If you have kids headed back to school soon, you can write prayers on your blog related to school – starting back, uncertainty regarding the pandemic, prayers for kids taking tests, and so much more. Just think about everything kids encounter during the school year, and you will have plenty of prayers to share on your blog that other school parents can pray.
When I was growing up, my mom would often vent to me about her bitterness toward people. My mom was not the kind of person people would think of as bitter. In public, she came across as quiet and kind, and a little bit quirky and eccentric.
What people didn’t realize was that her compassion came from a very sensitive heart. Her heart got stepped on quite a bit, and she was easily hurt. She held in her bitterness, which grew into resentment. Her only place to vent was talking to me. I would come home after school and hear about whoever made her feel hurt that day.
From age three, when I started attending Sunday school, I had been taught to “honor my mother and father.” I was told this was a very serious thing that Jesus wanted me to do. I took it to heart. Unfortunately, I was only given the platitude. I was not taught what honoring looks like in real life.
I came to believe that the best way I could honor my mother was to quietly and submissively allow her to say all kinds of bitter things in front of me. I would just nod my head and try to muster great sympathy. Her bitterness would grow because I kept helping her nurture it.
It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I learned what honor really means. To honor someone is to value that person at her true God-given worth. It means holding that person up as who God created her to be.
If I had truly been honoring my mom, I would not have tolerated her bitterness. I would have let her vent, but then I would have said, “Mom, let’s pray to forgive those people and ask Jesus to take away this bitterness. Because bitterness is not who you are. I want to honor who you are. God made you loving and compassionate with a sensitive heart. I’m so sorry people have taken advantage of that and trampled your heart. That hurts me to see you hurt. But bitterness is not the answer. It is just hurting you more. Let’s ask Jesus to lift that bitterness.”
That kind of confrontation didn’t come easily or naturally to me. I avoided speaking like that to anyone. I tried so hard just to be nice. But as I have come to learn, and as a friend of mine has written so compellingly, “nice” is not a fruit of the Spirit. “Nice” elevates tolerance over truth. In my situation, “nice” dishonored my mom.
Once I realized my sin, I had to repent for how I had dishonored my mom all those years. And I had to repent for the ways I had judged her as “bitter.” Because even though I tolerated her behavior outwardly, in my heart I resented her bitterness. (You can see how easy it is for this kind of pattern to continue generationally.) I asked God to forgive me.
When I finally did have that conversation with my mom about bitterness (in my early 40s), I was terrified. But the outcome was something I couldn’t have imagined or expected. My mom’s heart softened. I may have been one of the first people to acknowledge her sensitive heart and apologize for how people treated her. We prayed together, and she said she felt better.
Our conversations after that were more peaceful. She was still bitter sometimes, but I just invited her to pray with me, and she did. She always said she felt better. I got to see a new side of her during the final years of her life, and she had much more peace. Through that experience, I learned what it meant to honor my mother for who God truly made her to be.
I was asked a question about prayer from a mom who also works with children. Her concern was about how to pray for/with children who are performance-driven.
We see a lot of that, especially in American society. I’m not sure about other places in the world, but in the United States, we have a way of raising competitive, driven, perfectionist performers from a very early age.
What Does Performance Look Like?
When children are performance-driven, this can lead to all kinds of behavior that is not biblical fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit should be how we measure our behavior. If something is not producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, it is not led by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Think about the fruit you might see in a performance-driven child. The fruit can vary depending on the personality of the child, situations at home, family history, and more. But here are a few examples: anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, inappropriate appetite (either stress eating or lack of appetite), addictions (which can take many forms), meanness, lying, manipulation, intolerance of others, self-hatred, pushiness, irritability, inability to focus, emotional instability, self-injury, and so many other struggles.
Whatever form it takes, and whatever the immediate causes may be, performance-driven behavior ultimately runs on a lie the child believes deep in his or her heart: “I have to perform in order to be loved.”
As a parent, you might wonder, “How can my child not know he or she is loved!”
There can be many reasons for this lie to take hold in a child’s heart. No matter how good you are at parenting, children misunderstand things and react to things. Look at God – the best parent ever. And look how we, His kids, behave. If you see performance-driven behavior in your child, don’t let the enemy win by beating yourself up. There are powerful ways to pray and invite Jesus to turn things around.
Why Do Children Think They Have to Earn Love?
