This week, the Everyday Truth blog is taking a look at prayer and how we can teach our kids about prayer. We're going to address the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of prayer, both for us and our kids.
My oldest daughter is a peacemaker. She hates conflict and would do just about anything to avoid it. She is always trying to make everyone happy. When she was in first grade, we started trying to teach her that there are circumstances when she needs to stand up for herself. We've made some progress in the past three years, and she now recognizes the situations where she should stand up and make her voice heard. However, she still will go out of her way to accommodate other people's desires if it's at all possible for her to do so.
My daughter's personality is in direct contrast to what the world teaches our kids. TV, movies and magazines all shout at our kids that the only desirable place to be is on top. Being the best at everything is the only acceptable option. Look at the front of a girls' teen magazine. The titles are all about how to be prettier, smarter or more talented than other girls. The message that our kids hear all the time is that they should be better than everyone else. "Second place is first loser" is the message they are bombarded with day after day.
However, it's our job as parents to teach our children how to be humble because that is how Jesus says we are to approach God. Matthew 6:5-6 says "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." When we approach God in prayer, we must do so with an attitude of humility. We pray to further our relationship with God, not so others can see and hear us.
Adopting an attitude of humility flies in the face of everything the rest of the world tells us. Despite what the world says, being humble doesn't make us doormats. It doesn't mean that we should never open our mouths and offer an opinon. It simply means that we should put others above ourselves. Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
A spirit of humility, allows our hearts to be open to God's leading. When approaching the throne of God, what do we have to be proud about? God is the awesome creator of the world. Who am I when compared to Him? When we approach the throne of God with a humble spirit, we are ultimately more usable by God than when we approach with a prideful spirit. Sometimes we approach God with the attitude of "Look at all I am doing for you, now bless it," when the attitude we should have is "Where can you use me, God?"
Humility is a tough concept to make concrete enough for children to grasp. Living a lifestyle of humility in your family is the best way to get that idea across. Incorporate some of these ideas into your everyday lives to teach your children about humility and how to approach the throne of grace with a humble heart.
- Teach your children to think about others first. When your children have a friend over, institute the friends go first rule. In our house, if we have guests they get to do everything from go first in a game to getting dessert first. It's a simple way to remind our kids that when we have guests, we serve them.
- Create opportunities for your children to serve others. Whether it's serving at a soup kitchen or helping to clean the preschool rooms at your church, take your children with you when you serve. The more they see you putting others first, the more they will begin to do so.
- Listen to your children's prayers. Talk about how we should approach God with a humble spirit. Point out how awesome and amazing God is and how amazing it is that He wants to have a relationship with us. Talk about all the things that God can do. Ask your child how that makes him feel. Point out that in relation to God, we have no reason to be proud. Help your children pray with a humble spirit and not a demanding one.
- Watch for opportunities to talk about humility. When your child comes home from school with a story about how they were the best at something, praise them for their hard work and remind them that God has given them all the talents and gifts to do that thing well. Remind them that while they should rejoice in the fact that they did well, it doesn't make them any more important than other people. The more we show our children that God is responsible for giving them their gifts and talents, the more likely they will be to acknowledge God in all that they do.
Humility is not a natural state for us. Our sinful nature wants to puff us up with pride. But God can't use a prideful spirit, so remind yourself and your children that God can only use us when we approach him with a humble heart.