When my kids were just starting school, I had the privilege of getting them ready and driving them to school each day. At first, we would just channel surf the radio or talk about what was going on at school that day. Sometimes I’d be too tired or too focused on my upcoming day to talk or say anything at all. Somewhere along the line, I decided that I wanted something more from these regular intentional times together, so we started the habit of praying together each morning as I drove. I’m not really sure where I got the idea exactly. I most likely picked it up from a book I was reading or a conference I had attended. But whatever the source, the practice of praying with my kids every morning has been amazing for so many reasons.
Praying in the car is a powerful way to start the day well. Our days are busy. Even when as young kids, their days quickly filled with sports, friends, and homework. My days were busy with work and meetings, and as a school bus driver my wife was no less busy than I was. At times it seemed like we would blink and the day would be over.
That busyness means it's even more important to begin our days well. Beginning the day with prayer centers us on what is truly important. Often what gets pushed aside is our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and practices like prayer and scripture reading. Ironically, it's prayer and scripture reading that sustain us in busy times. The author of the biblical book Hebrews compares our Christian lives to a race. When running races, sprinters use starting blocks to give them an extra boost at the beginning of a race. Prayer in the morning can do the same thing for the daily race that we run with Christ.
Rhythms in our Christian journey help us pace ourselves for the long marathon. Setting a pattern that is easy to follow and attainable to accomplish is key. Without patterns, it becomes easy to forget important practices, especially busyness rises. In reading the Gospels, we see Jesus setting a pattern in his own life of retreating with his disciples into solitude and prayer. Finding that daily rhythm in our own lives can be difficult, but it is so important.
In John 15 Jesus speaks of a branch receiving nourishment from it's vine in order to bear fruit. We must abide in him so that we can bear fruit. Bearing fruit in the world can be difficult and exhausting. Abiding requires us to remain and rest in Jesus. This back and forth rhythm of abiding and bearing fruit is the calling of our walk with Christ. Setting up a pattern such as intentional prayer each morning is integral to our abiding, and abiding is integral to bearing fruit. Instilling this pattern in our own lives allows us to follow Christ more intentionally, and including our children in that pattern helps them as well.
The Apostle Paul tells us to take anything and everything to God in prayer. When my kids and I pray together we pray about all sorts of things. Just this morning we prayed for tests at school, meetings at work, summer vacation plans, family traveling to see us soon, and sick people in the world around us. We thanked God for the weather and our house and for the school, church, and neighborhood communities that we are a part of. We tend to pray for big things like world peace and small things like our pets. What I have noticed over the years though is that while praying together we are also learning about what we all care about.
My son is filled with compassion and takes his schooling very seriously, so he often prays for sick people and for success on tests. My daughter is very social and loves animals, so she often prays for her friends or for birthday parties or for the horses that she gets to ride at her lessons. My job is relatively consuming and I love being a part of various communities, so I often pray for work and for the communities that we are a part of. By praying together I have learned more about my kids than I may have known if this was not a regular rhythm of ours. And my kids have learned about what I care for by my prayers. I often catch them praying phrases or sentences that I remember praying in the past. In praying together we share with God and with each other what we care about the most.
Not everyone loves their commute. It can be seen as wasted time while getting from point A to point B. If you see the time driving to school or work as wasted time I would encourage you to take advantage of that wasted time and to pray. Maybe there is another time throughout your day that you consider wasted time. Waiting for the elevator or for a delivery to arrive. Waiting for customers to show up or for the kids to get off of the bus. Take advantage of those times and pray. Spend the time that you may see as wasted time doing something that is meaningful. Spending time in prayer doesn’t take a lot of preparation or a certain setting. It doesn’t even require you to close your eyes. It does take some intentionality though. Not letting time we see as wasted time go to waste has to be a choice every day. Maybe it is in the morning and maybe not. But it doesn’t have to be wasted time any more.
One of the greatest things about praying with children is the opportunity to model to them what it means to follow Jesus. While I don’t have all of the answers to what it means to follow Jesus, I have been able to pass on to my children some of what I know about God and about who he created us to be through our times of prayer. We pray every day for God to use us to show his love to everyone that we meet. My kids have taken that phrase to heart and we all strive to live that out together every day. It is a result of our praying together that we have that focus as a family and that my kids know that it is important. Prayer has been an important avenue for modeling that in my family and I hope it can be an important one for you as well.
Moses gave instructions for transferring faith to the next generation which included talking about faith while you are on your way going about the activities of life.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5-7
These on-the-way moments matter. How might you use these times to draw close to God and one another? When can you intentionally set aside some time to pray together or read the Bible together as a family each day? How can you build that in to your daily rhythms? What difference might that make in your families life together and what could you model to your children about who God is and who he made you to be through these intentional times?
Rev. Travis Jamieson
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra