s seeking the presence of God and releasing the power of God which gives us the means to overcome any problem."
Don’t "super spiritualize" the process. Ask God to teach you individually and together to pray. Learn and/or teach the basics first. Take a little time when you get together to pray and teach one brief concept. Then spend the rest of the time praying. Be careful that you don’t talk about prayer more than you pray. The best way to learn how to pray is to do it.
Prayer transcends age differences. Parents and children of all ages can learn to pray together, each on his or her own level, because the prayers are not to please one another, but to please God!
Make Prayer a Natural Part of Everyday Family Life
1. Help your children to become aware of answered prayer. Tell them about the times in your life when God has answered your prayers. Encourage them to share when God answers their prayers – even if His answer isn’t what they wanted or expected. When you have other believers – especially missionaries and full-time Christian workers – in your home, ask them to tell you about answered prayers they have experienced. Point out God’s answers to your children’s prayers, even the smallest requests.
2. Help your children to see the beauty of God’s creation and thank Him for it. Don’t miss opportunities to appreciate His handiwork around you. Take time to point out sunsets and beautiful flowers…and thank God for them right then.
3. Whenever you see or hear about someone in need, take time to pray about it with your children. It could be something on the news or in the paper, or something you come across during the course of your day. Teaching them to pray when they see an accident or when you pass a homeless person could have a lasting influence not only on your children, but on those who are prayed for.
4. Wrap family traditions or events in special times of prayer. For example, lay hands on the person with a birthday and bless him or her; thank the Lord for two things that you love about her, etc. At Thanksgiving, go around the table and have each family member pray about what he or she is most thankful for over the past year.
5. Pray blessings over your children. Lay hands on them at bedtime or at another time when they are hurting in some way, and pray scriptural blessings over them. Numbers 6:24-26 is a good one to memorize: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace."
6. Teach your children to prayerfully put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18) at the beginning of each new day. Each of us needs to be aware that we are in a battle and that God has provided us with some very important equipment with which to protect ourselves and fight. This can be done as a family, but don’t ritualize it or make it a legalistic thing.
7. Have family devotions and prayer time. While any time is good, early mornings before everyone goes separate ways is probably the best time. This will remind children that God will be with them throughout the day.
8. Put together a family prayer journal. Place each family member’s picture in it, as well as pictures of your pastor and his family, relatives, unsaved friends, and neighbors. Pray through the album together, and encourage one another to pray individually on a daily basis for those represented.
9. Teach children to keep a personal prayer journal. Here they can record personal requests, praises, and answers to prayer.
10. Develop a missionary prayer notebook. Place prayer cards or pictures of missionaries your family and/or church support in a three-ring binder with plastic page protectors, colorful paper, etc. Pray through the notebook on a regular basis. Help your children make the connection between prayer and saving the lost. Pray together that the Lord of the harvest (Matt. 9:38) would send workers into His harvest fields.
11. Adopt a people group to pray for – perhaps one of the unreached groups of the 10/40 Window. Pray for your people group daily, research its needs, and be open to what God will do through your family. To adopt a people group, contact www.adopt-a-people.org.
12. Develop a family prayer calendar each month. Take turns, or do it together. Put each family event or activity on the calendar, so it can be prayed for. Wouldn’t it be great to have the entire family pray for a child to do his best at the track meet or that Mom would meet someone who needed to hear about Jesus at her meeting?
13. Go on a prayer walk in your neighborhood. Pray for all the families that live around you as you pass their homes.
14. Adopt a leader to pray for. Select a local, state, or national political leader to pray for daily. Commit to pray for and communicate with this leader if possible for at least one year.
15. Participate as a family in prayer events. Join with other believers for the National Day of Prayer (first Thursday in May), for example. Encourage your junior-high or senior-high school children to take part in See You at the Pole.
– Abridged and reprinted from January 1999 Herald of His Coming. Originally used by permission of Pray! magazine.