Women who choose the good portion (see here) can pass the spiritual disciplines of the faith onto the next generation. We can, and it is more simple than we may at first imagine. We contend for the faith, once for all handed down (Jude)…and we hand it down. We can raise up our “Timothy.” His mom and grandma taught him the Scriptures, pointed him to Christ, and without any flashy programs or hip and trendy pre-packaged materials.
Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…1 Timothy 4:7, 6:11-12
I’ve been reading the autobiography of John Patton, a Scottish Christian who traveled to an island near Australia, taking the gospel to cannibals. Before his missionary journey began, as he was ministering in Scotland, he was at the death bed of a little boy who had great faith. This boy asked his mom and dad why they never spoke to him of Jesus, or read from the Bible. He was afraid he would never see them again.
Oh mamas, let us take up the call to mother our children in all aspects. Our culture has taught us that mothering means finding experts in different areas to pay, so we can fulfill our careers while subcontracting our mothering roles. The broken heart of that little boy reminded me of how true it is that a parent who knows God should pass on the faith. We should take an active role in our child’s spiritual training, ‘follow me as I follow Christ.’ The church is vital to the life of our children, as they see true faith enjoyed by its many members, and hear the Word preached. But the church does not have sole responsibility of tending to our children’s spiritual needs.
Easier than a Program
Training your children in the way of Spiritual Disciplines is not the institution a program. Programs tend to muddle things, and move us toward legalism. Neither is it an event, a one time conversation. But it is intentional, explained, practiced. We should say as Paul did “those things you have heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you!” (Philippians 4)
Practice! Tell them how you practice, let them see you, do not hide your own seeking and clinging to the LORD. And then help them get started. After years of practicing with you, they will enjoy corporate and individual spiritual disciplines.
Let us take prayer as an example. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them, this should remind us that it is not second nature to pray. And so, as we pass on the teachings of Jesus we teach how to pray.
Model it, and ask them to pray. Sometimes we get in the routine of doing all the family prayers, when we should be asking them to take an active part. Sometimes this means saying “son, pray for us…” or sometimes, it is more “daughter, you praise the LORD for a few things, son, you ask for the help we need today, and I’ll pray for…” This led one day to my daughter asking “What is praise?” I loved that conversation!
We model, and talk about: Praise, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Explain these words, practice them separately, practice them together.
Memorize prayers together, Psalms or Epistles…
Pray out loud often. Pray for help finding lost things, pray for comfort from pain, pray for the time spent with friends, pray for family spread far and wide, pray for the hurt feelings after an argument over a toy, pray for strength to do good work to His glory at the beginning of a task or a day. They will learn to pray without ceasing, and that God truly cares for us in all circumstances, if we do this out loud together.
Talk about silent prayer. Talk about turning your anxious thoughts (Philippians 4) into prayers. Talk about the Spirit knowing what we need, and leading us in prayers too deep for words. Even little children need to know that their prayers are more than just the words they find to express their thoughts and emotions. Sometimes these conversations simply happen, be ready for the moment it makes sense.
Lament, together. Read Psalms of lament, and lead them in prayer for these hurtings times, grieving times, and times of instability. Tell them about how God bottles up our tears, and is with us always. Remind them that when we cannot find words, He loves to hear our groans, and our use of His Words to make meaning of our situation.
Remember, rehearse. The Goodness of God will be easily forgotten if we do not! We set aside a weekly time to remember and give thanks, my kiddos look forward to this!
Sometimes our bodies are working against our inner man. Teach them (more on this in a later post) that sometimes we cannot keep going without a time of seeking His refreshing work in our outer man. Tell them about how we are whole beings–always connected, never compartmentalized; and that God will take care of us–inner and outer man.
Breathe; go outside; exercise first; or start with a song–make a spotify list for such times; take a short nap… Do not downplay the physical and mental needs that impact our whole being, and our ability to think clearly let alone pray.
Growing in prayer. Tell them about how prayer was something you had to grow into–learning how. This is where you may be tempted to give a formula, don’t. Examples are good, praying through Scripture is good, so perhaps use Lord’s Prayer as example, teaching how to pray through this or other memorized portions of scripture. Show them how one phrase can open up a time for you to share your cares and questions and desires with the Lord.
These ideas are not exhaustive, and they are just that–ideas to help fellow sojourners train up the next generation in clinging to Jesus. Look for part two in this series next week!