My mom once said prayer was like learning another language. If you grew up with parents who prayed regularly in the home, it would feel natural—like a native language. But if you waited, it became harder to learn. It wasn’t that you couldn’t learn to pray, but it would take more time for it to feel natural. It might feel foreign or odd and somewhat uncomfortable at first.
I can testify that prayer will feel natural when children are exposed to it, because I grew up with prayerful parents. From a young age, I was taught what prayer is and how to do it. I prayed with others at church, school, meals, and family devotions. It was always just a part of who I was and felt like a normal part of life.
Looking back on the past 18 years of learning and growing in prayer, I realize what an effect my parents praying for and with me had. Through their prayerful guidance, I’ve been shown not only the how and why of prayer, but also the amazing Christian community that arises from it.
Learning by Example
My parents didn’t give me a class to teach me how to pray. There was no instruction manual, video, or lecture. I simply learned by watching them pray each and every day. Through their examples, I was able to further understand the importance of communal and personal prayer.
Every evening, sitting by my bed, my dad would read a Bible story and pray with my siblings and me. Every morning I would come downstairs for school and see my mom finishing up her quiet time as she wrote out her prayers to the Lord. Because my parents prayed with me, it never seemed odd or unfamiliar. I never felt uncomfortable about prayer, because they made it such a normal part of my life.
Similarly, I never felt unclear on how to talk to God. Through seeing my mom every morning alone with the Lord, I began to prioritize this same sort of time, and I began to understand the importance of it. I began to write out my prayers like my mom did, and as I grew in this time, I understood God more, and therefore understood prayer more. God is my Father, my King, my Friend. I saw him as caring and loving in my sorrows, but also as ruler and King over my life. Together, these truths brought me comfort and peace and a growing love for my Creator.
My parents example taught me what to look for in Christian community, especially as I prepare to head off to college.
Prayer is an essential part of their friendships. Both my parents have been involved in prayer triads at our church (a group of three people who pray together on a regular basis), and I’ve sought out this same type of community with my high-school friends.
Also, by seeing my parents pray for those who are suffering, I began to understand the importance of Christian community, especially in the intense trials of life. Now, as I prepare for college, I’m looking for this same community of prayer and care for one another that my parents have shown me. I want a church that values prayer as a part of its service. I want a campus ministry that seeks to encourage us to pray. Most of all, I want friends who care about prayer and want to walk in a life of prayer together.
Prayer is a vital part of walking with God. I’ve seen the community it creates and the ways it strengthens faith. My parents have faithfully encouraged me in it. I’ll forever be thankful for the ways in which they’ve taught me and supported me in prayer, showing me what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
For parents with kids of any age, remember this: Your children see you. They watch you and look up to you. They want to be like you. How amazing would it be if the next generation saw parents of prayer, and that’s what they wanted to be like when they grow up? Pray for and with your children. Show them how you pray, give them a journal, pray with them at night. Your example will teach, your prayers will be heard, and your children will be encouraged.