About a year ago, we started praying together as a family after dinner. With two three-year-olds at the table, brevity is important and direction is necessary. The predictability of a prayer schedule has helped the kids participate with increasing independence, though we’ll still get the occasional, “I don’t know what to say,” and have to provide a prompt. Our goal is to do this every night, but it’s probably closer to 3-4 times a week. We always pray in age order, youngest to oldest, and cover a range of topics that we hope encourages a passion for the mission, for the church, and ultimately, for God. If you want to grow in prioritizing family prayer, I’d highly recommend creating a schedule. Here is a breakdown of the one we use:
Sovereign Grace (our local church): God has designed us to live in community with one another, predominantly in the context of local churches. With this in mind, we should consistently pray for the health and mission of our churches. On some nights, we pray for the salvation of attenders or that children would understand what is being taught in Sunday school. We pray that our pastors would grow in their passion for God and be protected from discouragement, burnout, and temptation. We pray for our congregation to grow in evangelism and in our love for one another.
Mission partners: There are a few ministries/missionaries that we financially support on a monthly basis. It’s tempting to allow such support to become nothing more than another bill, which we don’t want to happen. When we pray for the spiritual health and missional fruit of those we’re supporting, our hearts remain engaged in the ministry they are doing. So we typically pick one organization or missionary, remind our children of the focus of their ministry, and pray according to their current requests or endeavors.
The Great Commission: It’s easy to get bogged down in daily life and to forget our purpose on earth. We exist to spread God’s glory among the nations! Sharing the Gospel is one of the few things we can’t do in heaven, so we want to passionately do it here! We take this time to pray for personal boldness and corporate faithfulness to demonstrate and proclaim the Gospel, and plead for the salvation of those who hear. We also pray for specific friends, specific countries, and unreached people groups.
Widows and Orphans: James calls concern for widows and orphans a mark of pure religion. During this time, we pray for the salvation and protection of the nannies who took care of Tulasi in her orphanage (many who were widows), and for the orphans we sponsor. We also pray for children in foster care, for families who are adopting, and for God to stir others to adopt.
Thanksgiving: We naturally come to God with more requests than we do thanksgiving, so we reserve Thursdays for gratitude. Sometimes this is as simple as thanking him for a delicious dinner, a beautiful day, or for something He’s created (Reed often thanks Him for different animals.) Sometimes we focus on thanking Him for one of His attributes or for answered prayer requests. God is so generous and good to us, we want to fight our tendencies to take His blessings for granted!
Friends and Family: This night varies the most. Sometimes we pray for the health of my older brother (who has Crohn’s decease), or about our foster nieces and nephews court dates and futures, or for friends who are walking through trials. When nothing is particularly pressing, we just thank God for a specific person and pray that they will know Him more.
Suffering People Groups: On these nights we briefly discuss a current event or topic like persecution, the refugee crisis, natural disasters, abortion, racism, poverty, or modern slavery, and then pray for the people effected. We also ask God to show us ways in which He’s equipped us to respond and for faithfulness to do so.
This practice has been so valuable to our family. There are still times when we have to pause and correct the child making weird noises or poking their sibling, but they are growing. And while we don’t think any of our children are saved yet, we believe that praying together is a vital component of discipleship. We want prayer to be natural—a daily practice—not just a place we turn to when something’s wrong. Praying together also creates the opportunity to spotlight answered prayer. It is such a testimony to our children when we can point back and say, “do you remember when we prayed for this, God was listening and He answered!” Perhaps even more importantly, it gives us the chance to discuss God’s sovereign goodness when we don’t witness the outcomes we wanted. Finally, through praying together we can demonstrate how the Gospel transforms our thinking. When we predominantly pray for God’s mission and glory, it battles our inclination to treat Him like a proverbial genie who exists to meet our every whim and want. It shows our children that when we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, anything else we need will be added to us (Matthew 6:33).
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