the sweet aggravation of teaching kids to pray
Have you ever noticed that young children’s timing is absolutely perfect – for them and only them?
Case in point: they only want to put on their own shoes/coat/mittens when we’re already running 10 minutes late.
See also: they realize they are, in fact, capable of recognizing their own need for the potty when we’re in the middle of driving/dinner/Target/bedtime/church.
Otherwise known as: their internal clocks continue to rouse them right on time, regardless of what daylight savings says.
Case in point: my toddler now makes a pitiful plea for his bedtime prayer routine to PLEASE be repeated at naptime (when I used to get away with only a quick story-and-song before skipping out the door for blessed quiet to myself).
See also: the mornings we’re rushing to get out the door to school are the ONLY days that my boys ever insist on saying grace, rather than having me instigate the burdening of their every mealtime with my unbearable requests for them to give God thanks.
Otherwise known as: my preschooler inevitably makes his charming request for “meditation AND a Psalm AND OurFatherandHailMary” on the nights when their shrieking bathtime splash-fest soaks up every last precious ounce of energy and all I want to do is rush through bedtime to collapse on the couch.
Every time, the tired/selfish/cop-out words almost trip tempting off my tongue: no, we don’t do prayer at naptime! no, we don’t have time for grace this morning! no, I am too tired to do meditation!
But inevitably, something stops me – whether that stubborn MDiv, or the years I’ve spent trying to develop my own prayer life, or plain old-fashioned nagging Catholic guilt. Whatever it is, I catch the words and cough them back down my throat and try to ignore the clock/exhaustion/aggravation. Deep breath, refocus, slow down.
Of course we can pray. Even now.
I won’t saintly sugarcoat it to say I’m always glad we do. Sometimes I would still rather have gotten out the door 2 minutes earlier or collapsed on the couch 10 minutes sooner. But beyond any momentary annoyance, I’m always reminded where I want the long arc of our family life to bend: towards prayer, towards peaceful rhythms, towards the God who pulls us back together.
Tonight I’m posting about our bedtime psalm-praying at Practicing Families. My oldest and I started praying this way a long time ago, and I have come to love how meaningful this simple, slowing, centering line of Scripture becomes for both of us.
(Even on the evenings I’m fairly itching to close the bedroom door behind me and be done for the day.)
Every night as we go, no matter how antsy I am for bedtime to be done and my few precious hours sans-kids to begin, I always find that one phrase will inevitably catch me and do just what the psalmist says: slow me down and remind me that God is God.
Make no mistake about it: he wiggles and giggles the whole way through. Months and months of reciting the ancient centering prayer has not magically transformer my preschooler into a patient monk.
But he knows the words by heart, forward and back, inside and out. The Sunday we sang the same psalm at church and his eyes shot up, astonished that everyone else knew his prayer, too? That was one of the rare moments I tucked away to remember for always.
These words have become so close to him, already in his mouth and in his heart. Now all he has to do is learn how to live them.
All I can tell him is that it takes a lifetime.
Read the rest at Practicing Families…
When and how do you love to pray with the kids in your life? (Even if it sometimes drives you crazy, too?)