Have you ever met a family that you are just in awe of? That seem to radiate Jesus? I know some of them–chief among them my friend Ann Voskamp, author of the Amazon bestseller 1000 Gifts, who would be so embarrassed at being described that way.
I love God. My children love God. My husband loves God. We talk about Him a ton. We talk about missions, and about purpose, and about the Bible. We memorize Scripture together. We think through theological doctrine. But one thing we struggle with is prayer.
Everytime I go to a conference, or speak at a marriage conference, my husband and I come away with the same conviction: we need to pray more as a family. I firmly believe that victory comes only through prayer, and that we cannot do anything in our own strength well.
And yet, perhaps because I am more of a logical/intellectual person, I struggle with prayer. Interestingly, my younger daughter, who is the only one in the family who tends towards the touchy/feely side of the spectrum, has less trouble praying out loud and for an extended period of time than the rest of us. I wonder if it’s the difference between logic/feely type people?
It is not that I DON’T pray. Indeed, I often think of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, about how we need to capture every thought and take it captive to Christ, and try to focus on God throughout the day, claiming every part of our lives for His kingdom, rather than just the “Sacred” times. I often think I spend hours in prayer everyday, but that’s because my whole life is like one big, endless prayer to God. As I’m writing, I’m asking, “is this true, Lord?” “Is this what you want me to say?”
So it’s not conversing with the Almighty that is awkward; it’s that sitting around, all four of us, holding hands, closing eyes, and talking all together.
Yet why is it awkward? And is this a condemnation of us?
I know my oldest daughter prays a ton on her own, too. She has a prayer diary she keeps, and she writes in it at least 15 minutes a day, writing out her prayers. She also spends other time just talking to God. She has blogged about it and talked to me about it. Here’s a post where my analytical daughter, for instance, talks about how God is not only an emotion.
So why do 4 people who all pray quite a bit individually have difficulty praying together? I do not know. And I’m confessing this because I want you to know that I am not perfect. I, of course, do not assume that you think I am. I probably frequently write things you disagree with. But I want to be transparent, and tell you I struggle, too, and this is an area where we are struggling.
I want to change it. I want to pray meaningful prayers, and not just go around the circle and pray for friends who need God, or the things that we often fill our prayers with. But I know that my kids will only learn to feel comfortable doing this by example, not just because I lecture to them that it’s important.
And that means it has to start with me, and with my husband. I have no problem praying in public; I do it often when I speak. But somehow prayer has become something very private to me, that I have difficulty sharing with others. But it’s important to me that we pray as a family. It’s important to me because I think that’s when God works best. And so we will try a little more.
I brought this up with my husband tonight, and he agrees that we need to emphasize this more, though he’s like me: he doesn’t know why it’s so hard for us. God doesn’t need specific words or formulas, after all. He just wants us to talk to Him.
So I’m going to suggest this method for our family:
1. Read a Scripture passage or two.
2. Pray short prayers focusing on who God is.
3. Asking for specific things for people we know.
4. Asking for specific things for ourselves.
5. Thanking God for what He’s done.
It doesn’t have to take long, but it should be heartfelt. And we need to pray more.
I remember when the girls were young, and I vowed that I would make sure they grew up to feel that prayer was natural. I don’t feel as if I’ve done that, and my one daughter is within two years of leaving home. I have more to do in this area.
And so I want to know: do you struggle with prayer as a family? What do you do to help? Does it come naturally to you? I want to know!