For many years now, I’ve asked students about their quiet time with the Lord. Frankly, many struggle with consistency, especially with prayer. Anecdotally, though, here’s what I’ve learned: the students who struggle least tend to have had parents who modeled quiet times for them. Sometimes they did that intentionally, but at other times it just happened. Their parents did their quiet time in a more public place, and their kids took note. Here’s why that matters:
- Kids need to see a devotional life beyond Sunday. If all they see happens on Sunday, they’ll assume that Sunday is the only day to be with God. Likewise, if the only prayers they ever hear are over dinner, they’ll learn that’s the only time to pray.
- They need to see that Christianity is a lifestyle, not just a weekend habit. One of the ways they’ll learn that Christianity changes lives is by seeing their parents read the Word and hearing them speak to God throughout the week. Their first role models need to be in their home.
- They need to hear prayers over them and about them. Even if it seems they’re not listening, they need memories of their parents’ voices praying for them. They’ll need to hear those voices in their heads years later when the world sends them alternative messages.
- They need memories to encourage them in the years to come. Maybe it’s a well-worn Bible with Daddy’s notes in it. Perhaps it’s Momma’s prayer notebook that’s crinkled over the years. Or, maybe it’s an electronic journal written by one of their parents. In any case, it will be a gift they’ll cling to years later.
Here’s my point, parents and grandparents: involve your kids and grandkids in your quiet time. You may still need some completely alone time with God, but don’t miss the opportunity to invite others to join you.
If your preschooler will grant you only 15 seconds of attention, put him on your lap for 15 seconds—then tell him a one-sentence story with your Bible open, and say a prayer for him. If your teenager will give you only that same amount of time, pray a scripture verse over her before she starts the day. Send your adult children an email each day, letting them know what the Lord is showing you from His Word. Occasionally, send them a text telling them how you’re praying for them.
It matters that our kids learn from us how to spend time with God.
As John Westerhoff wrote in Will Our Children Have Faith and other books in the 1980s, children cannot be taught faith in Sunday School at church. They must “catch” it from their parents and other Christians in their lives.For this reason he advocated that children should attend church services with their parents and should be provided with other opportunities to be around other believers. Churches should not segregated them from the rest of the faith community. He also urged parents to pray, read the Scriptures, and talk about God and Jesus in their children’s presence as well as pray with them, read the Scriptures to them, and tell them about God and Jesus.