Keep conversation about Jesus going with our child through nurturing three relationships. Listen in about an activity that our family practiced from the elementary through the high school years and nurtured all three relationships.
Episode 8 Resources: Keep Conversation About Jesus Going
- Episode 6 – Sowing Seeds
- Jeremiah 29.12
- Matthew 18.19
- 1 John 5.14-15
- Join me on Instagram @teresadglenn
- Grab a copy of my book Becoming A Peaceful Mom ~ Through Every Season of Raising Your Child
Read Episode 8 Transcript
In Episode 6, I described you and me as bridge builders. God believes in us, as parents, that we can build a connection between our child and him, with the aim and hope that our child will one day embrace their own personal relationship with him.
Some of us hear that, and we feel burdened with a responsibility and inadequate to carry it out. The reason is, we think it’s up to us, and it’s not. The only part that’s up to you is your side of your relationship with God in Jesus. In your relationship with him and through it, he will equip you and show you the way with your child.
Maybe you didn’t grow up in the church or you’ve only recently returned to it. Your background does not mark you with disadvantage. God provides every parent with the same advantage—the opportunity to have a deep relationship with him in Jesus. So, unload any feelings of inferiority or comparison into God’s hands and take hold of this advantage. God has confidence in you and wants you to have the utmost confidence in him. As your faith in God grows, you’ll trust him to guide you, to help you, and to shape you to become his vessel, as teacher and example.
But before we go any further, I want to emphasize this: If we want to build connection between our child and God, we need to consistently nurture three relationships: our relationship with God, our relationship with the child, and the child’s relationship with God.
In our relationship with God, we are his child. As we read and experience the many ways he loves and teaches us, his example can positively impact our perspective, strategies, and especially, the kind of relationship we desire with our child. How and what we share about God over the years will reflect God’s place of value in our heart.
The quality of our relationship with our child significantly affects his openness to trusting what we teach about God and the merit of having a relationship with God. Over time, he shapes his character in us, so that our child experiences his traits of comfort, forgiveness, gentleness, self-control, patience, dependability… you get the idea. Even when we mess up, a child can observe that his parents believe God’s grace and that they can still learn, too. God intends for us to exemplify what a relationship with him can be like, so that a child one day decides that a relationship with God is worthwhile.
Before we close, I want to share something our family did, and how all three relationships were nurtured at the same time.
When our kids were 6, 8 and 9, I developed a simple prayer practice for our family. I had three goals: for our children to learn and become comfortable to share their heart with each other, to learn how to commit to pray for each other, and to witness the different ways that God answers prayers.
I bought each child a spiral notebook. Terrell and I used notebooks we had. Then one night at supper, I introduced the idea. First, each of us wrote one person’s name at the top of a page in our notebook, skipped a few pages, and wrote the next person’s name, until every family member had 3 blank pages. Then I told them the plan. We would go around the table, say something we want everybody to pray for, and write it in our notebook.
I explained what it means to “share their heart” with phrases like something you hope for (like a friend or that everyone can come to your birthday party), something you want (like to make a team, to do better at something), a decision (like who to invite to something) or a challenge (like missing old friends). We called these prayer requests. I described that all of us would pray every day by our self for each other and promised that it would only take a few minutes. J Basically, they learned to add these words “Dear God, please help…” to the person’s name and whatever that person had shared.
Here are 10 helpful tips to get started:
1. Don’t number the prayer requests. Just write each one on a separate line. In the left margin write the date.
2. Set your prayer request limit. Ours was 3.
3. When a prayer is answered, write that date to the right of that prayer.
4. Be patient with young writers. Simplify the wording and help them spell.
5. We called our notebooks “Prayer Journals,” but you can name them whatever you want.
6. When our kids were in elementary school, we ‘did’ prayer journals almost weekly. During the middle school years, we aimed for twice a month due to extracurricular activities and homework. In high school, we committed to once a month.
7. In the beginning, Terrell or I would lead. Then we let the kids take turns leading. The leader gives each family member a time of focus. Here’s how it went if I was the focus: “Momma, have any of your prayers been answered since the last time? If any have been, I say which one and all of us write today’s date next to it in our journal. The leader says, “Thank you God for answering Momma’s prayer.” This response is casual yet essential, to remind the kids that the answer came from God and we need to always thank him. Next, I shared one new prayer, since 3 is our limit. Then everyone adds my new prayer to the bottom of my list in their notebook. Since my other two prayer requests have not been answered yet, everyone knows to continue to pray those, unless I want to change them.
8. If a child says, “I can’t think of anything,” ask questions by categories in his life. For example, “would you like us to pray that God heals your sore throat” or “when do you have to finish reading that book by?” Sometimes that becomes the prayer request or triggers an idea.
9. Terrell and I shared requests that they could relate to—like, God’s help to get ready for a work meeting or their grandparents’ visit.
10. Encourage, comfort, or edify a child when she keeps a request on her list for a long time, or is disappointed by the answer to her prayer, or vulnerably asks prayer for a challenge.
Establishing this time took work, perseverance, and patience. Some weeks the push back, moods, or relational tension at the supper table made me want to quit or doubt that anyone was benefitting and growing. God would remind me to pray for our relationships, for their hearts to be open, and for protection over our time together.
Some requests are short term, like, what color to paint a bedroom or help to complete a project. Other prayers are long term, like, a desire to have a special friend or to raise a grade. We always thanked them for sharing. During the week, I would say, “Remember to pray for everybody before you turn out your light.” When I glimpsed someone reading his journal, I soaked him with admiration. I never knew how often or what they prayed for one another. I just prayed like crazy that they would pray—and trusted God with the outcome.
It didn’t take long before we began to witness tender moments of God’s work. When one child would share a challenge or something they hoped for, sometimes another child’s face would show surprise or even compassion because he had no idea of his sibling’s struggle. Our family was learning how to share what was going on in our heart, and God was using this to build our relationships and draw us to himself.
As weeks turned into years, God shaped a willingness to be vulnerable with one another around our supper table. This was huge considering a typical week included sibling or parent/child conflict. I watched them listen to each other with respect, wear compassion, and the very best of all, believe God listens. The kids experienced that God does answer prayers—that some are answered quickly, some take a while, and some aren’t answered the way we hoped for but in another way.
Listen to these promises from God. As they wash over you, I invite you to envision your child with these promises established in their heart.
Jeremiah 29.12, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”
Matthew 18.19, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
1 John 5.14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”