It might help to realize how children begin to misunderstand, react, and take lies into their hearts. This happens because every child is conceived in the womb with free will. From that moment on, the child is brought into a sinful world. And what a way to enter that world – without a fully formed brain, without the ability of speech, without an understanding of emotions, and without knowledge of God’s Word. If it weren’t for Jesus, we’d all be a train wreck.
Reflect for a moment on what it might be like for a little one in the womb. She hears voices around her, and those voices might express any number of emotions. She senses things from mom and dad. Even parents with the best intentions will have bad days, fears, worries, and sinful reactions to things that happen. The little one in the womb picks up on all of this. Add in the fact that some sins carry down through the generational lines, and the child is already being harassed by the enemy because of this.
The little one doesn’t have cognitive abilities to understand what’s going on or know how to express emotions in healthy ways. (Most of us can’t even do that as adults!) Instead, the little one just reacts to whatever is happening. Seeds of behavior get planted in the child’s heart, and now the enemy has a project: To nurture those seeds in the child, rather than allowing the fruit of the Spirit to grow.
God Has a Plan!
Of course, the enemy isn’t the only one with a plan. God has a plan too! And from the moment of that child’s conception, Jesus is on the move. He is ready to help that child take truth into her heart, rather than lies. This is where your prayers come in. You can invite Jesus to help your performance-driven child learn that he is unconditionally loved by God. And that there is nothing he needs to do to earn love. He is loved just for who he is. (As adults, we need to learn that too, for ourselves.)
Extremes of Performance
Performance can take extremes as well. Some children will bend over backwards in the effort to earn love. They believe love is available, but they also believe they have to drive themselves into the ground just to find it. When they are “rewarded” for their performance, that immediate feeling of love doesn’t last. They are already trying to earn the next reward.
On the other extreme are children who don’t believe love is available to them. I was one of those children. They perform to avoid punishment. They constantly worry when the next shoe will drop, and they race and perform to stay ahead of that. This can happen even in a loving home. My parents loved me and were kind to me. But my mom was emotionally unpredictable. Somehow in my little heart, I came to associate that with fear. I tried everything in my power to prevent an emotional outburst from my mom, which was way too scary for me. Do you see how this stuff happens?
Not only does performance or driven behavior hurt your kids in childhood. If it’s not taken care of by Jesus, it will stay with them into adulthood. Then it just multiplies and takes on so much dysfunction. However, if you start praying with your children now regarding performance, and help them learn the truth – that they are unconditionally loved by God – not only are you saving them a lot of grief now. You are also helping them have much less strife as future adults.
Praying for Jesus to Help Your Child
How do you pray for/with performance-driven children? Ultimately the Holy Spirit will have to lead you, but here are some suggestions to help you get started:
1. Pray the truth with them. Pray God’s Word. Help them hear, in the words He gives us, that God loves them unconditionally. John 3:16 is always a great place to start. Pray this verse with your children. Help them pray it out loud. Help them turn this verse into a prayer about God’s unconditional love. And teach them what “unconditional” means.
Help your child know that when the Bible says, “God so loved the world” that He means your child specifically. Put your child’s name into the verse. Keep praying this until the truth gets into your child’s heart.
It’s important for you to realize the difference between “heart” and “head.” Your child may have learned John 3:16 in Sunday school (that’s “head” learning). But now your performance-driven child needs to get this truth into his little heart. It’s easy for a child who has learned about the Bible to “know” something about God without believing it with his own heart. (For performance-driven children, this tendency can be magnified, as many of them will try to memorize Bible verses in order to please their parents or teachers, without believing the Bible verses in their own hearts.)
Then look for other Bible verses – there are many! – that teach about God’s unconditional love. Zephaniah 3:17 is a great one. It talks about how God sings over your child. How awesome! And how God brings peace to your child’s heart by His love. It would be wonderful to help your child pray and sing this verse back to God.
Psalm 139:13-18 helps children realize God has been with them from conception (and they were in His heart already, even before that moment). This Bible passage teaches your children how God carefully and lovingly planned and created their life. Depending on the age of your child, you may have to help put this Bible passage into words they can understand. I recommend that you pray over these verses first, and really hear God’s heart. Hear His love for each person that is so clear in these verses. Then help your child hear God’s heart through this beautiful Psalm.
Whichever Bible verses you choose, help your child hear God’s unconditional love specifically for her. Help your child make it personal. Be sure you read and pray it from the Bible. It’s fine (and necessary) to teach these things to your child, using your own words. But your child also needs to hear it from God directly, in His own words. That biblical truth, prayed straight from the Bible, has a spiritual power that will take root in your child’s heart. That truth will counteract the lies. Pray it, sing it, read it together. Then on your own time as well, pray those verses for your child, in intercession, putting your child’s name in each verse.
