One of the best way kids learn to pray is by listening to our prayers. Here are five ways we can show kids how to pray.
- Earnestly: Don’t yawn your way through praying. Pray with conviction and intensity, like it matters. Elijah was a man with the same nature we have. He prayed fervently, and God listened.
“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” —James 5:17
- Persistently: Jesus taught us to never give up when we pray:
Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” –Luke 18:1-8
- Daily: If I’m honest, I’d rather depend on myself than God. I’d rather always have everything I needed so that I didn’t have to trust God every day. But God wants us to trust in him every day.
Jesus said that we should pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” –Matthew 11:6
“Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” —Matthew 6:34
- Never Resentfully: God won’t always answer our prayers when and how we want him to. But don’t become offended by God. He loves us too much to give us something he knows isn’t best for us.
Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” –Matthew 11:6
- Working AND Praying: Working and praying go together. When we ask God to do something, we need to be ready and willing to do our part by obeying him. God called us to do good works. We need to be willing to get up and move out for God.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” –James 1:22
Our prayers for our children and grandchildren will outlive us, as God works through them for years to come. Let your kids hear and see your prayers at work.
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 6:7
This world can look pretty hopeless through the natural eye. Too many youth struggle to see real hope in the world, when life and death are unpredictable and don’t appear to make sense.
Therefore, we need to consistently show children God’s view of this world, life and death. From God’s view, hope is real and is found in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Lifeway’s Gospel Project provides a superior approach to teach children God’s story of reality and hope in the world they live in. That’s why we use The Gospel Project in our elementary children’s ministry at Cottonwood Creek.
This outline is an excellent guide for teaching children (and ourselves) the real-life view of this world:
- Revelation – God has kept his Word, The Bible, preserved for us to learn his great plan for our lives and this world. His words are true, reliable and will last forever. The evidence for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as described in The Bible, is overwhelming.
- Creation – God created all things to be good. He created every person in his own image. God loves and values every soul, including me and my neighbor.
- The Fall – All people and all creation are fallen and broken because of sin. Every person is naturally born a slave to sin and spiritually dead. The only real hope in this world is God’s plan to save us.
- Redemption – God loves everyone in the world so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, as the The Only Way to take away our sin, save us and give us eternal life with him. Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ by faith is saved from sin and eternal death.
- The Church – Everyone who is saved by Jesus Christ is a part of his body, The Church. Jesus gave his Church the mission to glorify God by doing good works and teaching others to know and follow him.
- Restoration – God’s final plan is to make all things completely new and good again through Jesus Christ. Everyone who is saved through faith in Jesus Christ will get a new, resurrected body and will live in God’s perfect world forever. No matter how impossible things look, God’s love never ends. He is ultimately in control.
The Bible reveals God’s plan of hope. Every page of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, points to the world’s only hope—The Son of God, Jesus Christ. Make sure your children know God’s plan.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 4
For Sue, me and our Cottonwood Creek children’s team, the summer schedule leaves little margin for anything but serving kids. It’s an incredible time for children’s ministry. This summer, we connected with more than 2,100 kids from 1,300 families. Lots of work and lots of fun! As we reflect back, there are four things God reconfirmed to us about ministering to children.
1. The Gospel is Definitely for Kids: God doesn’t hide the mystery of the Good News about Jesus Christ from children. He draws kids to Jesus (John 6:44) when we share the gospel with them. The simple faith of a child in Jesus Christ to save them serves as THE EXAMPLE for all (Matthew 18:2-4). The message of God’s salvation in Jesus makes more sense to children than we often allow.
2. Kids Love the Gospel: It’s a fact that most Christians receive Christ as children. Kids want to come to Christ. We must never push them away or be embarrassed by their youth (Matthew 19:14). Parents, don’t be afraid to lead your children to Christ, or to lead them to people who will. It’s also amazing to me how kids will freely share the good news about Jesus with others!
3. The Gospel is Paramount for Kids: Jesus asked, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 8:36-37) Nothing! Many people forfeit the eternal for the temporal and teach their kids to do the same. What greater hope can we have for our children than to know the One who can save their soul?
4. The Gospel is for Our Children’s Children: This summer, we celebrated the arrival of our 10th grandchild, Axel, and we visited the homes of our three daughters, sons-in-laws and grand kids (getting harder as they move around). We always love to see where they worship as a family and the people they connect with to strengthen their faith. As parents and grandparents, there is no greater joy we have than to know our children are “standing firm in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 3:8) and teaching their children to do the same.
