For a long time, I felt like I wasn’t helping my children make the transition to more mature prayer. This particularly struck me when my oldest turned 12 and then again when he began 7th grade — I recognized that we were more than half-finished with his raising, and also half-done with his home education. I remember thinking that whatever I felt like I’d neglected, now was the time to incorporate it. Before I know it, he’ll be really busy. He’ll still be at home, but the time I have with him will be all the more precious for its scarcity.
The question was how to teach prayer, a discipline that has always been my particular weakness.
While the children have memorized The Lord’s Prayer, and I’ve taught them to use it as a sort of outline for prayer, I wanted to spend this year focusing on the idea that we are free to bring our requests to the Lord.
Enter The Prayer Box.
I don’t even know what made me think of it, but when my mom handed me this old 3×5 card box she was getting rid of, I immediately knew what I’d use it for.
So I filled it with index cards, and during the first week of school, I asked the children who we should pray for. I wrote each request on its own card, and put the date in the corner. After that, each child got a card, and we went around in a circle, each of us praying for the request on our card.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Each day, it was the same. I asked for new requests. Sometimes, no one had anything. Other times, there were a number of issues. Not every prayer request needs a card, of course, but most are totally appropriate for this box system.
My plan was to date the back when the prayer was answered, and move it to the rear of the box. At the end of the year, we could look back on how God had answered our prayers.
But for weeks on end, we received no answers. And, yes, I reminded the children that God has His own timing, and our job is to wait on Him. But secretly, I was anxious for an answer — any answer, just something to show them that God really hears their prayers.
Then came the fateful day when O-Age-Six said, “Can we please pray for my wallet?” Oh, the older children were terrible. They mocked him for his prayer request, and told him that wasn’t the sort of thing that belonged in the prayer box. Naturally, I corrected them and said that God does care about His children, even when they lose their wallets. This lost wallet had been a source of anxiety for Son O. for a number of days.
And so the wallet got a prayer card, and we prayed for its discovery that day.
We proceeded to pray for it for two weeks. Each day, we handed out new prayer cards (the day’s cards go to the back of the stack when we’re done), but our stack was small, and so the wallet was prayed for a number of times. Each time, I was hoping that God would answer.
And, finally, the answer came.
One day, O-Age-Six came running into the room to tell us that he’d found it! I can’t even remember where it was. What I remember was that the next time the wallet card came up during morning prayer, we dated the back. Instead of praying and asking God to help him find his wallet, my little guy prayed and thanked God for helping him find it.
Since that day, we’ve had other answers. We prayed that God would help us find a buck for our flock’s breeding season. We prayed that a sick relative would get well. And so on. The little stack of prayer requests has grown, and so has the little stack of answers.
I don’t know the “right” way to teach a child to pray. But I know that it’s my duty, and it’s one I haven’t fulfilled very well. The Prayer Box? It’s simply an index box filled with index cards and some dividers. The easiest thing in the world. And it’s really working for us.
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