5 Family Prayer Ruts and How to Get Out of Them

Prayer Rut

A couple of months ago, my mom injured her back. I started praying with the kids each day that grandma’s back would heal. In a few days, she was much better. I hadn’t yet mentioned it to the kids, however, so they continued to pray for her.

Nathan (praying): “Please help grandma’s back to feel better.”

Me (after the prayer): Nathan, grandma’s back is better now! God answered our prayers. We don’t need to keep praying for her.

Fast forward a couple of days.

Nathan (praying): “Please help grandma’s back to feel better.”

Me (after the prayer): Nathan, remember, grandma’s back is better now! We don’t need to keep praying about it.

This happened several more times. I couldn’t figure out why Nathan didn’t understand we were “done” praying about grandma’s back. With more reflection, however, I realized there was no closure to our prayer request. We asked, asked, asked, then received, and we were done.

Where was the thank you?

The day I realized it, I sat down with the kids and prayed this: “Thank you God for answering our prayers about healing grandma’s back. She is well now and we are grateful that you made her better.” Nathan never prayed about grandma’s back again. The prayer request was made complete by our thanks and acknowledgment. My three-year-old innately knew something was missing in our prayer life that I couldn’t even see.

Sometimes we get so used to praying at certain times or in certain ways that we get firmly entrenched in a prayer rut. It’s important to be mindful of the nature and state of our family’s prayer life because our kids are learning from everything we say, how we say it and when we say it. They are also learning from what we don’t say, as in this example.

Here are five other examples of prayer ruts to consider and solutions for getting out.

 

1.       Praying as a family only happens at meal time.

 

What This Can Say To Your Kids: The power and purpose of prayer is limited to specific routine events.

The Problem:  Meal time prayers are often brief, limited in nature to gratitude (for the food) and can often become perfunctory (“Thank you God for the food. Amen.”). If kids only hear meal time prayers, they will not learn to pray in a more personal way.

One Solution: Choose one other time of day to pray together as a family, when there is time to really engage in more personal prayer, including elements such as praise, confession and petition (requests). Bedtime often works well because it is less hectic than the rest of the day.

 

2.       Only memorized prayers are said.

 

What This Can Say To Your Kids: Prayer is something that needs to be said in a specific way.

The Problem:  Prayer is about relationship with Jesus. If kids only say memorized prayers, it doesn’t teach them to freely talk to God about what is on their heart. The words can become routine and quickly lose their meaning.

One Solution: Choose a prayer framework for your kids to memorize rather than the words themselves. This gives them guidance without restricting their heartfelt expression. One example is the ACTS acronym:  A – Adoration;  C – Confession; T – Thanksgiving; S – Supplication. Teach them to say prayers including at least one thing from each part of the acronym.

 

3.       Only the adults in the family pray out loud.

 

What It Can Say To Your Kids: Only dad/mom/another adult prays, so I don’t need to learn.

The Problem:  For younger kids, this can leave the impression that prayer is an “adult” thing. For older kids, this can lead to prayer laziness; as long as an adult always prays, the child doesn’t have to learn and participate.

One Solution: If your kids are comfortable praying out loud, simply be mindful of rotating between who says family prayers. If not, start with the “roundtable” format where each person says one thing on his or her heart during the prayer (this could be praise, thanks, confession, etc.).

 

4.       Prayers are only said when something bad happens.

 

What It Can Say To Your Kids: We only turn to God when we need something.

The Problem:  While the Bible certainly tells us to pray for our needs, that is only part of the picture. The Bible also tells us to give God glory, to give God thanks, and to pray without ceasing. Praying only when we need something does not give us the opportunity to build a genuine relationship and can give kids a false sense of who God is (a “genie” who may or may not answer our requests).

One Solution: Provide a regular opportunity for you and your kids to give thanks. For example, each night at bedtime we say a roundtable prayer of gratitude. Each of us thanks God for one or more things from the day.

 

5.       There are no family prayers at home, only at church on Sunday.

 

What It Can Say To Your Kids: Being a Christian happens on Sundays.

The Problem: It’s highly likely that if you’re family isn’t praying together, you’re not studying the Bible together, having conversations about faith, or participating in other faith-based activities together outside of church. If that’s the case, your kids aren’t learning how to apply what they learn at church in their lives. It’s like training for a marathon every Sunday and never running!

One Solution: If you’re stuck in a “Sunday faith” rut, the easiest way to bring Jesus back into your home is by starting to pray together as a family. Pick just one time per day as a starting point when you can pray out loud with your kids and begin to model what a prayer life should look like. A great first prayer is to simply acknowledge that you haven’t been praying as regularly as you should, and to ask that God would help your family grow together in faith through a renewed prayer life.

 

Do you relate to any of these ruts? What other prayer ruts have you experienced?

2 Comments

  1. Rosann on May 15, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Natasha, oh my friend, how I can relate! Love this! I agree wholeheartedly with each of your points. The one that most convicted me though is the family time reading the bible together. Now, that’s not to say we don’t do so. However, I will be the first to admit, I’d prefer to read my great big beautiful study bible, which I *think* might be too wordy/grown up for the kiddos. And their “My First Bible” and “My Princess Devotional Bible” aren’t bad, but I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem solid like the Bible itself. So I’ve struggled to find a sweet spot where our family can gather together specifically for Bible study/reading time and all have our spiritual tanks filled (so to speak). Maybe this is just a matter that will self resolve in a few more years as the girls get older, but I really feel after reading this, God is asking me to seek a solution now. What are your thoughts? You know…friend to friend, mom to mom? I have a 7yr old and a 3 1/2 year old. I really feel the grown up Bible offers much better opportunity for studying and discussing scripture….but their attention span… ??

    Blessings,
    ~Rosann



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on May 17, 2012 at 11:13 PM

      Hi Rosann! It’s so funny that you bring this up, because it’s been something I’ve been thinking about constantly lately. I am *amazed* at what kinds of lessons make it into books called devotionals for toddlers. I mean, they are well meaning, but sometimes theologically wrong or so fluffy that they are meaningless. For example, the devotional we read the kids tonight talked about how we can ask God to help us tie our shoes?! The point was that we can ask God for anything, but to give this as an example just sets them up for a strange expectation of how God is involved in our lives. It’s not just this book – it’s pretty much every toddler devotional book I’ve come across. Unfortunately that means I don’t have a great recommendation. It’s actually been on my heart to write a toddler devotional book that is appropriate for toddlers AND appropriate theologically/practically. I’m positive there are some great ones out there I just haven’t come across, I just don’t know what they are! I don’t know about 7, but at 3.5 (what my kids are), we get about 10 minutes max out of them. We read the devotional and then go through several scenarios we make up to have them answer the questions the “right” way. For example, despite the fact that God isn’t really going to help them with their shoe laces, we ask after reading it, “Does everyone need help? (Yes, God made us to all need Him and each other.) Does God want us to ask him for help? (Yes.) etc.” So we try to make the point in a more theologically accurate way by asking questions for application after. So I’m in the same boat as you…finding something comparably solid as the Bible but appropriate language level for 3 year olds is a big challenge. I might take the challenge one of these days and make it myself. 🙂