"...train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."--1 Tim. 4:7b-8 My older son and I have a routine in the mornings. We sit facing each other, but we are each spending time with the Lord, reading our Bibles, praying and memorizing Scripture before we start the day. It is a precious time for me.
Yesterday, we talked about how small doses of Scripture each day is a wonderful way to begin the habit of daily devotions in our children. As they get older, we have also begun to train our children to start meeting with God on their own. Why? Because one day, we want them to have their own relationship with God. This doesn't come naturally. It needs to be trained and cultivated, just like our own.
So, how do we do it?
Hold the Space
How many of us have jam-packed our kids' lives to the brim (or allowed them to do so) that they do not have any downtime, much less quiet time with God? Parents, we are the guardians of our children. I like to think of it as "holding space" open for them. I'll be the first to confess that it's hard. It's not urgent. God's not in our face. But we must also remember that discipleship is our responsibility, privilege and number one priority as parents. Not basketball. Not ballet. Not even (gasp!) academics.
When we hold the space for our children to meet with God, I am giving them an opportunity for them to build a relationship with Him directly. In that time, they are able to share their heart with Him, to look to Him and to enjoy His presence. In doing this, I am praying that they will learn to hear His voice, to discern His guidance, and to gain wisdom from Him.
A Balanced Diet
Okay, so when do we start? For us, it's usually when they are comfortable reading. Of course, this does not mean that we are off the hook! As parents, we must still be in the Word with our children. We still have family devotions or one-on-one times reading the Word where we systematically go through Scripture. This way, we are still on hand to help them lay down solid biblical truth. Who knows what a kid may think up otherwise!
Milk and Meat
As I mentioned earlier, we train our children in several basic spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, prayer and Scripture memory. To aid in their Bible reading, we have provided them with age-appropriate children's devotionals that are written for kids (as opposed to ones that are written for parents to read with their kids), along with a Bible. We also supply them with a journal so they can record their insights, a meaningful verse, or prayer response. Kay Arthur's Discover 4 Yourself series is excellent for kids 4th grade and up. We have also enjoyed Your Story Hour's study on Jesus' life. Definitely worth checking out!
To encourage prayer, we have used the "ACTS" acronym that many of you may already know. Instead of just asking (which we think of first in prayer), we teach the kids how to
- adore (or praise) God,
- confess their sins,
- thank Him for His blessings, and
- "supplicate" or bring their needs before Him or pray for others.
It is a simple way to build a healthy prayer life. Again, their journals can also serve as a place to record these prayers and God's responses to them.
Last but not least, we help our children memorize Scripture. I'll share more about this tomorrow so stay tuned!
The Big Picture
Why do all this? Because spiritual disciplines train and equip our kids so they are ready in the daily grind of life to respond in a godly manner. When our children are steeped in the Word, are comfortable talking with God about their concerns, and have Scripture stamped on their hearts, we are giving them a gift that outlives us. Even if we are not with them, we can have peace knowing they are able to find answers or discern His voice amidst the many others beckoning them to follow.
But this training takes time. It takes patience. It takes work. As with physical training, spiritual training is of benefit not only for this life but also for the life to come. As parents, we often spend so much time on the physical that we forget the spiritual.
Let's face it: whether physical or spiritual, training is tough. We don't prepare for a marathon in a day. If we want our kids to stay faithful to the Lord, they need to be trained to run on their own. Hold the space, then equip them so they can run the race with endurance.