7 ways to pray with children
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
God created families. He intended the home to be a safe place for children to grow and mature, knowing that children learn the most from the people that they live with day in and day out. The family is the environment that form habits and attitudes which will be passed on down the generations. Before a child goes to school, they will already have learnt many essential life skills. In Christian homes, they learn one of the most important; they learn how to relate to the unseen kingdom of God.
Jesus trained his disciples by being with them 24/7 for a period of about three years. They watched as he ministered to the people, teaching with authority and healing the lame, the deaf and the blind. Then he sent them out in twos to go ahead of him and practice what they had learnt. They asked him questions. They watched him get up early in the morning before it was still dark to talk with his Father in heaven and they realized that they knew nothing of this kind of prayer. They asked him to teach them. He answered with the words now known as The Lord’s Prayer. He addressed his father as Abba, Dad, and taught his disciples to do the same. The most important thing we can teach our children about prayer is to relate to God as a father, a good father, and to pray in partnership with the Holy Spirit.
The foundation for teaching children to pray comes from having an attitude of seeking God and putting him first in everything. Children pick up quickly on hypocrisy. When their parents only pray at church, they will understand that prayer is an activity for church and not for the home. On the other hand, when they see their parents praying at home and setting aside the best times of the day for cultivating their relationship with God that will impact their lives more than any other lesson. My desire for this year is to make the Holy Spirit the center of our home. I’m still working out what this means in practice, but it teaches me to be constantly on the lookout for what God is doing in his kingdom right here and now.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
Praying with children starts when they are still in the womb. Many mothers have sung to their unborn babies. They pray, prophesy and read the word of God to them. The angel Gabriel prophesied to Zechariah that his son John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born,” Luke 1:15. His wife, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when this baby recognized in her cousin Mary’s voice the anointing of God through which Jesus the Messiah had been conceived (Luke 1:41).
Praying with children takes different formats at different ages but it is good to always remember that we need a childlike attitude. There is no ‘one size fits all’ formula. I asked friends from around the world how they have incorporated prayer into their daily routines. They helped me compile this list of suggestions. If you feel like you are getting stuck in a rut, mix it up and try something new. This isn’t a comprehensive list, I would love to hear from you with more ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Setting aside specific times such as around the dinner table and before bed. Ollessia from Kazakhstan shares, “Most of our praying happens around the lunch and dinner table and before bed.” Dionne in Cyprus adds, “Evenings, I ask them what they want to pray about, then I usually start with that and include things that I feel will help.”
- Family worship together. Shayla from Haifa writes, “We have worship together most mornings, and our three preschoolers sing, dance or just play together. Then my husband and I pray, and they sometimes join us with topics that are on their hearts. They have been praying a lot lately for the children of Syria. When we have ‘teaching moments’ throughout the day, whether because of discipline or another opportunity, this will often lead to prayer with one or more of them about the topic. In the evenings, we have another very brief worship time, and just before bed we have a Bible story and prayer time with them about things related to the story, or the day, or whatever.”
- Praying in the spirit, singing and speaking in tongues. Billy Jo in Michigan shares, “I pray in the spirit around them. Their spirits love it and sometimes they fall asleep when I do this. My 6-year old has become a prayer warrior.”
- Listening prayer. Melissa in Jerusalem: “We have listening prayer during which I put on soaking music and give our children paper and colored pencils or markers. Each one of us draws or writes what they heard and afterwards we. We often use this method to listen for direction as a family.”
- Taking turns leading. Elizabeth in Alabama: “When our kids were at home, we normally had a brief devotional time in the evening, except for when we had church meetings. We would have Bible reading, and each one would briefly lead in prayer.”
- Praying “in the moment” and bringing God into everyday family interactions. Caroline from Northern Ireland shares, “We do things very simply. We pray with them every morning following devotions and again in the evening. If there are wrong attitudes, we talk about it and pray with them. There is no right way. We feel it’s about showing them how to just speak to God as they would to us but always in a right manner too. It’s tough on this generation. As parents our need for the Holy Spirit is massive.” Hedva in Israel adds, “Whenever they have something bothering them stop, pray, then continue on with the day.”
