Praying With And Talking To Your Kids
In the early days when my girls were in preschool and kindergarten, endless car rides loomed in front of us. Day after day, we repeated the same routine on the way to school and back home—in total more than two hours each day. There were days when I felt like an Uber driver. Chauffeuring the kids seemed like my whole purpose—that, and laundry. Rinse and repeat.
But somewhere along the way I learned some amazing truths about car time.
I had a captive audience.
Talk, and Listen, To Your Kids
Especially in the days before Eldest had a phone, there wasn’t much to do in the car besides talk and listen. And that’s what we did. We started talking, especially in the afternoons. I’d hear all about school and who said what and did what. As we would talk, I started to form a picture of her world. When I would go to school for parties or field trips, I knew the kids because I’d listened.
Back then my youngest attended a preschool for kids with special needs, which required about an hour-long commute, round trip. After Eldest and I had talked and perhaps played at the park or visited the library, we would listen to books in the car and discuss them. I fully believe this is where my eldest learned her love of story. Over the course of four years, we listened to every audio book the library offered and then some. It was not only entertaining, but a fun bonding time.
Mornings, though, remained a struggle until one day when we made a big change.
Pray With Your Kids
At some point early on, our morning talks turned into prayer time. I don’t recall the first time we prayed instead of talked, but soon we’d formed a new habit. Every morning when we started up the car I would pray. I’d pray over both my girls. I’d ask God to give them wisdom and help them to focus at school. I prayed for God to give them friends. We prayed for friends who loved Jesus and for friends who needed to be shown love. We prayed for their teachers and over different aspects of their day. We prayed for friends to sit with at lunch and for friends in our classes and friends on the playground. If there was something important to Eldest, we prayed about it.
At first it was a bit uncomfortable. We prayed as a family at meals and at bedtime, but it felt odd to be praying while driving. For one, I had my eyes open. But more than that, it seemed an odd place to pray. But as the days went on, we soon were praying for other things. We’d pray for God to help my younger one with autism learn to communicate. We’d ask God to bless Daddy at work, and for God to give Mommy wisdom during the day. We’d pray for sick friends and family; for people to give their hearts to Jesus; for safety for traveling friends and family.
As more time went on, we started praying about more serious issues. We’d pray for the kids that hurt my daughter’s feelings. We’d pray for people Eldest knew who were hurting, and for our friends battling serious illnesses. During eighth and half of ninth grade, we prayed for God to heal our friend from a serious kind of cancer. When it became obvious that her healing would take place in eternity, we prayed her through the trials that came with end-of-life. We prayed for her children, her husband, her parents.
We’d also pray for help studying and help remembering what we studied. We prayed for people affected by natural disasters. If anything was on my daughter’s heart, we’d pray about it.
Your Kids Will Be Impacted…For a Lifetime
Eldest has never prayed out loud in all these years, but since I always pray with my eyes open—makes driving easier, haha—out of the corner of my eye I often see her nodding along. Many mornings, especially in those tween years, Eldest didn’t want to talk, but she never complained about praying. By the time we’d finish, her shoulders would be lower and her stance would be less tense.
More than that, over the years I’ve seen how it’s affected her. As we have prayed, for instance, over a situation with a “frenemy” who had deeply hurt my daughter, I watched both of our attitudes change toward the other person. As we prayed for God to give us wisdom and for Jesus to help us love others even when they don’t love us, I saw her striving to love. (I’m not saying she did everything right, but I’ve heard her give advice to other friends, repeating some of the very things we’d prayed about. Loving others, even when they don’t love you. Rising above negativity.) We also prayed over my shortcomings and struggles—it was one of the great ways I could be real with her and show her that all people struggle.
This is why for years I resisted much carpooling. I never minded picking up other kids—it’s a wonderful way to get to know more about the world the kids live in—but I’ve tried to keep my schedule to where I could drive Eldest to and from school.
Make The Most Of Every Moment
In recent years, I’ve had opportunities to drive a nephew to school, and we’ve started the same praying habit. Since he’s a different personality, I try to be briefer—don’t want to overwhelm him with words. But I pray for him to have wisdom and a powerful heart that chases after God. I pray for him to be brave when faced with challenges and opposition. And we pray for his family. I’s so amazing to see him pull off his hat, bow his head, and nod along.
As I write this, my season of morning prayer is coming to a close, at least with Eldest. She is on the brink of earning her driver’s license. What used to feel like an endless chore now feels like a privilege. While I am excited for her learning new independence, I mourn the loss of car time. It’s my hope that when she’s older and on her own, she’ll call me during her car time and I can once again pray for her day. But I know for a while I will be praying for her alone as she drives. I will be forever grateful for the years of car-time prayer, conversation, and heart sharing that we were given.
The hope I cling to is that I have given her something more than just help start her day. My hope is that I’ve given her hope for a lifetime, that I’ve taught her to start giving each day to the Father and see how He works.
I hope I’ve passed on to her a willingness to trust God and to go to Him with all problems big and small. I hope I’ve given her, above all, a heart that follows Jesus.
As I’ve thought over these days of prayer, some verses have come to me.
Verses to pray:
- Wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)
- Heart to love: “Now, O people, the LORD has told you what is god, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NLT)
- Love and obey God: “If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15 (NLT)
- Listen to the Holy Spirit: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26 (NIV)
- Accept discipline: “Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” I Corinthians 11:32 (NLT)