2. Help your child recognize the ways he performs to earn love. Help him see how this is affecting him. Do this prayerfully and filled with love. The enemy will try and use this to heap shame and more self-loathing on your child. So help your child recognize performance, but in a way that is healthy and loving. Help your child know that he is forgiven and that Jesus is here to help make things better. Give your child permission to be exactly who God has created him to be. Then pray together. Here is a sample prayer, but it’s always best if you let the Holy Spirit lead you in your prayers together:
God, thank you for showing me that I’ve been trying to earn your love. And thank you that I don’t have to earn love. What a relief! God, you love me just for who I am. Not because of what I do or don’t do. You just love me. Period! You made me exactly the way I am, and you are so happy about that! Help me to feel your love in my heart every day. Help me to love myself the same way you love me. Jesus, I know you live in my heart. Teach me about your unconditional love. Amen
3. Help your child to realize that she learned performance somewhere in her young life. She may have learned it from someone, and she may even know where it came from. The Holy Spirit might show her, or you. Either way, help your child pray to forgive whoever taught her to perform. (If the Lord shows you some responsibility in this, repent to your child.)
Even if she doesn’t know where it came from, she can still pray, “God, I don’t know who taught this to me, but you do. I want to forgive those people.” (That prayer alone might bring specific situations and people to mind, for further prayers of forgiveness.) And then have your child apologize to God for deciding to perform to earn love: “Jesus, I am sorry that I’ve been trying to perform to earn love. Thank you that you forgive me. Help me to just be who I am and to be filled with your love.”
Then you can be God’s messenger: Tell your child, in your own words and from your own heart, that you love your child just for who he is. That you are proud of your child just because of who she is. Children need to hear this. They need to hear it from you. And they need to hear it more than once.
4. Then pray together and invite Jesus to show His love to your child every day. Jesus will do this. He will absolutely answer this prayer. Jesus wants to show your child how much He loves him. So pray and invite Him to do this. Help your child to pray this directly to Jesus. And then on your own time, pray it for your child as well.
Jesus will show His love to your child in different ways. It might be through a Bible verse, or He might put words of love in her heart. She might have a dream that tells her God loves her. Jesus might show love through people who encourage her. Through friends who show unconditional love. Or it might be an overall feeling of being loved.
But trust that Jesus will answer this prayer, and He knows the best ways to answer it. Keep your eyes open and watch for what Jesus does. Help your child to recognize how Jesus shows His unconditional love. Notice it and celebrate it together. The more your child sees and feels Jesus’ love and takes it into his heart, the more he will accept that he is truly loved by God.
Let the Holy Spirit Lead
These suggestions barely scratch the surface. And they are just suggestions. Be careful not to turn these prayers into another type of performance – a religious performance. These prayers are meant to help you and your child simply connect with Jesus so He can heal a performance-driven heart. Remember that you don’t need to pray more, or prayer harder, to earn God’s love in response.
Just sit together with your child and share your hearts together with God. He will meet you there. Jesus knows what to do, and you can trust Him with your child’s heart. As much as you love your child, God loves your child infinitely more than you can imagine. And He is so proud and pleased with your child – just for who your child is.
For Teachers: A Word of Caution
Everything I have shared here is geared toward praying with your own children. But for those who are reading this, who work with children in a spiritual environment, you may be wanting to pray for these children as well. For teachers, I would add two words of caution:
First, it’s best if you and the parents are on the same page with this teaching and with these prayers. Whenever you are praying for deep issues of the heart, other issues can come up. So it’s best if the parents are involved in this process wherever possible.
Secondly, this teaching and these prayers should be offered in an environment where children understand how to honor their parents (Deuteronomy 5:16). Getting free of performance issues is not about placing blame on someone else. It’s about repenting for how we ourselves have responded to situations. And it’s about forgiving the people who have taught us to perform. It should be done in a loving and honoring way. These prayers shouldn’t become an excuse for anger, resentment, or rebellion.
Adults Can Pray This Too!
One final thought – If you, as an adult, recognize performance tendencies in your own life, you can pray all of this for yourself as well. You were taught performance somewhere in your childhood. Just as you pray these prayers with your child, on your own time you can pray them for yourself – and maybe ask your spouse or a trusted friend to pray with you. Jesus can show His unconditional love to your heart, so you too will stop believing the lie that you have to perform to earn His love. If you let Jesus break you free of your performance tendencies, this freedom will affect your children spiritually as well.