- Using prayer boxes for family and for the world. Hadassah in Jerusalem: “With our ‘GrandWonders’ we have a family meeting every two weeks. There’s a prayer box containing cards with people’s names and needs. We pass the box around until all are prayed for.”
As children mature, we want to encourage each one to develop their own relationship with God. Rose from the UK writes, “When the children were young we would read the Bible together and pray as part of our bedtime routines. As they grew into their teens, we gradually stopped reading with them and they began to take responsibility themselves. Their peer groups of other Christian believers at school and also Church youth groups became more influential. Where they had a strong support group, they encouraged one another in prayer and Bible study. Where our children see us living our lives for Jesus and not just following a system, they pick it up unconsciously. It’s harder to rebel against a genuine way of life rather than a religious system.”
Overcoming obstacles in praying with children
Sometimes we need to encourage our children to relate to God as their Dad. Dionne writes about her daughter, “I put it to her that if she wanted to talk to me she wouldn’t wait for daddy, or her brother to do it, but she would come directly to me. God our Father wants to hear our own voices. She prayed a very short prayer but it’s a start.”
Most of us have a picture in our heads when we think of prayer time in the home; the family gathered around the table or around a log-fire with the dad holding a big old Bible and the children quietly sitting around him listening. Having a ‘perfect scenario’ can prevent us from getting started. What if the father isn’t there? We are raising our children in partnership with the best Father there is. He fills in all the gaps in our parenting and turns our mistakes into lessons for all involved. Timothy learnt about God from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). Each family can find its on pattern, single parents included. But just as God has a special concern for widows and orphans (Exodus 22:22-24), I believe he also wants to encourage all the parents raising children singlehandedly. He wants his body of believers to reach out, encourage and support. Prayer can be taught by the wider community of believers too.
Growing up in church, we often think that our children will automatically follow Jesus. Subconsciously we can subjugate our role of living out the faith to church leaders and Sunday school teachers. God didn’t command us to take our children to church every week, he told parents to teach their children the truths about God from the Bible. He told us to live it out day by day. We can be encouraged by the promises of God for us.
“All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace.” Isaiah 54:13
This article originally appeared in Faith Filled Family Magazine May 2018 Issue, page 64, and reposted with permission.
Wendy Halloun lives on Mount Carmel with her husband Sharbel and their four children. She is passionate about the Word of God and equipping fellow believers to be anchored in the Word of God and flowing with the power of the Spirit. Her book, Identity in Messiah is releasing February 2018. Find out more on wordsofclay.com
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Jewish identity crisis continues as recent Nation-State law passed
In case you hadn’t heard, there was a recent “Nation-State Law” adopted in Israel. It says the following as reported by haaretz.com:
So the question is, “Is it good or bad for Israel?” Well, that depends on what part of Israel we look at.
There is the part of Israel that still lives in the shadow of the holocaust, a very understandable mindset given the fact that holocaust survivors are still living and walking among us, bearing constant testimony that the Jewish people are in fact an endangered species that therefore MUST fortify and protect its national/ideological identity at all costs in the face of never-ending adversities. This Israel is usually reactionary, on the defense and anxious, and who can fault them?
There is also the part of Israel that is convinced of the fact that our national “resurrection” of the recent 70 years has reached a point of such strength, fortitude and stability that it needs not be obsessively defended any longer as if the slightest breeze of opposition can knock it off base. This Israel is relaxed, self-assured, open minded, proud of our remarkable accomplishments. Its motivation is to find our place among the nations of the world as a respected and appreciated enlightened democracy and an economic powerhouse.
And then there is the part of Israel that actually believes in God and draws its sense of purpose and direction from the Bible, the divine mandate. This Israel is walking the tight rope of trying to balance seemingly contradictory biblical principles that on the one hand command the Jewish people to uphold and preserve their identity in their Promised Homeland, while at the same time showing hospitality and granting equal justice to the foreigners dwelling in our midst.
