One morning last month while on vacation, I woke up to several frantic texts and phone calls from my friends and family. I scrolled through the messages until I saw why: my long-time best friend’s husband died suddenly in his bed at only 43 years old.
We were at a little cabin in the woods for Spring Break. My friend was getting on a plane later that day to go to New York for her own getaway.
What was happening? How could this be?
I started shaking. I couldn’t even look at my husband sitting in the bed next to me. I just scrolled through the texts, “He’s dead, He’s dead, He’s dead.”
Knowing the kids were hovering in the other room, I called them in to tell them what happened. Our very next step was to hold hands and pray.
My husband barely made it through the first word of his prayer before the tears came. We prayed for comfort and peace for the family, and for ourselves.
We let go of each other’s hands and tried to continue our vacation. At lunch that day, my ten-year-old prayed before our meal. When he said “Amen”, my husband elbowed him and whispered, “Don’t forget about Mommy’s friend,” encouraging him to pray for them on his own.
My friend’s husband was being buried at a monastery. Later that week, as I was perusing the monastery’s website, we noticed a schedule of the monks’ prayer times.
Five times a day the monks pray in the church:
My kids were aghast. “Why do they have to pray so many times a day?” I was shocked by their shock. “Well, the Bible says to pray without ceasing,” I explained. “This is just their way to do that.”
I don’t think their shock was so much that someone would pray so many times each day, but rather that it was structured.
It got me thinking. Do my kids have that same habit? Is their first response prayer? Do they turn to God in their quiet moments? In their hard moments?
When they were little bitties, if my children stubbed their toe, scraped their knee, or had any kind of owie, we would stop and pray, “Jesus, heal her hurt.” or “Jesus, comfort his heart.”
When we noticed a part of God’s beautiful creation, like a giant full moon, we’d cheer together, “Thank you God for making the moon!”
When we pray before meals, our words become a list of things for which we are thankful: “Thank you God for our food . . . and school . . . and . . . our dog . . . and . . .”
When we pray before bed, I try to model how I want them to pray, “Holy Spirit, speak to him and help him follow Your voice,” and I find my children saying the same when it’s their turn to pray.
When I drop the kids off at school, I pray, “Lord, let her walk with the wise and grow wise, and not be a companion of fools who suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
If we hear an ambulance or pass a funeral procession, we stop and say, “God, be close to them.” (Psalm 34:18)
When someone calls with bad news we hold hands and pray, “Lead them, Jesus.”
We may not be on the same schedule as the monks at the monastery, but these simple moments during the day when we stop and pray, are our own way of praying without ceasing.
These quick words, spoken to God, help us mimic Mary, Martha’s sister, who knelt at Jesus’ feet while everything else swirled around her. We pray two and three sentence prayers that are simple reminders of God’s power, God’s faithfulness, God’s attention, and His love for us.
I think if the kids counted our prayers, they might find we pray five times a day just like the monks. And even though I like the idea of chapel bells calling us to conversation with God, I also love the thought that my kids have woven prayer into their day, especially as they see needs that are too great for their own strength.
As my kids get older, I believe they will be drawn to bow their heads when facing a big decision, a hard test, a difficult relationship, a sickness, a broken heart, or a happy day. As with most aspects of parenting, growth begins when we lead the way.
Pray together everyday.
Model a consistent prayer life.
Help your children choose their own words to speak to our Heavenly Father.
These simple habits will help your kids develop their own sacred rhythm of connecting with God every day. . . and especially during the hardest of times.