Discovering Prayer

It can be heartening and welcoming for Christian parents when their child begins to show an inclination toward. It is important, however, that such children receive instruction in exactly how and when to pray. If your child comes to regard prayer in the wrong way, then they will likely become disillusioned when the practice does not yield the expected results.

What is prayer?

As with most things, it is always best to begin from first principles when teaching a child about prayer.  Prayer is not only the act of addressing God. With practice prayer becomes a form of meditation, leading to greater self-awareness and a better understanding of others and the world around us.

Prayer comes in many forms. There are formal prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer; there are also informal prayers – private words in God’s ear which believers engage in periodically. Both require explanation.

If you take your child to church, where everyone recites the Lord’s Prayer in unison, they will become familiar with its words. But this is pointless without an appreciation of the meaning behind these words. The language of the bible is steeped in metaphor – not to mention myriad ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s – which a child will have difficulty deciphering. The Lord’s Prayer is no exception. Your child might conceivably have questions:

–          What exactly is “daily bread” and why isn’t it included in my packed lunch?

–          “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” What will be done? What does ‘thy’ mean?

–          What does ‘Amen’ mean?

If your child is particularly young, you might not be able to explain that the word ‘will’ can be a noun. For this reason, you might wish to buy your child a book of prayer written in more contemporary language. This will be far more forgiving and more easily understood. Eden and Scripture Union have a wide choice to choose from. There might be words and ideas that you can also use at home with your children. Your church might also have special activities to help.

Informal prayer also requires a degree of instruction – though it is far more intuitive and direct. Those that pray do so according to their own ideas of what God is and how He would prefer to be addressed. You don’t need to talk in sixteenth century English – you can, if you’d like – talk in much the same way that you’d talk to a friend or family member. Indeed, God will likely understand your meaning better than you do. After all, a God that didn’t wouldn’t be much of a God.

It is not sufficient, however, to say ‘talk to God about whatever you’d like’. Children must also be taught why they should be praying – and what for.

Why should I pray?

There are three main reasons why someone might wish to pray to God.

Please

The most common use of prayer is to make requests of God. Such requests, however, come with a number of conditions. A great many misguided prayers are rooted in selfishness. This is especially true of children. Needless to say, prayer is not a route to a lottery win, a promotion or a romantic liaison; neither is it a means by which your child will procure a videogame or sway the outcome of school sports day. To regard it as such is to invite disappointment.

Children might, on learning this, come to question the efficacy of prayer. It is important to treat these doubts honestly. There have been a myriad of empirical studies into the efficacy of prayer, all of them following much the same methodology. A large number of sufferers of a potentially fatal disease are polled to find out whether they pray. Those polled are divided into two groups – those that pray, and those that do not pray – and then the mortality rates between the two groups are compared. The hypothesis beings that, if prayer were ineffective, then those that pray will be far less likely to succumb to their illness. Of course, in all of these studies, those that pray are no less likely to die than those that don’t bother.

It is crucial to be honest with your child about this. The foundation of Christianity is faith in Jesus Christ. If a belief in God were to hinge on evidence, this faith would not be required. Whatever God is, He is not a magician who will swoop to the aid of his followers at every invitation.

Christians believe that God exists and that he knows everything and sees everything. If this is true, it follows that He will hear prayers – even if you don’t pray out loud. Of course, you might wish to pray out loud anyway – and this is fine, too. God will be able to discern everything you might possible want to say before you’ve even said it.

Thank you

As human beings, we have a great deal to be thankful for. We enjoy unprecedented access to food, shelter, as well as technological wonders like smartphones and the internet. Some things, however, require a thank you which is more spiritual in nature.

If your child has a particular affection toward the music of One Direction, then there are a number of people whom they might want to thank for its existence. Your child might want to write them some fan mail. If, on the other hand, your child is struck by the majesty of mountains, forests and the night sky; for their capacity to love and joy. This is a gratitude for which there is no obvious recipient. Prayer forms a conduit for that gratitude.

Sorry

Children, like adults, may feel guilty from time to time. Prayer may represent a worthwhile avenue for their contrition – though parents should also ensure that their children feel comfortable confessing their most concrete crimes. If your child feels envious from time to time, then they might take that up with God. If your child has inadvertently fed the dog anti-freeze, you will want them to tell you about it.

When should I pray?