And finally, there is the vast number of Israelites who are scattered in between those camps, populating the regions of “I’m not sure what’s really going on,” and “frankly, I don’t care.” These good folks are simply too busy living the good life we enjoy here in Israel, too disillusioned with politics, or most probably a combination of both.
Technically speaking, as some argue, this law is not necessary at all as it basically states the obvious since our Declaration of Independence, Basic Laws, successive court rulings, the majority of our citizens, and the international community all recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. In other words, why bother irritating and scaring our minorities while frustrating our international friends in order to drive home the sensitive and “politically incorrect” facts that everyone already knows?
The opponents fear that a hyper nationalistic interpretation of the Nation-State Law will grant national preferences to the Jewish majority of Israel in matters of human rights and economic opportunity, damaging Israel’s image as an enlightened and inclusive democracy. The advocates of the law fear that without such clear legislation, Israel’s historic and biblically centered identity will continue to erode toward a complete “Mission Creep” where we lose touch with our original purpose and risk losing our identity. Both are scary propositions, and both should be avoided.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence, our founding document from 1948, clearly declares that Israel “is the national home of the Jewish people” while also stipulating that the state “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex.” Not bad at all for a fledgling, isolated state whose actual existence and viability were seriously doubted by both friend and foe at that time. And if Israel found the courage and moral fortitude to take that generous and noble stand 70 years ago, why are we doubting ourselves today?
The divine mandate, for those Israelites who actually believe its message to be relevant for us today, says that “after you enter the land I am giving you as a home … the same laws and regulations will apply to you and to the foreigner residing among you.” (Numbers 15:2, 15:16,) Even more, the Bible requires us to love our minorities. Why? Because “… you are to love the foreigner, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). Ouch!
So, is this recent Nation-State Law good or bad for Israel? It’s neither good nor bad; it is simply necessary. Necessary as a natural outcome of our intensifying national conversation trying to come to terms with our true identity and calling as a Jewish nation back in our homeland.
Because, if we are merely the result of biological, political and societal dynamics spreading across thousands of years of incredible highs and lows, accomplishments and struggles, then we had better do our best to play the favorable cards the universe dealt us in recent decades, join the family of nations as an equal player, and stop irritating the world with our “Jewish uniqueness.”
However, if there is truth to the ancient claims of God on our people, and if it is by His purpose and sovereignty that we were carried through millennia of pain and brought to a safe harbor in this last chapter of our history according to many prophecies of our own prophets, then we had better open our hearts and focus our attention on God and His word to gain a better understanding of who we truly are and what is going on around us.
Warning from what he considered the impending danger of the Jewish nation forgetting its identity and purpose, our national poet/prophet, Nathan Alterman, wrote in his poem (published after his death) “Satan then said:”
“Satan then said
How do I overcome
This besieged one?
He has courage
And implements of war
…only this shall I do,
I’ll dull his mind
And cause him to forget
The justice of his cause.”
I pray that Israel’s national memory be jarred, refreshed, and if need be re-charged to embrace the greater truths that while we are called by God to be set apart from other nations, we are also destined to be a light to those nations. And the real question that still eludes many of our people is why and for what purpose the Jewish nation was created and set apart in the first place?
Not a small task, I agree. Certainly not one that we can accomplish by our own wisdom.
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Being married to a lecturer of archaeology has a tendency to get me also out into the field, literally.
These pots took my supervisor and I six months to put together. Together they consist of 360 pieces. We didn’t start with two separate piles of 180 shards. We started with hundreds of shards of different shapes and colors. Gradually finding random pieces that fit each other until two distinct pots started forming.
Every time my wife comes home from a dig, I ask her: “Did you find anything?” The standard answer would be: “Yes, some rocks that looked like a wall and some broken pottery from the bronze and iron age.” Unfortunately they didn’t use coins in the First Temple Period, so it’s hard to date things precisely.
