Recently, several people have asked me for specific tips for successfully praying together as a family. While I’m certainly no expert, I’ll be happy to share what we do if it can be of help to anyone. The things I share will reference our family in its current form, which consists of Jan, myself, and our five remaining children at home, ages 21 through 11. (Our seven oldest kids have families of their own. Don’t ask me how we did things back then…I can’t remember that far back!)
With all our imperfections, one thing that I’m grateful for in our home is that we pray together. It’s gradually become a part of our climate. We do it fairly regularly, and it feels pretty natural. I’d even say that we do it somewhat casually, sometimes at the drop of a hat. There’s no occasion or issue that we can’t pray about. What I appreciate most of all is that every one of the kids seems comfortable participating. No one is afraid of their family members hearing them pray. It’s as natural as carrying on a conversation. In fact, that’s exactly what it is – prayer for us is consciously including God in our conversations.
How did we become comfortable praying together? Over the next few blogs, I thought I would share specifics about how we are learning to pray together. Here’s the first one:
Tip #1: It starts with you.
My family’s prayer habits start with me. I don’t want to sound narcissistic, but I’ve seen it time and again that a huge chunk of what my family experiences as a group is a reflection of what’s going on in my own life. If my self-control weakens and I buy ice cream, everyone else is likely to cave eventually. If I sulk around the house, the overall atmosphere becomes moodier. If I’m feeling silly, others join in the silliness. And if talking to God, whether silently or out loud, is natural for me, it will gradually become natural for them, too. It’s all about modeling. If there is a magic shortcut for teaching my kids to do something, I’ve not found it. They will more likely discover Christ to be real in their lives if they see over a period of time that He has been consistently real in mine. That’s a fact – a responsibility – that I can’t dodge.
Please don’t think that I see myself as some great prayer hero, because I know for a fact that I’m not. Sadly, I forget to check in with the Lord sometimes, much like I might fail to notice a family member in the room or a grandchild who entered my office if I’m too preoccupied. Sometimes I rush ahead with my “great idea” without talking it over with God, forgetting that if you “acknowledge Him in all your ways, He will direct your steps” (Proverbs 3:6). When I rush ahead without consulting with Him, I invariably pay the price.
But with all my flaws, the truth is that I definitely pray more than I used to. Much more. Pain, failure, and hardship have driven me to my knees. At this stage of my life (I’ll turn 58 in a couple of days) I’m not sure I ever go through a day prayerless anymore. If so, it’s rare. That’s because my limitations require it. It’s like getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I mean no disrespect by this comparison, but I just can’t go as long as I used to without praying. There’s too much at stake.
Here’s my routine: On a typical day, I wake up around 5:30-5:45am, the house dark and quiet. As I lie there transitioning from partially to fully awake, my first conversation of the day with my Maker takes place in my mind. I thank Him for the peaceful rest, for watching over my family all night long, for allowing me another day to breathe, to love, and to be loved, things like that. I tell Him that I love Him, and that as He helps me, I’m willing to serve Him today. Then, if Jan’s awake, we’ll pray together in bed. If she’s not awake, I whisper a quick blessing over her. From there, I may go to my office, take a walk on the treadmill, or perhaps drive to a faraway appointment. Whichever, I pick up my conversation with Him where we left off, only this time I’m trying to listen. If I’m in my office, my Bible is open and so is my heart, receptive to whatever specific things He wants to point out to me. If I’m driving, I keep the radio off for about an hour or so, chatting with Jesus out loud. I talk a little, but I try to listen more, because when I do lots of fascinating promptings and perspectives come to my mind.
Usually as I go through my work day, I’m aware that God is close by. Maybe because my mind was tuned in to Him early the awareness just lingers; I don’t exactly know. But I know that He rarely distracts me from my work; on the contrary, as I focus on the task at hand, that inner awareness makes me feel like the two of us are working as a team. Typically, I’ll find myself saying things under my breath like “What do You think?” or “I need Your help with this.” I think and talk and work like He is actually with me because He actually IS.
At the end of the day when I go home and join the family for supper, I guess it just seems only natural to include the Lord then, too, and all evening long while we’re at it since we’ve hung out together all day. Then come the kids’ bedtimes.
Ah, bedtimes! Those amazing prayer opportunities deserve a blog post of their own. That’s for next time.
I'm Gary Bower...
...a father of twelve kids, seven of them married with kids. That leaves five still at home. My business partner and best friend, Jan Bower, is an amazing artist who also happens to be my wife of 43 years. For many of those years we made children together; now we just make children's books. Last I counted we have twenty-five books and thirty grandchildren.