We're in a really unique, interesting, fun (depending on the day what word we use) with our dinnertime prayer. Both our boys love to do the prayer, and they each have a very unique way they go about it. Meanwhile Mommy & Daddy are hungry and want to thank God for provision and eat our supper before it gets cold, again.
So our 7 year old takes time to thank God for our food, for the day he had, for people in our family, for his friends who aren't in church, and occasionally a request we're able to go to Disney World. The 4 year old will ask God to "help daddy's eye feel better" (I had floaters one night before supper), to "help mommy's face" (still not sure what that's about), and that he can have a roll and dessert. There's also interludes of praying for every piece of food on his plate, for his special little potty, and more.
Parents, your prayer time at dinner is an incredible opportunity to be a part of your child's faith formation. Each dinner, each prayer, each awkward request, each time God is thanked for mashed potatoes, is a chance to help shepherd our children's hearts toward Jesus. I loved what my oldest's devotional said "Nothing is too big or too small for us to bring to God."
When we get frustrated at what our kids pray for, when we try to hurry them along, when we cut them off and say Amen! before they can finish (Guilty - and don't lie, you've done it before too), we're implicitly showing them and teaching them that there's some things we shouldn't bother God about. But God's not like us. We get frustrated when our kids constantly ask us to watch them, want to tell the same story over and over, or want to give a detailed commentary about the palm trees. We don't like to be bothered. But God does. When we cheer for our kids when they pray about the smallest thing, we're teaching them that God loves them enough that He wants to hear about the mashed potatoes or for daddy's eye to feel better.
Another thing we do is that we use the time before dinner to shape our children towards gratitude. Each time we sit down for a meal, even if it's Hamburger Helper, it's a reminder of God's provision for our family. We have the money to buy the groceries. We have the house to live in. We have the table to eat at. We have the gift of family. Is it always what everyone wants to have? Of course not. Your kids may be the same as mine, they could survive and be happy with a steady diet of Goldfish crackers and Chick-Fil-A. But even when it's not something we're thrilled about, we eat it with a grateful heart. Or we at least try it.
But finally, dinnertime prayer is an opportunity for us to shape our children's hearts through our own prayers for our kids, namely that they would come to treasure and trust Jesus. So while your children are making their way through the last few things they got in trouble for or what they want for dessert, take time to pray for them to trust Jesus. Pray their heart would love the Word. Pray they would be loved and encouraged by God's people.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.