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
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.