by Emily Cook (Guest Contributor)
I was overwhelmed at the news of our first pregnancy. There was so much excitement, so many unknowns, and some anxiety. My prayer life definitely became more intentional when I became an expectant mom. I had a vision for this baby that involved him following Jesus and living a life that would glorify God. I wanted to raise not only a good son, but also one who walked with the Lord. I began to read God’s word more intentionally, pray fervently, and memorize scripture. The Lord impressed upon my heart that I must “be wise, making the most out of every opportunity,” Ephesians 5:15.
In about two weeks, that baby who I was so anxious to meet will start Kindergarten. Kindergarten. From the day I first saw him on an ultrasound until now, time has passed by so quickly. I know I have made my share of mistakes, but the moments I will never regret are those times I have spent investing in the lives of the three little ones who surround my kitchen table. Time spent reading God’s word to them, praying with and for them, and helping them memorize verses has been time well spent.
I know that simply checking off a list of read, pray, memorize will never bring about heart change. But our faithfulness as mothers to carve out teachable times in our days will allow the Lord to move in ways we could never imagine in the lives of our children.
I want to share some practical ways I have modeled spiritual disciplines for our kids, ages five and under. None of this should be burdensome, but should flow out of your own devotional life with the Lord.
When my oldest turned three, I began a Bible reading plan with him to work through the Jesus Storybook Bible chronologically. We spent time reading a story and doing a craft that went with the story. It was nothing elaborate. I had a stack of construction paper, and I’d draw shapes for him to cut out and glue as a reminder for the story. We’d post a verse on the finished piece and display it on the fridge. This helped the stories stick.
We use Christian celebrations as seasons of intentionality with our kids. It keeps our focus on the eternal and allows us beneficial time of biblical training. We do the Jesse Tree every December, and for Easter, I like to do a resurrection garden to bring the Easter account to life for my kids.
I also keep a stack of various children’s Bibles and resources in a tray on the middle of our dinner table to grab and start a spiritual discussion. I usually have a captive audience when food is present, so mealtime has become a wonderful training time. I have been amazed to see what my children have retained from the Bible and how they’ve used what they’ve learned to share with others.
We have taught prayer in our house by praying. Many things in the Christian life are better “caught” than taught, and prayer has been one of those for us.
We pray in front of our kids at dinner, bedtime, and throughout the day, just as we do when they are not around. Almost as soon as they could form sentences, they began to ask to pray at dinner. It takes a little time for all of us to pray, but we encourage each child to offer his or her own prayer. It’s great practice to learn how to pray publicly. It also teaches them to be quiet and listen as other people pray.
At night we pray over the kids, and we allow them to pray too. This has been a great time of the day for the children to talk with us about anything on their hearts and in the quietness of those moments, we assure them of God’s love for them.
Never underestimate the capacity of children’s minds to memorize scripture. If they can memorize a song from a popular Disney movie, they can memorize God’s word.
Our church has a quarterly list of verses that our children memorize each week. I keep those on an easel in our dining room so we can remember to quote that scripture often during the week.
When our oldest turned three I began teaching him passages of scripture. We started with Psalm 100 with a goal to have it memorized by Thanksgiving. He memorized a line per day. I kept that passage on the kitchen table to remind us to review it. I also use Lisa McCann’s music to help us memorize long passages of scripture.
Since my children are so young, I don’t have much perspective, but I have been seeing evidence of God’s work in their lives. Be encouraged, mom, that you have a mission field right there in your home. Ask the Lord to use you there to make Him known to the next generation and point them to their purpose in His kingdom. Your efforts will not be in vain.
“Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…” Colossians 1:9-10
*Emily and her husband Zach met when they were in first grade, started dating in high school, got married after college and are now living happily ever after with their three children, Jonah, Georgia, and Charlotte Grace. Emily is a professional photographer who loves seeing things through the lens of faith. She writes as God reveals on her blog. Emily was saved when she was 11, but her faith came alive when she was discipled through The One Year Chronological Bible prior to the birth of her first child. Since then, she has been passionate about discipling women and children through Chronological Bible Teaching and encouraging others with what she’s learning from God’s redemptive story.
*We love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and, or ideas that help you “make the most of every opportunity.”