My Grandma was a big part of my childhood.  When I was little, I used to get on the bus and go and stay with her in Eketahuna (yes, Eketahuna) for a few days of the school holidays.

We had our routine.  We’d go and ‘visit the old folks’ and deliver meals on wheels.  We’d feed the chooks, do the gardening, and leave a lolly out for the paperboy every day.  I’d play with her Russian dolls and read her People’s Friend magazines.

At bedtime at Grandma’s house we’d start by setting the table for breakfast – yes, before we went to bed – with plates and cutlery, toast rack and jam tray.  Then in bed we would say a prayer you may know:

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild
Look upon a little child
Pity mice and plicity
Suffer me to come to thee.

I never asked Grandma why we were praying about mice, or what ‘plicity’ was.

In fact I understood almost none of it, and I don’t think that really mattered.  I think what was formational for me was that together we turned our faces towards God.  I knew that Grandma and I were in this together.

Now that we have SBJ in our lives, my husband and I are wondering what kind of bedtime prayer routine we might develop with him, and what that routine would contribute to his life as he grows.

He’s three months old, so at the moment it’s a matter of praying for him and sort of ‘over’ him, rather than with him, exactly.  We bless him with words we’ll keep on using, and later we’ll add elements that encourage him to express his own growing spirituality.  Well, that’s the plan, anyway.  Who knows what we’ll end up doing (an awful lots of our pre-parenthood plans and convictions are now up for grabs…).

On his first night on the outside, we found ourselves saying over him the benediction that our church closes every service with.  At West Baptist everyone says it together, while looking at other people in the room, to send each other out into the week.  It’s a blessing written by Diane Karay Tripp and popularised in New Zealand churches largely through the influence of pastor and worship curator Mark Pierson.  It appears in her 1987 book All the Seasons of Mercy.

Here are the words.  Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below.

You are God’s servants
Gifted with dreams and visions
Upon you rests the grace of God, like flames of fire
Love and serve the Lord in the strength of the Spirit
May the deep peace of Christ be with you
The strong arms of God sustain you
And the power of the Holy Spirit
Strengthen you in every way
Amen.

Right now we say it each night as we put SBJ to bed (usually already asleep), and I think we’ll probably keep doing that, just adding other things to the routine as he grows.  I hope that these are words that will stay with him.  I hope we’ll one day be praying with him while he’s awake!

But I’m a novice at praying with kids at bedtime, so I’m very keen to hear your ideas.

Did adults pray with you when you were a kid?  What was most significant about your childhood prayer experiences? 

What do you do or have you done with kids at different ages and stages? 

Have you had things that have followed them each year, or do you do something quite different at different ages? 

What’s your aim in doing what you do with your kids?  

Please add your experiences and ideas to the conversation below.

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Thalia Kehoe Rowden began 2011 as the minister of West Baptist Church in New Plymouth and ended it as the mother of a charming newborn baby. She's also an awesome parallel parker, a wannabe runner and enthusiastic but rubbish at gardening. She blogs at Kiwi Families on the spiritual practice of parenthood: listening to God as we parent our children, hearing God's voice through them and through the delights and despairs of bringing them up. Thalia also blogs at www.sacraparental.com

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[…] On praying at bedtime […]

[…] part of the rhythm of the day, Christians have traditionally prayed before bed. Maybe your Grandma taught you the Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild prayer, or maybe you meditate cross-legged on the floor, or maybe you fall into bed, cream-crackered, […]

[…] one of the alarm bells was my family history. My lovely Grandma, whom I’ve written about here, had four sons in four years. Though they are all wonderful lads, that sounds exhausting just to […]

Thalia Kehoe Rowden

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful contributions.  It’s great to hear some concrete examples of what helps your families.   Tonight our family tried a new thing for us.  Friends gave our baby two tiny square prayer books, a ‘Thank You God’ one and a ‘Please God’ one.  Just a few pages of things you can say to God, easily tailored for your family’s situation.  We said some prayers with SBJ (now four months old) sort of as if he was saying them (‘Please God help me to be kind to other people.’) and it felt good. I’m keen to hear… Read more »

Rachel

Bedtime prayer is part of our daily lives. It has grown, morphed, changed and developed over the years.  Some days it is hard going and others it is hard to end. As the boys snuggle down into bed they ‘need’ Mum or Dad to pray with them. We share highs and lows of the day and ask for forgiveness for the wrongs. We give thanks for food, finding the lost items, success in sports, passed tests and sunny days.  We ask God to help us as we face bullies, argue with brothers, travel and endure trials. We pray for a good sleep and… Read more »

blethdot

Thalia, thanks for writing this. It touches, I’m sure, on the experiences of many. We follow a book of devotions for children with our two. Our boys look forward to our daily sessions and appreciate them very much. We read a verse, a story. Talk a little, pray, cuddle. It’s nice. We’ve been doing so for just over a year now. Every now and again one of our boys will ask a deeply personal or pertinent question or offer a rich insight into something we’ve spoken about. I have no idea what the effect of these times will be, but… Read more »

Dunedinchick

We have a couple of children’s prayer books, one is titled ‘Thank You Prayer’ and is one of my daughter’s favourites, in fact as a result of this book one of her early words was ‘Amen’ at the end of the book. For a more personalised prayer we do J.O.Y, something my parents used with me as a child.  It is quite simple prayer structure and can develop with your child.  J=Jesus=Praising Jesus and being thankful O=others=praying for others, we often pray for family and freinds with my 20 mth old Y=yourself=any pray needs you have, we often pray for… Read more »

Jaxyogini

Ours is a spiritual family. I use this prayer from Marianne Williamson: “Four angels around my bed, four angels around my head. One to watch, two to pray and one to chase bad things away.”
Sometimes I swap out the ‘things’ for ‘thoughts’ or ‘dreams’, depending on child’s age and stage. Also if we have time, we do ‘gratitude’. Which goes along the lines of… ‘Dear God, thank you for….’ and we add three things we’re thankful for – it could be anything silly or serious – chocolate, family, happy children. I usually start, then my son does his own version.

Jody

This is a lovely piece of writing and a thought provoking topic. I think you’re right that the ritual of being together in the presence of God is more important than words said – good reminder, thanks.

Macca

I sing a blessing to each of our kids every night, have done since our eldest child’s first night…….if I forget to do it, they always ask for it 🙂 Now that they are getting a bit older, we are starting to ask them to think about things they are grateful for, and people they would like to pray for, and encourage them to say some of the prayer themselves too……..

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