Once you have impressed on your child what prayer is and why it is done, there is the more practical business of finding the time and space in which to do it. There are many occasions in which your child may wish to pray. Prayer requires seclusion. As such, the best opportunities usually occur immediately before bed, or immediately upon waking. Prayer might seem most necessary during times of great stress – in children, this may be before starting at a new school, or immediately before exams, or during minor bouts of depression.

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A Guide for Godparents – Everything You Need to Know

For Christians, to be asked to be a Godparent is a great honour. It can also, however, be a daunting request. Prospective Godparents should therefore acquaint themselves with exactly what will be asked of them and prepare themselves for the task.

What exactly is a Godparent?

A godparent is a person who aids in a child’s spiritual education and development. Such an undertaking will comprise many different aspects.

Teach Christian values

One of the most crucial roles of the godparent is to impress upon the child the importance of Christian values and if possible, the scriptural justification for these values. Among these values are respect for the sanctity of life, compassion and tolerance. If you do this, then the bulk of your work as Godparent is already done; all of the other roles stem from this.

Teach Christian philosophy

When the child is old enough, you might wish to talk to them (or they may wish to talk to you) about how these values can inform ethical questions such as those surrounding divisive topics like abortion and euthanasia. In such questions, these values sometimes find themselves at odds with one another – as do the Christians who hold them.

You should encourage free thought and challenge the child to reach their own conclusions rather than prescribing yours. Their way of looking at things may be entirely at odds with yours. It may be that you learn as much from them as they do from you!

Children can often pose questions that no adult would – out of some sense of pragmatism. It may be that you come to realise that you aren’t as sure about what you believe as you had previously thought.

Here are a few classic questions:

“Why is there so much suffering in the world?”

“Why do good things happen to bad people?”

“How did God come to be?”

“What if we’re praying to the wrong God?”

These questions have puzzled the most brilliant Christian thinkers for centuries, so do not feel dispirited if you find yourself unable to answer to them. They are difficult and will probably never be answered definitively! If you are about to become a Godparent, it would perhaps be wise to devote some thought to them yourself. You might be fielding them sooner than you think!

Prayer

Part of your role as Godparent is to instruct the child as to exactly how and why Christians pray. This should include both an explanation of the language of formal prayer and instruction as to exactly which prayers are spoken when.

As well as providing instruction in prayer for the child, you will also be expected to pray on their behalf. If you are already in the habit of praying, then this is not a difficult task – indeed, it might be one you had planned on doing in any case.

Teach through example

The ideal godparent should lead through example in all things spiritual. If you tell your spiritual charge to do one thing and then do precisely the opposite, then the message is highly unlikely to be taken seriously.

Be able to cite scripture

As well as the more general points thus far addressed, a Godparent should also have pretty decent knowledge of the holy book from which all of this teaching is derived. If a small child doesn’t understand part of a sermon or picks up some more extravagant ideas and teachings, a good knowledge of the scriptures will help you give better advice and direction.

The Christening itself

During a child’s christening, prospective Godparents, along with the parents, will be asked to make a number of promises. The content of these promises is, in Anglican ceremonies, largely the same. The conducting priest will ask two questions:

“Will you pray for them, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?”

“Will you care for them, and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?”

To both of these questions, both parents and Godparents must reply: “With the help of God we will.”

The priest will then ask the child questions and it will fall to you to answer them on behalf of the child. These will include renouncing Satan (in modern ceremonies Satan has come to be synonymous with everything bad; as such he may not be referred to by name) and affirming Christ as the child’s Lord and saviour.

If you do not feel comfortable speaking on behalf of the child, then you might wish to discuss this with the priest and the parents before the ceremony takes place. Later in life, many Christians baptised into the religion as children reaffirm these vows at a ceremony known as a confirmation.

It is important that you appreciate the gravity of these promises before you make them. A great many secular couples ask friends to become Godparents, without taking the religion that seriously themselves. It is important that you discuss your role with the parents.

If you do not feel that you will be able to provide the necessary scriptural guidance, or you feel that you simply aren’t the wise, thoughtful person they obviously imagine you to be, then you should probably let them know about it before you make a vow before God.

What do I need to buy?

Like most of those invited, Godparents are in most cases expected to buy gifts for the christening.  The most frequently bought gifts, as one might expect, are bibles and prayer books – though these gifts are often given for their sentimental value more than anything else.

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