As a missionary of prayer, I believe it’s important to pray locally, for my nation, and also for the world. There are many ways to pray for the world and the Holy Spirit should lead our prayers.
Praying for the world can also open up many educational family prayer opportunities – learning together about different countries, cultures, and attuning our hearts to the daily lives of people in different places. Even within a particular country, prayer needs can be vastly different from one region to another.
There is so much to learn and so much to pray. No one person can cover it all. It requires the body of Christ praying together with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and orchestration. I trust that the Holy Spirit prompts our individual and family prayers for the world, placing on our hearts something specific we can pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe.
One of my favorite ways to pray around the world is to contact specific organizations and missionaries to learn more about them and to find out about their specific prayer needs. Sometimes prayer points are listed on an organization’s website. It can be a fulfilling family project to look up some of these online and set aside time to pray for them. At other times, I have emailed organizations and missionaries to ask specifically how I can pray for them.
As I have searched for different ways to pray around the world, I was delighted to come across a blog that publishes prayer needs for ministries in different countries:
I subscribed to this blog and enjoy receiving these global prayer updates by email. Each blog post focuses on people serving in a specific location. It helps me focus prayers on specific people and current situations. I appreciate knowing that my prayers are joined in unity with people around the world. The praises are also wonderful – to hear how God is moving in different places. This is very encouraging.
I hope you will enjoy visiting this blog and praying around the world.
Thanksgiving Day is a beautiful time to reflect on God’s goodness in our lives. We are reminded to really focus our hearts on who God is and how much He loves us. It’s an opportunity to ask God to align our hearts with His, so we can see through His eyes, and love with His love.
As we give our thanks to God, we become aware of the many ways – large and small – He is involved in our daily lives. Thanksgiving is a time to recommit, through our prayers, to live in gratitude each day. Our Thanksgiving prayers can open our hearts to be more thankful, and to pay attention to what God is doing in our lives daily – even (and especially) on difficult days.
As I began to prepare for my Thanksgiving prayer time, I wondered what kinds of prayers people are praying. I found this beautiful website that shares prayers for Thanksgiving, along with prayers for many other moments of our lives. It’s a resource I have bookmarked and will revisit often. I hope you will enjoy their collection of Thanksgiving prayers as much as I did:
May God bless you and your family on this Thanksgiving Day.
Currently, I am involved in a non-denominational church. Yet I grew up and at one point served in the United Methodist Church, whose prayer roots I continue to learn about. As a seminary student and prayer missionary, I am interested in learning about prayer traditions of the many branches of the Christian Church. It’s fascinating to me. I think we can learn a lot about biblically based prayer from Christian history and different church traditions.
When I was growing up in the Methodist church, we celebrated Communion on the first Sunday of the month. (Not enough, in my opinion.) Back then, before the days of overhead projectors, we used hymnals to read the Communion liturgy. By the age of five, I had it memorized – not because I was trying to, but simply because I had repeated it so many times. What I never appreciated, until now, were the biblical roots of that liturgy.
On Sunday, I opened my email to find this message from Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, who is president of Asbury Theological Seminary where I attend as a student. I am getting ready to take a class this spring on the Psalms, so this particular article caught my eye:
In this article, Dr. Tennent talks about the importance of repentance in Christian life. He also traces the roots of the typical Methodist Communion liturgy to many of the Psalms, as well as Isaiah.
And he says something that really stood out for me: ” … the Psalms have always been the prayer book for the people of God.”
With my passion for prayer, I am more excited than ever to study the Psalms this spring.
Even though liturgy and hymnals don’t seem to be used as much in the church as they used to be, it might be an interesting family activity (or church class) to look at some of the words of earlier church practices, trace the biblical roots, and pray those prayers as so many people have done across the ages.
If you are curious about the liturgy referred to by Dr. Tennent, here is the full text:
As I was reading over this text, so familiar when I was young, I realized that even in traditional services where hymnals are still used for Communion, often the prayers of confession and pardon are left out – probably to cut down on time. Yet that means we’re missing out on this rich tradition of prayer.
Instead of removing these prayers from the Communion liturgy, it might be helpful even to incorporate these prayers in other aspects of church life. They are great prayers.
I am only familiar with the United Methodist Communion liturgy, referred to in the article by Dr. Tennent. However, it would be interesting to look at the equivalent prayers and liturgy in the history of other branches of the Church.
Does your family or church pray any of the older liturgical prayers, or pray from the Psalms? What are your prayer traditions and practices?
