For a few years now, we've begun our family meals with a blessing. We started with "The Lord's Been Good to Me," otherwise known in our household as "Johnny Appleseed." The song's theology is pretty innocuous. It acknowledges God's existence and says a basic thank you. Then we introduced "Thank you Father" (to the tune of "Frere Jacque"), which gets a little more personal because it introduces the concept of God as Father. Over the summer, my husband and I were getting bored, so one night we suggested the Doxology. And ever since, our kids have requested what they call "Praise Father," from the last line: "Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." We mix it up occasionally, but "Praise Father" remains their favorite. Somehow, Penny and William moved us from a vague deism to Trinitarian worship.
In addition to asking God's blessing on our food, we pray as a family. Our kids have started to add their own requests, which range from Penny wanting to pray for a boy from school who can't walk, to William asking that we pray for him after he had an unfortunate run in with a pear that tasted yucky. We read "Jesus stories" from a picture Bible. We go to church. And we talk about Mom and Dad having "time alone with God" in the mornings. We hope the way we structure our family time will impact the structure of our children's lives, that they will grow up with a sense that God is present and active, that God cares about and for their daily needs.
But teaching our children the love of the Lord is more complicated than prayers and Jesus stories. Try explaining why all the people go under water except Noah and his family (Noah shows up in every kids' Bible, I think because kids like animals). Or try explaining why sometimes we pray for people ...1
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