A Prayer Practice for Kids
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
In the last few months, many of our family rituals have fallen to the wrecking ball of this pandemic. We lost the structure of school and the routine of my partner going to work and coming home. I was without regular work for a couple of months. We began to attend, cautiously, some events outside of our home and then we stopped.
As we continue down this path of unrelenting unpredictability we have at times tried to impose new structures but they never seem to be able to outlast the constant shifting. And the sense of stability that they offer never seems strong enough for us to feel like we are standing on solid ground for any noticeable amount of time.
Lately, I have been trying to embrace the awfulness. I have been trying to just be where I am and to use that feeling of vulnerability to open up a space to try to understand what is real and true and what isn’t. I have been trying to pray more and to be more honest with myself and with God about the things that are really hard.
My twins, who are six, were already pretty good at being honest with themselves and with others. They still are, most of the time, their true selves. But they are beginning to be old enough to feel shame, to hide what they are feeling, and to try to forget their tears by watching a show or getting something sweet from the fridge.
All of the upheaval that these last few months have wrought has definitely had an impact on my kids. Even though they don’t have to be responsible adults, I know they also feel some sense of floating around, unmoored. And I have realized that even though I really want them to feel better, I don’t want them to decide that the way to do that is to hide their fear or anxiety.
I can’t fix the pandemic or climate change or racism. I can’t put a Band-Aid on it and make it all go away. But I can help them remember that we can always reach out to God.
So, even though it feels a bit hopeless, we are trying a new practice. But I feel like we might stick with this one because talking about hopelessness is kind of the point.
Once a day, we do a family prayer. I haven’t even tried to tie it to a specific time or place because that feels like an unrealistic expectation. Just once a day, whenever we are all together, we say a prayer together. I set up a system with pens, paper, and boxes.
We have one box for gratitudes and one for petitions and one for sharing God’s love. We work on responses for one box at a time. Everyone fills out at least one paper for each box. (Or if someone has, for instance, thrown all the papers on the floor in anger over thinking their turn was skipped and slammed the door to the bedroom, then they may yell their responses through the wall.)
When everyone has completed their first answer, we say a simple prayer for each one. For the gratitude box, we say, for example, “God, thank you for Xavi’s hot wheel cars.”
For the petitions box, we say, “God, can you please help Clara with feeling sad about always being asked to get her own snacks.”
For the sharing love box, we say, “God, thank you for Papa and the way he made dinner for everyone today.”
That’s it. This one small act feels too insignificant to make a difference. On the other hand, maybe it is the only important thing: teaching our children, and giving ourselves the space, to turn to God in prayer each day, to say out loud that we need help, to remember to be thankful, and to reaffirm ourselves as vessels of God’s love.
There is a one-hundred percent chance that my children are going to emerge from this time less educated than they would have been, less socially developed than they would have been, and less physically fit than they would have been. But I hope that they might gain through this prayer practice a better sense of themselves and of what is really important. I hope they might feel connected to the gift of God’s love and truth that is the anchor for their tiny boats in this storm-tossed sea.
Dianne Garcia, Pastor of Family Ministry