My daughter attracted athletic awards like fruit flies on watermelon rinds. I felt sorry for the other girls in her grade on elementary school field days. She’d come home with a fistful of blue ribbons every year.
“Did you win every event?” I’d ask.
She would nod. I would sigh.
I’d ask, “Next year, can you get a few second places? Give the other girls a chance?”
She’d look at me then and squint as if I were a bug that needed squashing. In her eyes, doing less than her best would be dishonest.
And she excelled in more than athletics.
Straight A’s. Check.
Top choir (due to having perfect pitch). Check.
Math challenge winner. Check.
Did my twin boys follow their big sister’s pattern? Not so much. The twins often sought what administrators called “negative attention.” I was relieved when they got a participation award because that meant the organizers hadn’t kicked them out.
It’s human nature to seek accolades, either positive or negative. Today’s culture promotes frenzied efforts to be on social media and earn the approval of…well, everybody. Some people post about their wins. Others post videos of themselves stealing cars. In some ways, it’s all the same. They’re searching for significance.
Prayer Is Putting Away Self
Ultimately, prayer is the antithesis of seeking personal aggrandizement. Prayer is all about giving God glory.
In her book Pray with Me, author Erica Renaud urges mothers to teach this type of humility to their children because it doesn’t come naturally. She writes,
“In a time when everyone is doing everything they can to be seen, I believe God is calling us as parents to seek the hidden things. To seek God in prayer and to begin praying with our children. To invite them into those special moments, bringing them alongside us to seek God together, turning to Him first and foremost. Not for anyone else, for praise, or for glory, but simply because we can’t think of a greater inheritance we could possibly pass on to our children than to help them find Jesus and know Him.”
Prayer is becoming humble and finding a hidden space in which to focus on the One who cannot be hidden.
A Parent Is a Trusted Prayer Guide
Erica also cautions us mothers not to wait till we feel like prayer experts before teaching our children to pray. Instead, she encourages us to see ourselves as prayer guide who is continually learning about prayer as well.
One key, she says, is making sure we’re truly accessible to our children. If we’re not available on a meaningful level, then the parent-child relationship deteriorates because it doesn’t meet our kids’ needs.
I once joined an online weight-management app in which I believed I had access to a “coach.” In reality, I had access to software that used an algorithm to send me encouraging and enlightening messages through the app. A little face was shown along with each text as if a real person were evaluating my data and thoughtfully sending me a unique message.
I tried to reach out to the face named Natalie, but I never could connect. I quit the fake relationship and the app after my free month. If our children reach out the best way they know how, and we don’t connect with them where they are developmentally, they may emotionally disengage from the relationship and throw out God in the process.
What do we do? We’re all busy with scrambled deadlines and competing priorities. And now that school has started, time management is more challenging. Perhaps we don’t know how to be truly accessible to our children during this season. Erica says a look at Jesus’ ministry is part of the answer.
“Jesus was an excellent model in accessibility for us. John 1:14a says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” [emphasis author’s]. Jesus left His throne in heaven to be with us, walk with us, eat with us, and suffer as we suffer.
As we consider our role as prayer guides for our children, let’s be sure our children see us as accessible and approachable. We are not set apart from them, pointing out what they should do; instead, we travel with them, at their pace, and try to see what they see. This may look like taking time to listen to their concerns, praying at ‘inconvenient’ times, and praying about things that are important to them even if they aren’t to us.”
I’m still working with my boys on the basic elements of prayer and seeing that God isn’t a genie in a bottle but the Master of the universe. Over time, they’ll learn that prayer isn’t about what God can do for them, but it’s about who He is. It’ll be the long game with them, but God has given me the patience and the resources to remain accessible to them.
And my daughter? She has excelled in sports, and every so often she earns media attention from podcasters and local newspapers. She has the opportunity to seek the spotlight, but when she’s interviewed, she deftly transfers the focus from herself to her teammates, her coach, and God. She no longer asks me to pray for a competition win but rather that her teammates would be won over to Christ.
Learned spiritual humility. Check.
Lord willing, one down, two to go….
- Why Praying “With” Your Child Will Bring Blessings
- 37 Great Books for Intentional Motherhood
- Real Motherhood
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Marianne Hering is an editorial Jane-of-all-trades: ghost blogger, children’s book author, content writer, picture-book coach, developmental editor, magazine article writer, and copyeditor. While on the staff with Focus on the Family, she helped launch the popular Clubhouse and Club Jr. magazines in 1987 and edited their children’s books for more than a decade. She is the fiction acquisitions editor for Brio magazine and manages the parenting column “Hacks & Facts” for Focus on the Family magazine. She recently joined David C Cook as a developmental editor for Esther Press books. Perhaps the “chapter” in her career she’s enjoyed the most is writing The Imagination Station book series for children ages seven to ten, which has more than one million cumulative sales.