I remember one Christmas when I was a teenager, I opened a box from my cousin who lived on the other side of the country. She had stuffed it full of goodies – “little things,” she called them, but they meant so much to me. She had listened closely, through letters and visits, and knew my heart really well. The items in her box were handpicked especially for me.
It wasn’t the size of the item that mattered; it was the way each item spoke to my heart and affirmed me. The contents of the box told me how much she cared and how important I was to her. The timing was also significant because I had just lost my father. The Christmas box from my cousin was a way to celebrate life in the midst of grieving. That’s where I first learned that really good things can come in a small box.
I love the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoeboxes. Just like my cousin’s Christmas box, these shoeboxes tell a child that you care enough to pay attention to his or her needs. And that a lot of love can be stuffed into a tiny box. More importantly, your shoebox sends the love of Christ. Your gifts tell this child that God loves him or her so much that He moved someone’s heart from miles away to fill their Christmas with joy, love, and hope. Your shoebox allows God to touch a child’s heart with His love.
Operation Christmas Child’s shoebox collection week is only one week away! There is still time to send your love and prayers to one of God’s kids this Christmas. Have fun! God bless you.
I volunteer for the public Samaritan’s Purse Blogger Network.
Prayer is a journey. It’s an amazing daily adventure with God. You never know where He will take you, but you know it will be good. He is good. Time spent with Him daily in prayer will make your whole life an amazing adventure.
Prayer is largely invisible. Sometimes it helps to find symbolic ways to make visible what is happening in the spiritual realm. Prayer stations are a great way to do this.
You might have seen or participated in a prayer station. It’s a space that is set up to visually represent and prompt a time of prayer. The station might depict a scene from the Bible. It might suggest a prayer for a particular situation, with pictures or items to represent that prayer. It’s just something that makes prayer tangible.
A more elaborate form of prayer stations are the well-known Stations of the Cross that are often set up during Holy Week. We did this at our church one time with live actors, and it was a very moving experience. At one of our stations, we invited people to write out their prayer requests. The bowl was overflowing with their heartfelt requests, just like the incense of Revelation 5:8.
At a local monastery, they have a beautiful outdoor path that moves you through the various Stations of the Cross. It invites you to walk where Jesus walked as He carried His cross to the outskirts of Jerusalem. If you go to Israel, you can find these moments marked with signs.
One year during the Lenten season, our church set up small prayer stations in the sanctuary. We left these up in the window sills for the entire season. They weren’t Stations of the Cross, but simply prayer stations, each one focusing us on a biblical theme of prayer. It was a great reminder to pray, and it was a way to interact with God in prayer each time we entered the sanctuary. Our sanctuary was open during the week, so people could stop by anytime and pray through the stations, or just find one station to focus on.
Those are some of the ways churches can offer prayer stations for their church families. But how about your own family? Have you considered creating prayer stations at home?
There are many ways you can do this. If you enjoy decorating seasonally along with your children, it might be fun to set up seasonal prayer stations – for Advent, Lent, the four seasons, or even school exam time. Let your children have the biggest part in putting the stations together, which might include drawing pictures or collecting natural items from outdoors. Then spend time each week as a family at those prayer stations. Don’t be surprised if the children or grownups enjoy additional time stopping to pray on their own.
Another way is to set up smaller prayer stations that stay there year round. This could be as simple as putting a post-it note in a corner of the hallway that says, “What are you thankful for?” or “What do you love best about talking with God?” These could serve as daily reminders and prompts for prayer.
One of your family prayer stations might include a cork board with pieces of paper, pens, and pushpins, where family members can write and pin up prayer requests. Encourage your kids to write prayer requests for themselves and for friends they are concerned about. During your regular family prayer times, you can talk about and pray for these requests. The prayer station offers a way to keep those requests in front of the family all week.
Prayer stations are a great way for your family to grow in prayer. They will help you keep prayer as a major focus of your family’s day.
Have you tried prayer stations at home? How about in your church? What are some of the ways you have done this? What do you like best about prayer stations? What results have you seen in your family?
I would love to hear about your experiences. Please consider sharing in the Comments below so that others can benefit too. God bless you! Have a prayerfully adventurous day with God.
I was talking yesterday with a friend who just returned from Uganda. She spent several weeks with a neighborhood ministry that had requested inner healing prayer. As she shared about the desperate situation and the hunger in the people’s hearts, she also lamented that she seldom finds that kind of hunger here at home.