I once found a coin at a site on the Mount of Olives from the reign of Franz II, the last Holy Roman Emperor before Napoleon’s conquest. It was minted in about 1800 C.E., not even old enough to rate as an antiquity with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Canaanite pottery sometimes has colorful decorations on it but Israelite pottery is rarely decorated (remember no graven images). Rarely are pots stamped with writing in this period – with one exception! King Hezekiah stamped some storage pot handles on jars that were in use when he was threatened by Sennacherib in 701 BC. So far about 2000 of these impressions have been found representing 21 different inscriptions.
Imagine everyone’s excitement when I pulled one out of the dirt at last week’s excavations at Tel Burna. This was not something abstract that was from somewhere in the Iron Age, but could be precisely dated and connected to a specific king of Judah. I might even sign up for the archaeology course offered for international students in the Year in Israel program at the Israel College of the Bible.
Kevin Gyllenberg settled in Israel in 1977. Works freelance in software, writing android applications and hosting websites. Continues to represent Israel in skydiving competitions around the world.
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The good and bad of Israel’s Nationality Law
In a contested vote last week, Israel’s Knesset passed a new Basic Law, enshrining the Jewish character of the state into Israel’s constitutional framework. While the idea of the law is straightforward – it’s hard to argue that Israel isn’t a Jewish state – the actual provisions are controversial, discriminatory and possibly racist.
The gist of the new law provides that Israel is a nation state of the Jewish people, adopts certain Jewish symbols and holidays as national symbols, promotes immigration and settlement of Jews into the nation and encourages outreach to the Jews living outside of Israel. The biggest problem of the law is what is absent. Israel’s Declaration of Independence formulated the vision for the nation, i.e. a Jewish state that would provide equal rights to all of its inhabitants, which includes a sizable number of Arab citizens. The new nationality law is silent on equal treatment of its citizens, and the question becomes whether the provisions emphasizing the Jewish national character will trump the democratic values upon which the state was founded.
The good news of the law was that some its earlier more onerous renditions were changed. This included permitting settlements that could exclude others and mandating the use of Jewish law in the court system. The bad news is that all laws have unintended consequences. Since the founding of the state, Israel has been known as and acted as the nation state of the Jewish people. At the same time, it has built a thriving and prosperous democratic country, where there is a vibrant free press and an independent and active judiciary. In recent years more right wing political parties became upset with Israeli Supreme Court rulings that struck down laws that violated democratic principles embodied into other Basic Laws. These parties have been lobbying for a new Basic Law – to assert Jewish nationality over and above other values. The result was the passage of the new nationality law.
How this new law will affect the democratic character of the country remains to be seen. However, one egregious action occurred the day after the bill’s passage. A provision added to the law by the ultra-Orthodox ensured that Orthodox Judaism will be the sole representative of Jewish values disseminating from Israel to other Jewish communities around the world. Orthodox Judaism has a religious monopoly in Israel, whereas the vast majority of Jews living outside of Israel belong to more progressive branches of Judaism.
In a show case of their power, a rabbi of the Conservative movement was just arrested in Israel for performing an “unauthorized” wedding ceremony the other day. Only Orthodox rabbis are permitted to officiate at weddings. In this case the ceremony was never considered official. Rather, the rabbi was performing the ceremony in an unofficial capacity. It didn’t matter – at the insistence of the ultra-Orthodox, he was arrested. This is an extremely bad sign and signals that the motivation behind the nationality bill is to undermine freedoms throughout the country.
For Messianic Jews this new law could prove highly problematic. Messianic Jews are already discriminated against with respect to immigration. With the adoption of the new law, this could conceivably be extended to housing, jobs, access to the courts, meeting places, rights to build congregations and more. This current government is the most right wing government in Israel’s history. It is not a friend of Messianic Jews, and its outreach to the Christian world is highly hypocritical.
