How Comfortable Are You REALLY With Prayer?

If your family didn’t regularly pray together (out loud) when you were growing up, your idea of what prayer is and what it should sound like probably came from the prayers you heard in church.  Stop a minute and think about the implications of that.  Such was the case for me, and I’ve found that it has significantly impacted my prayer life to this day.
 

Growing up, the only prayers we said together were at holiday meals (and we were a Christian family!). Based on what I experienced at my Christian friends’ homes, I know that my family was not alone in this lack of a prayer life. It was so rare to see a family praying together that I specifically remember the very few instances I witnessed . . . because I was terrified I would be asked to pray out loud with them.
 

Fast forward to age 35. I am still terrified to pray out loud. I know that many other Christians are as well.

 

The problem here is NOT about praying out loud in and of itself; the problem is that a fear of praying out loud is a symptom of an underlying concern over whether our personal (non verbal) prayers are “correct”. At best, we might feel comfortable praying personally but when faced with those same words being verbalized we shut down in fear that we’ve been praying wrong all along. At worst, we might not even feel comfortable praying personally because we’re afraid that God Himself will think our prayers are wrong.

 

How does this happen to so many people? I submit that it is because so many of us grew up in homes where we only heard prayers in church.

 

Think about typical “church” prayers. First, the person praying often uses formal, almost poetic language like, “We bask in your amazing glory and delight in your ways”. These prayers are beautiful, but if they are the only prayers you hear, you can easily become intimidated to pray yourself when those words aren’t naturally rolling off your own tongue.

 

Second, we tend to hear certain types of prayers much more often in the church context – for example, prayers of praise and adoration on behalf of a congregation rather than personal prayers of supplication (requests) or requests for forgiveness. If the only prayers you hear are in church, you don’t by default have a model of the types of prayer more common in personal contexts.

 

Prayer is the heart of a relationship with Jesus.  How can there be relationship without communication? If we want our kids to develop a relationship with Him, they have to become comfortable with prayer, and that is much less likely to happen if they only hear prayers in church on Sundays. Praying as a family regularly is critical.

 

We started praying with the kids at every meal and bed time about a year ago. Nathan and Kenna, not quite age 3, now pour their hearts out to God without thinking twice. It usually sounds something like this:

 

“Dear God, Thank you for this food. Thank you for Nathan and Kenna and Alexa and mommy and daddy and grammy and papa and grandpa and grandma and Mickey Mouse and Toy Story and Halloween and Santa and please forgive Nathan for throwing his cup and the sky is blue and I like raisins. In Jesus’ name, Amen”.

 

I love that they feel no boundaries in how to pray!  Over time, we’ll teach them about different elements of prayer so their prayers can “mature”, but most important for now is that they are, quite simply, comfortable in prayer.


Today’s Thought:

Reflect on where you were exposed to prayer growing up (Church? Home? Both?). How has that shaped your prayer life today?


Today’s Action:

Commit to praying out loud with your kids daily! If you don’t currently pray with your kids, pick one time per day to start (for example, before dinner). If you sometimes pray with your kids but it is not consistent, pick one time per day you are going to commit to. If you currently pray with your kids daily, pick a new time to add!

 

11 Comments

  1. David Crain on November 18, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Your experience growing up is identical to mine, only 30 years prior. I appreciate your insights and smiled at the sample prayer as it perfectly captured the spirit of Nathan and Kenna’s prayers. In my experience, most group prayers tend to prayers of thanksgiving or of mild petition asking for the blessing of the food. In my experience, petitionary prayers tend to be private, personal and not said out loud in a group.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on November 21, 2011 at 9:43 PM

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate how you refer to it as “mild petition”. Even though we technically hear examples of petitioning prayer at times like that, they really are “mild” compared to the types of prayer requests we tend to have privately. I hope as the kids grow older I will become more and more comfortable praying out loud with them so they will experience many more personal prayer examples than I ever did!



  2. Jennifer on November 18, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    First off, why didn’t I get a Facebook notification of this post!? I “liked” your page? Growing up we didn’t pray together, but in Jr. High I started going to a different church and learned how to pray with others there. I became pretty confident in praying in public and with faith. Over time that has diminished, but for my kids, we do pray together and often. Not just at meals, but usually when they need it. They get lonely or afraid or are having feelings of regret over sin. They are older though, so the when to pray has changed a little. My son says beautiful heartfelt prayers. I know he has picked up some of the church language because his prayers are so mature for his age (he is 6). But he says wonderful prayers. And my daughter likes to pray for those who are sick and she will ask you in the morning if you are better because she has been praying for you. Sometimes they like to pray silently too. And alone, to express their personal thoughts. Some things are too personal even for mom and dad! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your views.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on November 21, 2011 at 9:48 PM

      Jenn – I think maybe you “liked” the page AFTER I had posted this link? Or maybe you just didn’t see it come up in your feed. Did the newest post on the Fruits of the Spirit show up for you?

      I’m looking forward to the evolution you speak of, from meal time to “when they need it”. That’s an excellent point – it’s not just the content of prayer that they need to be exposed to, it’s the application of it throughout the week! I love the example of your daughter letting you know she’s been praying for you. That is incredibly sweet!



