Someone once observed that “We become like what we worship.” What we love forms us and shapes us in mysterious ways. When our heart is captured by someone or something, our lives begin to be oriented around the object of our affection. We can’t stop thinking of it, our hearts grow fond of it, and we will bend our time, and our energy around whatever it is that our hearts have begun to adore.
We see this in ourselves, but if we look, we can also see it in our children. Whether it’s an Xbox game, a first crush, or a sport, when the affection of our children’s hearts is captured by someone, or something, they go through a period when it seems like that is all they can think about, or talk about. What they adore shapes their lives.
Perhaps, then, it makes sense that God wants us to learn from a young age the importance of praising God. In fact, the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9) is a request that God’s name might be held in reverence and honor. That is, that we should adore God for who he is and not bring shame to his reputation.
Interestingly, the bible (the Psalms in particular) are filled with commands to worship and adore God. The Psalmist commands himself, “Praise the Lord, O my soul! And all that is in me, praise his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1). “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:1-2). What stands out in both of these (and many other) examples is that the poet is making a conscious commitment to practice the discipline of praise.
Prayer is a powerful opportunity to adore God directly. When we use the acronym ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, & supplication) to guide our prayer life, we are beginning our prayer as Jesus teaches us; we are beginning our prayer with adoration of God.
Worship doesn’t always come naturally to us, and we may not always be inclined to express our adoration of God. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in expressing our wants and our requests of God that we entirely neglect to spend prayerful time adoring our God! Like the Psalmist, we may need to speak to our soul about the beauty and goodness of expressing our adoration of God.
During our family devotions some time back, it occurred to me that we aren’t always clear on exactly what “adoration” is. We easily confuse prayers of adoration with prayers of gratitude. Gratitude and adoration are two different and equally important elements of prayer. I explained it to my kids this way: Gratitude is thanking God for what he has done, adoration is praising God for who he is. Or, to put it in a way children might understand, adoration is complimenting God for something we love about Him.
So, how can you help your children learn to pray prayers of adoration?
One of ways that you can start this practice is by doing family devotions together. Spending time each day, or each week, studying the bible and praying together becomes fertile soil for growing habits of faith that can mature into a deep relationship with Christ.
Specifically teaching our children to express our adoration for God might begin by choosing an attribute or a quality of God, and then learning together what it means. Some of these characteristics might include his wisdom, his power, his love, his justice, and his knowledge; you could add many more to this list. In prayer, you might encourage each of your children to “unpack” that beauty of that attribute.
Again, the Psalms have many examples that can help us find the language we need to praise God. They often name an attribute, illustrate it, and then show why this quality matters so much. You could invite and encourage your children to each name one quality of God in prayer, and take a turn expressing their joy in God; or, you could all choose the same quality of God, and take turns speaking to God ways that this characteristic is especially meaningful. You may also consider each sharing stories from your own life about how you were blessed by God’s wisdom, or how His love became real to you, or when you felt a sense of awe before God’s holiness.
Another wise person once made the point that “we praise what we enjoy because our delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise.” When we teach our children to adore God, we are leading them to the source of unending, and eternally-satisfying joy; we are helping them to worship God, and enjoy him forever!
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster