When we put our girls to bed (when they were little), Ingeborg often said: “Come on, let’s start praising.” The four of us would sit on the bed and tell God what we liked about Him or what we were grateful for. Everyone took turns, in a few sentences, but you could also sing it, to a melody of your own making. Usually one of the girls started. When they were done, the next person received a tap on the shoulder and could then continue with the prizes. Sometimes Ingeborg, who usually took the lead , said: “Now everyone, raise your hands,” and then we raised our hands. We taught our children at a very young age to talk to God and listen to Him. Prayer is something a child can best learn in the family. Something that really belongs and that you can do very naturally at all kinds of times and for all kinds of situations. Children’s work is important, but parents are more important when it comes to your child’s religious upbringing. I would like to give you a few tips on how you can give more attention to prayer in your family. Assume that you are the only one who leads your child in prayer. They have to learn it from you! Use simple, short sentences without difficult words and be specific. Don’t pray with‘performing words, like the heathen’ (Matthew 6:7 NKJV). Lead the way in prayer. It’s not about the shape, it’s about your heart. It doesn’t have to be too pretty either, because that discourages children; they can’t do it that well. Just show your confidence. Give the children the feeling that God is saying to them: “Now come sit with me and tell me…” Even one-year-old children imitate you and quickly understand what prayer is. As they grow older, you can help them involve God in everything—their worries, problems, and joys—by encouraging them to pray. They will soon start doing that for themselves. As a parent, do you have a fixed time of the day to talk to God? Does your child see that, or is that at a time when your child is at school or sleeping? It is good to think about what image your child has of your prayer life. Show your children how you live with God: how you read the Bible, how you pray and also how you give. Our children were so confident that if they had a cut or pain in their hand, the first thing they said was, “Pray Dad”! You can pray with your child(ren) at all kinds of times, but you can also choose a fixed moment. In the evening before going to bed, for example, at the start of a long car ride or trip or before dinner (at home, but also when you eat at McDonalds). If something happens – your child hurts his knee, grandma has fallen and has to go to the hospital, the boy next door has gotten his driver’s license – don’t wait until bedtime, but pray or thank God for it right away, together with your child. You can pray for events in the world. For things that bother them or have hurt them. Tell how God has helped you or someone else in difficulty. Give each child a prayer notebook and have them write down their prayers. Add a date and have the children write how and when their prayer was answered and thank God for it together. Try to make prayer the most obvious thing in the world and find ways to remind the children of God’s goodness as often as possible. Praying is something children can learn. It requires a life of faith, real faith. It requires you to share what moves you, from heart to heart.
If parents don’t have time to listen to their children, how will they ever learn that God does have time for them?
A few months ago Ingeborg called me and asked: Mom, will you come with me to a week of prayer and fasting with Herman Boon? The question took me by surprise for a moment, but I immediately thought how special it was that my daughter invited me to go to such a week with me and her boyfriend. The week fell during the autumn holidays that I had already taken off. I had a wonderful week with her and 500 others, spent a lot of time with her and prayed together. What a wealth to go up like this and see that everything we have sown in her life grows and bears fruit. What will you do to involve your children in prayer?