I recently stumbled across a quote that had an effect on my week and left me pondering its words for days after reading it. The quote was:
As my children grow older and get closer to launching themselves from the nest I find myself taking inventory of what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what areas might still be lacking. This mental inventory covers everything from school concepts, to life skills, coping strategies, emotional stability,and spiritual tenacity. For their entire childhood I have had this long running list mentally laid next to a clock that is ticking down, forever calculating how much more time I have to teach all the needed life lessons that I want my children armed with before they take flight and face the world independently.
It is easy to fall victim to the sin of control, pride, or fear as I weigh what items have been crossed off the proverbial parenting checklist, while facing down the daunting number of tasks that remain.
I find this “one step forward, two step back,” “flight of the bumblebee” dance to become all the more frantic when you have adopted an older child. The list of lessons you want to teach are the same, but the time you have to teach those lessons is inevitably cut in half when a child enters your life at age 6, age 10 or age 14. Add to that the fact that so many of these lessons can’t even be addressed until there is a level of trust, connection, and stability, and you will find the hands on that already ticking clock moving at light speed.
It is easy to fall victim to the same plight as Peter in Matthew 14…
Peter was willing to put it all on the line. He and the other disciples had been straining against the waves and wind all night long when Jesus appeared to them, walking on the water. Wanting to prove his courage to Jesus, he made an amazing statement: “ Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”. These were rough seas, and Peter was willing to literally step onto them because He was looking at Jesus. That gave him confidence and courage.
It went well for awhile until Peter started to sink. And why did he sink? Because he took his eyes off Jesus and put them on other things.
When my eyes are focused on the list and not on God, I sink. I am consumed with fear and scramble frantically to regain my footing, but the more I scramble the more quickly I sink.
BUT if I turn my eyes back to the Savior I rise above the pull of the waves. I rise above the worries, the stresses, the fear, and the need for control. I am untouched by the crashing waves even as the storm rages around me.
This is the dialog that has been playing out in my head as I look at my older children perched at the edge of the nest, ready to spread their wing and soar. As I consider what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what lessons God is calling me to teach in this final season of their childhood, I am working to keep my eyes on Christ and not fall victim to the sins of control, pride, or fear, but rather allow Him to guide the parental “to do” list of lessons to be taught.
When I stumbled across the quote above I was affected. Its message left me considering how effectively we have taught our children the power of prayer, not just the habit of prayer. I have a testimony of prayer’s power and hope that my testimony has been shared sufficiently with my children through my words, but also through the way that I live my life…
But this lesson is much too important to hang on “hope” or leave to chance.
Because, of all the lessons taught at my knee, the most important one of all is this one. If my children leave my home with no other skill, no other life tool, no other testimony, I pray it would be this one…the knowledge they are loved by a Heavenly Father, they can have a powerful and intimate relationship with a loving Savior, and by keeping their eyes trained on Jesus through a relationship built on prayer, they can rise above the pull of the waves regardless of the storm raging about them.
This is the topic I felt compelled to revisit, especially in light of a recent trend I have seen playing out around our dinner table.
I’m sure none of you can relate to this but when Toby asks who would like to offer the prayer over the meal crickets can often be heard chirping. There is a noticeable lack of eagerness to pray, and while that doesn’t directly mean anything definitive, I want to make sure that it isn’t reflective of something more…
In addition to the crickets chirping I have also noticed a routine approach to praying that I find even more concerning. All of our prayers recently seem modeled after the same manner. They lack the depth and personal nature that should be seen in a conversation with Heavenly Father. Add to that the fact that Tyler has recently refused to pray out loud, something that is definitely fear driven, the source of that fear yet unknown, I knew it was time to revisit the topic of prayer as a family.
With all this going on under our roof I was affected in a powerful way by this quote and felt compelled to make it the theme of this week’s Family Home Evening lesson. It was time to get back to the basics and look at how we could each individually strengthen our relationship with God through our prayers to Him.
I began by searching out resources that would teach the lesson that I was feeling called to present, in an engaging and safe way for Tyler so he didn’t shut down or walk out when he heard the topic for the night’s lesson.
I decided to use a lesson I found online that compared prayer to building a sandwich. It gave a great visual that I knew Tyler would respond to. As I prepared the lesson of making a prayer sandwich my mind kept pulling up the image of the cartoon character, Dagwood Bumstead from the old Blondie cartoon strip. He had a love for sandwiches and was well known for his culinary creations…
Huge, multi-layer sandwiches that he created with creativity and consumed with enthusiasm.
As I thought about the iconic Dagwood sandwich I thought to myself, “Now that is what I want my family’s approach to prayer to look like. I want us to eagerly anticipate the opportunity we have to build that sandwich, meaningfully building layer after layer, and consuming it with pure delight”.
THAT is what I want my prayer sandwich to look like!
Using this model of prayer we went back to the basics. This was primarily for Tyler’s sake but was a good refresher for all of us. I handed out 5×7 “prayer sandwiches” cards, framed in glass, and white board markers and let everyone build their own prayer sandwich. We then each took turns praying, using our sandwich as a guide to our prayer.
We talked about how, like a sandwich, we all have the same top and bottom slice of bread. The top slice is our greeting to God and our bottom slice of bread is the closing of, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
But the filling differs for each of us. I
explained that if we were having sandwiches for dinner and I laid out all the fixings…different meats and cheeses, mayo, mustard, lettuce, onion, tomato, etc. we would all make different sandwiches based on what we liked and what our body was craving. In the same way our prayers differ based on what our experiences were that day, what worries are on our hearts, and what we feel compelled to petition God about.
I took it one step further and pointed out that just as Tyler’s prayer will differ from Rusty’s, our personal prayer should differ day to day. Just like you wouldn’t want to eat the same sandwich for every meal, your prayer shouldn’t be the same rote words uttered day after day. They should be thoughtful, meaningful, personal and relevant to what is going on in your life.
I compared speaking to God that way to talking to their best friend on the phone…
“What would your friend think if every day you called him or her and had the exact same conversation…
“Hi Jane, How are you? What is your favorite color? Do you have a brother? Thank you for my Christmas gift. Talk to you tomorrow. Goodbye.”
I am guessing you wouldn’t have a real meaningful friendship. In the same way our relationship with our Heavenly Father can’t grow deeper if our communication is limited to:
“Dear God, Thank you for this day. Thank you for my family. Please bless this food. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Now granted, I think God is happy to hear from us in any form, even if it is that sort of “text message of a prayer,” but if we are going to benefit from all that a relationship with a loving, personal God has to offer, we must really talk to him.
For the activity part of the evening we took this idea one step further by making prayer sticks. Using tongue depressors decorated with washi tape everyone wrote on the back of 5 sticks people or concerns we want to pray for more regularly and then we placed them in a jar in the living room.
For family prayer time the family member that is offering the prayer will randomly pick 5 sticks and add those prayer requests to their personal prayer requests. These prayer sticks can be added to or changed over time.
All of these activities will hopefully help us all to reevaluate our own approach to prayer and help us all to gain a stronger testimony of prayer and its power in our lives:
We ended the night with a treat of gummy sandwiches…
Because nothing says, “We are having a family night lesson on prayer!” like a bag of KRABBY PATTIES! 😉