  3. Andrea on November 21, 2011 at 10:53 PM

    Natasha…I am so excited you are writing this blog….I am really enjoying it so far! This has been a sore subject for me too…growing up in a Christian home you would think prayer would be common, but as you mentioned it is much more uncommon, and the terrified feeling you would get as you waited to see if you would be called on…yep, that’s me too….AND flash forward 35 years…still me!

    BUT, I can say that I have been put in situations where it was up to me to pray, not someone else (Bible studies, etc.) where I know that God is challenging me to go deeper and stepping up to those moments, taking those steps of faith, has allowed God to take over and I was able to see Him working through my own words. I am nowhere near capable of praying eloquently or smoothly, but that’s the point. Where we are incapable, God shows up and makes up capable through Him! What we say doesn’t matter as long as we are praying from our heart. It is pretty awesome. We are working on getting our 10 year old to understand taking prayer to the next level…as it is very easy to have a “script” that they say every night. We do pray before every meal, even in restaurants, and always before bedtime.

    One challenge that has been set before me has been praying on a regular basis with my husband. As absurd as it seems it is more difficult that I thought…it takes you to another level of intimacy that I think many marriages never reach. Very challenging and rewarding! Now that I’ve blabbered on…thanks for posting…looking forward to reading more!



  4. Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on November 23, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    Hi Andrea! I’m so excited to see you here and to read about your experiences! Thank you so much for sharing. You make such a great point about God “showing up” and working through our words. Bryan and I used to volunteer as leaders of a small group of high school girls in the foster system. This required me to pray out loud weekly and I absolutely had several occasions where I felt directly that God was helping me know how to pray with and for them. I also love your point about praying with your spouse. It IS hard, isn’t it?! I still feel sheepish when I pray in front of Bryan, especially when it’s just us and not the kids. So, I totally relate to that also! Thanks again and I look forward to reading more about your experiences!



  5. Zena on December 21, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    I appreciate your post. I just stumbled across your blog today and love it! I grew up Catholic and our prayers were all recitation. I’ve never learned to pray even at 35 I am still afraid (as you stated) that I do it wrong. I try to encourage prayer with my children and pray with them every night. It usually starts out with the “Now I lay me down to sleep…” but at some point last year we started adding “special prayers” this is when my children (5 and 4) talk to God themselves. I have to admit they are getting better at praying out loud than I am. I am still uncomfortable with it, but my youngest is now first to raise his hand to say a prayer. His prayer goes something like this. “Dear Heavenly Father. Thank you for the wonderful day and all our food and moms and dads and brothers and sisters and Spiderman. Amen”

    They have also only known a Pentecostal church. For me going from Catholic to Pentecostal was like going from dipping my toes in the water to jumping in the deep end. There are days I feel like I’m drowning.



  6. Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Zena, Thanks so much for your comment! Your son’s prayer sounds a lot like my son’s prayer. 🙂 I’ve avoided any type of memorized prayers with my kids for the reason you mentioned – if you are only reciting words, you aren’t learning to communicate yourself. That’s not to say that recitation is always a bad thing (I’m sure some people can “mix” the types) but I just personally wanted to focus on my kids developing a comfort in using their own words from a young age. Thanks again for commenting!



  7. wc on April 16, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    I’m a Christian dad who grew up like you did. Only heard prayers at mealtimes and at church. My wife’s family prayed together and with the family and its not uncommon at all to have a prayer together at a drop of a hat. My wife has always wanted us to pray together, out loud. I’ve not been comfortable with this because I feel like prayer is a deeply personal communication between me and God. I feel like praying out loud is for the benefit of the people around me and doesn’t help my relationship with God which is what prayer is about to me. Someone even posted that “some things are just to personal to share with Mom and Dad”. That made me think – is the reason for praying so we can share with others around us? I really believe praying together would make our marriage and family stronger. Is that what prayer is for? Maybe we should have prayers for God and discussions for family? I don’t know – I am just struggling to be a better father and dad and this is getting in the way.



    • Natasha Crain on April 23, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      Hi WC – Those are great thoughts and questions. I’ve had those concerns too about praying out loud – as in, why? It DOES feel so personal, and I often feel like it becomes a speech pointed at the people listening to a prayer rather than actual words toward God. I think the intent makes all the difference. When YOUR intent is to talk to God rather than offer “discussion” in the guise of prayer, I think it blesses all those around you – for your kids, it demonstrates how to pray and offers words on their behalf that they may not be able to say yet. For your family overall, it is an opportunity to commune with God together – something that can be a huge blessing. We’ve been holding hands in a circle and each participating in part of the prayer. There is something special that happens when the whole family is lifting their voices together to God. Great topic for a post – I will think about doing that soon!



  8. Lisa on September 3, 2018 at 8:05 AM

    I can totally relate to this. I grew up going to a Catholic Church but we weren’t really religious at home at all, and this led to me leaving the church right before confirmation. A little over a year ago my husband and I began attending his old church because I was interested in their homeschooling support. For the first time ever I truly understood the Gospel and began my life with Jesus. I am terrified of praying out loud, but I’m determined to teach my children how to pray (they’re 5 and 4). I’m much more comfortable doing it when it’s just me and them because they don’t judge, and I think I’m slowly becoming more confident. I feel like I’m learning with them!