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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…and other ways NOT to teach your children how to pray

6

March 27, 2012 by eric echols

Just this morning at breakfast, I was reminded about the importance of teaching our kids that prayer is simply talking to God. I want my three children to learn to speak to God as a friend by using simple, conversational language.

The problem is that we often get stuck teaching them to recite simple mealtime and bedtime prayers. It’s not an easy habit to break because we’ve been passing these prayers down to our kids for generations. Let’s take a quiz to see if you can still remember them today. What is the most recited prayer before mealtime? That’s right, “God is great! God is good! Let us thank Him for our food.” And what about bedtime? Right again, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Apparently the pronunciation of “good” & “food” rhymed during the Renaissance and nothing says “sweet dreams” like a prayer about dying in your sleep.

At first, pronouncing “God is great, God is good…” before downing a bowl of Frosted Flakes or reciting “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…” while being tucked into bed may be just fine. Let’s face it; they are cute, catchy, and easy to remember. The problem is that our kids can say them from rote memory without even thinking.

Instead of rote prayers, Nicole and I are trying to teach our three kids to talk to God in their own words by asking two simple questions, “What do you want to thank God for?” & “How do you want God to help you?”

Thank you God for… I want my children to understand that “every good and perfect gift comes from above”. I want to instill in them an attitude of gratitude by teaching them to thank God for what has occurred in their day. Thankfulness is a natural expression of love. Gratitude flows from a sense of devotion. By teaching our kids to be thankful, we are showing them the many ways God loves them and how to express their love and devotion back to God.

God, help me… Asking God for help is one of the ways we are training our kids to depend on God. It shows them that they need His help to obey people in authority over them, forgive their friends & siblings, and be all that God wants them to be. By asking for help, our kids are learning that God is trustworthy and It reminds them that God is concerned with every detail of their life.

Prayer is foundational for our kids relationship with God. It is one of the primary ways they connect with God. Prayer teaches them to depend on Him and it develops their faith. I simply want my children to talk to God in their own way and know that He hears them. I want to help them move beyond rote prayers by asking God for help and thanking God for what He has done.

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6 thoughts on “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…and other ways NOT to teach your children how to pray

  1. Zack says:

    Great post Eric.

  2. Thank you! I receive this. I’m guilty of the mealtime recited prayer that rhymes. It was something our little girl learned at preschool and we tweaked It to add “in Jesus name” and personalized it a bit….so it would …eh um…rhyme.

    This is a really good reminder that we are raising “people.” good interpretation of an intimate relationship with the Lord through prayer…because He hears the prayers of our precious babes too! I want my babe to be pushed to think and be moved…not recite! #goodstuff!

    • eric echols says:

      La Shai, I’m so glad this post was helpful. I always try to remind myself that we are raising adults, not kids!

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