First, we kneel.
fold our arms,
and close our eyes.
And then stay very still.
It is not always easy to do all of this, especially when you are four years old, you don't want to go to sleep, and there are distractions. . .
. . . in the room.
But we go through this ritual every night with our children. We do it because we know that beyond the tennis lessons, swimming lessons, and music lessons, learning to pray will be their most valuable life skill.
Besides teaching them to kneel and close their eyes, we will teach them to ask God questions. Lots of questions. Questions about life, about love, about small decisions and great ones, too.
We want them to understand that He is the source of all Truth, and that all doubt and fear and regret can be resolved through Him.
We want them to know that God pays special attention to the prayers of children.
We tell them that there was once a boy, not much older than they are now, who grew up in a small town where the all the adults were confused. Listening to people argue about what was true and what was false made the boy's head spin. He read in the scriptures that if you lack wisdom, you should ask God. When he read those words he realized that if he wanted to know what was true, asking God was the only way to really know.
So the boy went out into the forest one morning to be alone. He knelt on his knees and asked his question, and his prayer was answered.
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Adults are still confused. A lot of them are confused because they have forgotten how to pray, or were never taught. When they have a question the first place they go to is Google. Then they read articles written by other people who are more mixed-up than they are.
We are trying to teach our children that there is a better place to go when life gets too complicated.
We want them to know they can go to Him with any problem.
We want them to know that they don't always have to be kneeling to pray. They can pray while they run, too. Especially if they are being chased by. . . say. . . a bear.
We can't always pray to change someone else, but we can always pray to change ourselves.
We want them to know that their prayer does not end with "amen." That they can keep a prayer in their heart the entire day while they search for the answers to their prayer.
We want them to learn to recognize that the answers can come by way of promptings, dreams, visions, thoughts, ideas and the goodness of other people.
We want them to know that sometimes the answers don't always come easy. Sometimes they will have to wrestle with God to get an answer, not because He doesn't want to tell them, but because He wants them to become strong.
We will teach them that if their bedroom is too noisy they can go somewhere else. A closet. A bathroom. A car. A trail. A forest. Somewhere they can be free to speak what is on their mind without distraction.
We want them to know that even though we are the parents of their bodies, God is the parent of their spirit and His spirit will speak to their spirit in a soft, quiet language that they must learn to understand.
We want them to know that they are never alone.
We tell them to never let a day pass by that they don't check in with the Lord, and we make sure they understand that we are not telling them to do anything we are not already doing ourselves.
Well-meaning people sometimes whisper to me, "enjoy your children while they are young, before they are corrupted by the world." But my children cannot be corrupted if they learn from a young age that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and is eager to help when they ask. If they continue to do pray every day for the rest of their lives they won't have struggles that will bring them to their knees because they will already be there.
They are destined for hard times, to be sure, and when they are in trouble we hope they come to us, their parents. But as long as they keep going to their Heavenly Parent it really doesn't matter. If we can teach them to pray on their own to their Heavenly Father, He can teach them everything else.