The Gospel isn’t just for childhood; but that’s the best place for it to start. Our hope is that all children will begin early and finish strong.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” – Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
In a world of instant gratification and overnight successes, we can easily become discouraged if we don’t see early signs of success. Is it worth it?
God called His exiled people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Zerubbabel was put in charge of the seemingly insurmountable task. It would take years of hard work, while facing stiff opposition and setbacks. And how could it ever have the same glory as the previous version?
When God calls us to do His good works, it will generally take time and hard work. We’ll face setbacks and opposition. Rebuilding a relationship. Parenting a difficult child. Starting a new career. Loving a neighbor. Forgiving a brother.
God already knows we’ll make mistakes, and at times our strength and courage will fail us. That’s why He repeatedly says to us, “Fear not.” He is assuring us that He will be with us and provide just what we need to obey.
Here was God’s word of encouragement to Zerubbabel for the overwhelming assignment:
“This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’” – Zechariah 4:6-7
Don’t despise the small and early steps of obeying God, when the results can’t be seen. God sees the day when you “will shout” His praises.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. – Ephesians 5:25-27
The Apostle Paul gives husbands the ultimate example of love and selflessness and says, “There, love your wife just like that.” I confess that I’m still working on it. Later (v.33), Paul seems to give us a better chance by saying that a husband “must love his wife as he loves himself.” I’m still working on this too.
More than making me a better husband, this truth of Jesus’ sacrificial love reveals two important points:
1. By his love, Christ made his church spiritually perfect (holy, clean, radiant, stainless, wrinkle-free, blemish-free, blameless). That’s what Christ’s love made us through faith in him.
2. If I love Sweet Sue like Jesus, I will make her an even better (holier) wife and person in this world (I’m not saying she needs it). Loving her and others like Jesus provides them a sanctifying benefit. I can’t make my wife or anyone else perfect. But I can help them make headway by loving them like Jesus.
The gospel reminds us that Jesus made us spiritually holy for himself, by his amazing love. He calls us to help move others to holiness through the sanctifying power of our love.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
A recent Lifeway Research survey of Christian parents of young adults (18-30) identified top factors that contributed to the spiritual health of their children. Children who did all five of the top practices (below, in order of influence) had a significantly higher (41%) spiritual health score as young adults.
- Regularly Reading the Bible: Are you teaching and encouraging your child to read God’s Word?
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” –Psalm 119:105
- Regularly Praying: How are you helping your child to pray consistently?
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” –Philippians 4:6
- Regularly Serving in Church: Are you serving others AND helping your children to do the same?
“As I have loved you (by serving), so you must love (by serving) one another. —John 13:34
- Primarily Listening to Christian Music: What are the most repeated messages your child’s mind is taking in?
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:18
- Participating in Church Mission Trips/Projects: Is your family taking advantage of mission opportunities with the church?
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” –Matthew 28:19
This study reminds us that teaching and showing kids how to practice their faith makes a lifetime impact. For more great information on this study, read Lifeway’s article, How Parents Can Encourage Their Kids’ Spiritual Health.
“I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.'” – Billy Graham
We all know there are no perfect families. Adam and Eve, the couple with the best opportunity to earn a perfect score, couldn’t do it. They wound up law breakers and evicted from their home. One of their sons eventually murdered his brother. Not even close to perfect. You’ll have a difficult time finding examples of any perfect families in the Bible.
With Billy Graham’s earthly journey now complete, there is rightly a lot of reflection and honor being given to his remarkable life. I consider Billy Graham one of the greatest men of all time, and personally put him up there near the Apostle Paul.
As great as God made Billy, he was far from perfect. As a husband and dad, he gave priority to his work and spent most of his time away from his wife and children. It took a toll on his family. Some of his children struggled with drugs and alcohol. Three of five children suffered through divorces. Understandably, plenty of imperfections.
Billy Graham’s life is a reminder to me of how God uses imperfect people with imperfect families for his perfect purpose. Billy gave his life to sharing the message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ because Jesus is the only One who can save and heal the world from its sin and imperfections. I’m glad God used and continues to use the less-than-perfect Graham family. And so are the millions of mothers, fathers and children that Billy reached for Christ.
Don’t be discouraged by your family’s faults. God can and will overcome those imperfections for his purpose as you continue to commit yourself and your family to him.