Jamie Cowen is a Partner at Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh Law Offices, Petach Tikvah, Israel; Former Rabbi, Tikvat Israel Congregation, Richmond, Viriginia; Former President, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations; Former Chief Counsel, US Senate Subcommittee 1978-1986
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A tipping point, and a moment of truth
The last few days have seen a flurry of legislation pass into law in the Knesset, Israel’s national parliament. The one which received the most press coverage was the so-called “Jewish Nation-State Bill” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It included ho-hum provisions codifying the description of the flag which has flown over this country for the last 70 years but also some more dramatic clauses such as downgrading Arabic from an official state language to a language with “special status” while Hebrew was declared to be the one and only official language of the State.
This new law drew a tidal wave of denunciations from the usual suspects, including the European Union, anti-Israel NGOs and left wing academics around the world. But it also resulted in statements by many Jewish community leaders and organizations in North America and Europe, making it clear that they sharply disapproved and hoped the new law would be rescinded or at least amended.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this new law and its potential impact, but I think it definitely has prophetic significance.
A corner has been turned, and the historic trajectory of this country has been altered.
Many things are going to change because of it, starting with the fact that the long-strained relations between Israel and the Jewish communities in the Western democracies, especially the US, might have just reached a breaking point. The political, social and last-but-not-least financial support of these Diaspora communities has been vitally important for Israel over the last 70 years. Losing their support, or even receiving it on a more nuanced and/or less consistent basis, would quickly lead to what almost any analyst would say qualified as a “crisis” for this country.
Which takes us to the oft-repeated legend (which might be true but probably isn’t) that the Chinese word for “crisis” combines the figures for “danger” and “opportunity.”
There certainly is an opportunity here, and frankly I think it’s a door being opened by God Himself.
If Israel is about to lose the support of Jewish Diaspora communities it has long depended on for many things, it means that Israel’s Christian supporters are about to become a lot more important to it.
This, again, has prophetic significance.
Because the State of Israel was, from the beginning, a project of the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ. For most of the country’s modern history, that has not been readily apparent, and there are many things going on in this country (e.g. the shockingly high number of abortions performed here every single day) that don’t reflect the will of God.
But nonetheless, this country is here as part of the ongoing work of the Kingdom, and if I’m right, one result of this “Jewish Nation-State” law is that an opportunity is presenting itself for the representatives of the Kingdom to fill the void that’s about to be formed by the withdrawal of support for Israel by the Jewish Diaspora.
So if you are a regular contributor to a Christian organization which provides financial or other forms of support to Israel, prayerfully consider increasing your contribution. If you are a member of a congregation which holds a regular prayer meeting for Israel, join that meeting. If your congregation isn’t yet holding such a meeting, go to your pastor and tell him you want to start one. If you haven’t already, make speaking up for Israel on social media, as well as the more old-fashioned venues like the “Letters to the Editor” section of your local newspaper and in letters and phone calls to your elected officials, a regular part of your routine.
But there’s something else I’d like to ask you to do.
If you are a leader of a Christian Zionist group which regularly comes to Israel and/or meets with Israeli officials, start speaking up about issues like abortion, the LGBT agenda (which is VERY MUCH on the march here) and Israel’s treatment of its own indigenous Believer communities, including Messianic Jews but also Arab Christians.
If you’re a leader of Israel’s Believer community, find your own voice on these issues and start speaking out. The Enemy has plans for this country and these people, and he is NOT shy about advancing those plans. We need to stop being so shy and meek about standing up to him. If the traditionally “progressive” and “liberal” Jewish Diaspora organizations, especially from the US, start being less involved in Israel, that opens a door for us too.
Brothers and sisters, we are living in VERY exciting times! With this Jewish-State law, many things which have defined Israel’s relationship with the Jewish Diaspora as well as the Christian churches which have long been held in a very precarious balance, have reached a tipping point. It’s a new season, with many new dangers as well as opportunities. My prayer for all of us is to have the wisdom, the courage, the vision and the humility to go through the doors God is opening, to confront the dangers, take advantage of the opportunities, and be highly effective instruments in the Hands of our Lord and King.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.