We considered what it means to be desperate for God and why that often seems more prevalent outside the United States. Then we talked about the desperate situations all around us here at home. Perhaps there are two aspects of “desperate.” One involves situations. The other concerns attitudes of our hearts.
Despite the disparity of wealth among nations, people’s lives can be in despair no matter where they live. Here in the United States, I know plenty of people in desperate need of God. But they don’t recognize it the way people in some other places do. Why not?
A scene from a movie comes to mind. The doctor in Beyond Borders is operating on a dying woman in Ethiopia during a time of famine. He explains that people thank him with their whole hearts there, whereas back in London, they don’t thank doctors as deeply. In the Ethiopian camp where he is serving, there are no pain killers, so the people feel everything. They appreciate help on a gut-wrenching level.
He asks the visiting American, “What do you do when you have a cold?”
She suggests several common remedies.
He says, “Do you ever just have the cold?”
The answer is no. When we have the means, we doctor ourselves up, doing whatever it takes not to feel the cold, the pain, the discomfort.
And that is the difference between desperate situations and desperate hearts.
Here in the United States, we have many ways to mask our pain. We numb ourselves, seek self-comfort, hide in false refuges, drown things out with our noise and busyness, deny our realities, and sweep truth under the rug.
We can only become desperate for God when we realize how desperate our situations are. The more we hide, numb, self-comfort, and deny, the less we will recognize our deep need for God.
In fact, as another friend pointed out, our ability to numb ourselves is what makes our situation desperate. We have become really good at blocking God from the places in our hearts that hurt the most.
How do we change?
It has to start with each one of us, individually, and then as families, and then as church families.
We have to be real with what’s going on in our hearts. We have to let God bring things to the surface so He can deal with them. We need to acknowledge the pain, feel it, and embrace it. To recognize that we have nothing without God. Then we need to invite Him into those difficult places in our hearts, so He can bring true healing.
We also must be willing to hold each other accountable to this – and to let ourselves be accountable to others as a family, and as a body of Christ.
What do you think? Wouldn’t this be a good day to start?
Will you join me in this prayer?
Lord Jesus, thank You that You came to set us free from the ways we have become held captive in lies, denial, and our ability to sidestep our own pain. Forgive us for the ways we cover up, numb ourselves, and whitewash the realities of our lives. Search our hearts and show us where our deepest hurts and fears are hidden. Bring Your light, truth, and healing to every area of our hearts. We want to be completely in relationship with You, with our whole hearts. Help us, God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“’The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;'”
— Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
— Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)
Prayer takes place mostly in an invisible spiritual realm. On one hand, we need to learn how to appreciate God’s presence in that invisible space. We are in relationship with a Spiritual Being who is Other than we are. We need to learn how to relate in ways that cannot be seen.
On the other hand, sometimes tangible symbols help us to learn about prayer and our relationship with God. That’s why the Lion of Judah first made his appearance in our Kidz Church.
We ran Kidz Church just like a regular church service, with worship, Bible, prayer, and sermon. Except we didn’t run it. The kids did. They were the ones who greeted, ushered, and prayed. They led worship, wrote their own sermons, and preached. They cried with friends at the altar and laughed together in celebrating God’s joy – often in the same moment.
The children were always willing to share their prayer requests out loud. They wanted to pray for each other too. One day, our associate pastor arrived at Kidz Church with a plush lion. She introduced him as the Lion of Judah. When asked who the real Lion of Judah is, the kids cried out, “Jesus.” They knew the plush character was only a symbol. But it was a tangible way for them to learn about prayer and God’s presence with them.
Every week, the children would offer their prayer requests out loud. All prayer requests were important and treated with honor and compassion. But each week, the children chose one person who seemed to need the most strength or comfort. That child would receive the Lion of Judah to take home for the week. The child would then return the Lion the next week.
As the child was chosen, the kids circled up and prayed for each other. And the Lion of Judah went home with that child. The plush animal was a very hands-on reminder that God was with that child every minute of every day, bringing comfort, strength, healing, and other answers to prayer.
The children took this very seriously. Seeing the Lion go home with one of their classmates made them want to pray for that child. The adults were amazed at how the Lion was returned each week with great care.
I sometimes wondered if the adult church service might have benefited too from bringing home the Lion of Judah.
This is one of many creative ways to teach children about prayer and to make it visible for them. In some ways, adults need this lesson more than children. Little ones have a way of navigating the invisible spirit realm with more confidence than adults.
But little ones also need a strong foundation for a life of prayer. If you are looking for a way to teach your kids, try bringing home the Lion of Judah.