How do you pray?
~ Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
(Colossians 4:2) ~
When I was little, my parents would make us pray before and after our meals: “Lord bless this food for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” Prayer was recognition that the food we received was from God and that He always provided for our family. I knew that I had to say the ‘words’ before I got to eat the food that was steaming on my plate. However, the words often came automatically, without thought or meaning.
When Simon and Sophie were able to speak, my wife and I began to incorporate prayer into our mealtime routine. We started with the traditional “Amen” and moved on to more elaborate prayers as they aged. At the age of 4, we encouraged the kids to say their own prayers out loud at meals. Now that the twins are 6 years old, I can see a parallel between their mealtime prayers and mine when I was a child. Sophie, for example, recites the following:
Thank you for the day. Thank you for trees. Thank you for flowers.
Thank you for dolphins, beavers and bears. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
At the age of 4, the prayer was cute and we were pleased that Sophie had created her own prayer. Now this same prayer has become automatic and meaningless. We began encouraging Simon to do a “new prayer” at dinner when he became repetitive. For whatever reason, we did not do this with Sophie. I think it was because Simon’s prayers were always so short that we noticed it first.
This week, after Sophie had prayed ‘her’ prayer, Simon piped up that Sophie was repeating herself. As any child, he was quick to point out inconsistency of treatment as he had to think up new prayers all the time and Sophie did not. So we began to encourage Sophie to create new prayers but she found this difficult. “Dad,” she said her inquisitive voice, “How do I pray?”
Good question. In Colossians 4:2, Paul encourages us to be steadfast in our prayers. We need to be honest and diligent in our conversations with God. When we are “watchful in it,” we are intentional in our prayers, communicating with God as if He were to respond to us in a conversation. When we talk with people who are important to us, we express our feelings, emotions, thoughts and struggles. Isn’t that what God wants from us? The final portion of the verse refers to thanksgiving. How often do our prayers focus on things we want or circumstances we want changed? We need to include thanksgiving in our prayers so that we avoid creating an endless list of complaints or wants. We need to remember all the blessing that God grants us every day and to be thankful for them.
The best way Sophie and Simon can learn this is by demonstrating these principles our family prayer time. First, we need to pray regularly, taking the time to communicate with God. Secondly, we need to make sure our prayers are like a conversation with God, so that they are real. Finally, our prayers need to recognize all the things for which we are thankful. Yes, we can be thankful for dolphins, beavers and bears, but God has blessed us with much more and we need to recognize these blessings…our health, our home, our family and friends, as well as the food on our plates.