Parents: Stop Praying for Your Kids
Before passing along this advice to parents in your ministry, please read this article.
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During a Sunday school class for parents, a dad mustered the courage to ask a question about an issue that deeply bothered him.
"What can I do to stop my daughter's eyes from rolling every time I pray before meals?" he said. "We've prayed for years, and now she acts like this."
The answer hit him like an unexpected backhand slap: "Stop praying for your family."
What? Sorry if you felt it too.
I can still remember the sting that came my way, courtesy of a good friend's daughter.
Several years ago, our family and a family in our neighborhood formed a weekly small group. The other dad and I, sharing a burden to personally teach our children about faith, periodically met for breakfast to develop short Bible lessons.
One Sunday night, several months into our group meetings, he and I learned a valuable lesson. Not from one another, but from his daughter. The materials for that night, which we believed were both clever and compelling, focused on prayer. We creatively shared a Bible story, then spent the next several minutes describing prayer—what it means to us, how we do it, the joy of communicating directly with God, and more. All great stuff—to us, that is.
Quiet, 9-year-old Abby could endure our talking no longer. She took a deep breath and said, "Can we stop talking about praying and just pray?"
So we prayed.
That moment served as a turning point for those small group meetings. Prompted by Abby's boldness, our agenda became less about talk and more about action. Faith stopped existing as mere lessons and became real, through actions. We learned about prayer from praying. Learning about the importance of growing our hearts to serve others involved no lesson but consisted of actual serving projects—which grew our hearts. Jesus once said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14). Unfortunately, the natural instinct for many parents, myself included, looks more like "Tell your children about Jesus until they get it."
We discovered that our children learn more when we teach less and, instead, encourage them toward experience—to actually "come to" Jesus. Along the way, our kids' faith in God became their own. Not the faith of their fathers, which can feel more like rote memorization and spiritual leftovers, but faith deeply rooted in their own beliefs about God and a relationship with Jesus that they can personally embrace.
Numerous studies show that high numbers of young people walk away from their faith as they leave home following their teen years. What faith do they flee—their own? Not likely. The probable suspect is a faith that remains simply lessons, lectures, or long-winded parental talks. Full disclosure: I ran far away from anything to do with God after leaving home. At 29, I stopped running and found out Jesus was right there with me all along. But he never forced himself on me.
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