(Inside: Should you pray as a family? Does prayer actually work? Will praying bring your family closer together? Yes! Read on to learn how…)
Evening family prayer time is one of my favorite teen-years memories.
Our evenings weren’t perfect. But they were us – our family.
Before bed, we’d gather in the living room. We’d discuss the frustrations of school, friendships, our big emotions, family conflict, joys of life, stresses at work, happenings in our sports and activities, latest successes, disappointing failures, and how come we could never find matching socks.
Some nights a spark ignited, and we lingered over words and gratitude and requests. Other times, we rushed through the prayer anxious to go our separate ways. (Or didn’t have time to sit down together at all.)
We never read long devotionals or hovered over eloquent prayers. And one of my siblings and I usually laughed inappropriately. I don’t know what happened but when we all bowed in solemnness, my sister and I could not get our giggles under control. My parents gave up on fussing at us; it became part of the routine.
As an adult, I look back and cherish those evenings of all us sitting on our blue couch and lazy boy chairs.
I felt heard.
I felt part of a family.
I felt like God cared about my life and wanted to be near.
Prayer is powerful.
Praying as a family is even more powerful. Here are seven reasons why…
1. Prayer Nourishes Us
It’s no secret that both sides of the teen-years-coin (being a teen and parenting a teen) can be over busy and full of pressure. There are plays to audition for, teams to make, schoolwork to complete, the social scene to navigate, work to do, places to be on time, and anxiety to wade through. Just say “ACT test” in a room full of juniors (and their parents), and you’ll feel the tension rise.
But, in it all – God has us.
Specifically, one way that God soothes us, comforts us, ministers to us, and brings us peace in the crazy-town-hustle is through prayer.
Science supports the benefits of prayer. Richard Shiffman discusses reasons in his article Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don’t.
He says, “Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiovascular specialist at Harvard Medical School and a pioneer in the field of mind/ body medicine discovered what he calls ‘the relaxation response,’ which occurs during periods of prayer and meditation. At such times, the body’s metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down, and our breath becomes calmer and more regular.”
Shiffman outlines additional benefits of prayer including increased levels of dopamine (associated with happiness), reduced headaches, stronger immune system, reduced stress, and slower cell death.
In the busy, we can surrender to the One who knows in the unknown. We breathe out our praise to Him, confess how we messed up, and share what’s worrying us. We breathe in knowing that He is on the Throne and loves us dearly. We ask for wisdom, direction, a peace that transcends all understanding, and in it all – we let ourselves feel God’s nourishment.
2. Prayer Builds Our Relationship with God
One thing that’s always puzzled me about scripture is why Jesus prayed so much. I mean, there were so many other important things to do. But, despite the rush, Jesus continually talked to God…
- As the sun peeked over the horizon (Mark 1:35) and when darkness covered back up the earth (Matthew 26:26-46).
- Before making big decisions, like choosing the men who would work with him (Luke 6:12-13).
- Before performing miracles: walking on water (Matthew 14:23-33), raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-44), and feeding 4000 people (Mark 8:6-7).
- During the day while he worked, like when he healed a deaf, mute man (Mark 7:31-37).
- About people: Peter (Luke 22:31-34), children (Luke 18:15-17), and us (John 17:1-6).
- Before and during teaching (Matthew 11:25-26, Luke 11:1-4).
- And while dying (Luke 23:46).
Jesus constantly wanted God’s input and thoughts and presence. God was Jesus’ buddy, his friend, his father.
Think about how we build a connection with our loved ones: we text, interact on social media, grab dinner together…we consistently check in with our people. When we put it in that context, it makes sense that Jesus was in constant conversation with his Abba. God invites us to talk to him all of the time too (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
He wants to weigh in on the decisions that we are making. He wants to cheer us on when things are hard. He wants to refocus us on what’s important. God wants to be in our years, our days, our moments – let’s build that friendship with Him through prayer.
3. Prayer Changes Circumstances
Does prayer actually change circumstances?
The short answer is yes; however, the answer is as complex as the question.
Besides witnessing prayers being answered in our own lives, there are examples in scripture when prayer transformed a situation; like when the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, prayed for the drought to end, and in 1 Kings 18:41-46, the sky broke open with rain.
But we also know that God doesn’t grant our every wish, so why prayer changes some circumstances and not others is a mystery I will never completely understand. This puzzling aspect of faith leads me to this big question: If God doesn’t say yes to all of our prayer requests, yet is in control and knows what’s going to happen, why even bother to pray?
I don’t know that I will ever have my question fully answered, but in my research, I found Dr. Stephen E. Witmer gave me fresh insight.
In his article What’s the Point of Praying?, he explains that “God ordains ends and God ordains means.” He uses the example of Elijah from James 5:16-18.
Dr. Witmer says, “God ordains the ends (that the rain will stop) and He ordains the means (Elijah’s fervent prayer for the rain to stop). Elijah’s prayer really was effective to stop the rain! God really answered his prayer.
Both the prayer and the answer to the prayer were ordained by God. This explains how prayer can have real results and God can be sovereign at the same time. God ordains the end result and God ordains your prayer as the means of getting to that end result. Why does God choose to work this way? Why not just do everything Himself? Why include us? I believe the answer is so that His people can be involved in His work and thus be drawn closer to Him.”
Dr. Whitmer went on to likened why God includes us in his work through prayer as to why parents expect their children to participate in family chores. Parents could clean the house themselves – and often that’s easier – but instead, they want their kids to contribute to and take ownership of their family as they learn to journey through life as part of a team.
Prayer is one way we can all be a part of God’s great work on this earth by helping change circumstances. So, we pray with hope, knowing that God is working in our lives and that he can provide, heal, and make all things new.
4. Prayer Transforms Us
As we just talked about, so often, we go into prayer because we want the One Who Knows to change what’s going on. And yes, that’s one reason to pray – there are needs to be met, healing to take place…we should pray for situations to be altered.
However, through prayer, God does something that some would argue is even bigger than changing circumstances.
He gives us peace in excruciating situations.
He provides hope when it doesn’t feel like there should be any.
Despite the pain, he grows in our core strength and courage and fierceness.
In troubling times, he opens our vocal cords and helps us find our voice.
When our surroundings seem muddled, he points our hearts to what’s most important.
He gives us a fresh perspective.
He renews our minds.
His gentle whispers shine just enough light that we can find our next right step.
Through our prayer journey, our wisdom grows, our relationship with Him strengthens, and our faith is built.
As Oswald Chambers says: “Prayer is less of a matter of changing things externally, but instead of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.”
A powerful reason to pray is this: it transforms us in the very best of ways.
5. It’s a Place to Share Your Heart
When you’re a teen it can be hard to sort through your big feelings and share what you’re thinking. When you’re parenting a teen, you love your family so much that over-sized emotions around situations swirl and communicating can also be hard.
And the sit-down-look-me-in-the-eyes-share-your-feelings moments can sometimes feel like a bit much. It’s easier to talk in the car or as you walk the dog – shoulder-to-shoulder communication seems more inviting. Similarly, it can be easier to say what you’re thinking to God and let your family listen in.
Prayer is a safe place to lift the curtain of your heart so others can learn more about you. Also, by listening to your family’s words, you get to better understand their inner workings. Prayer connects – and that’s powerful.
6. When We Pray as a Family, It Gives Us a Chance to Bless Each Other
A friend told me that when she was a teen living with her grandparents, her grandpa would old-fashioned-style kneel in his study and pray out loud for his family. She teared up as she described his words: he’d tell God how much he cherished his granddaughter; he’d list off everything he loved about her; he’d ask for the Holy Spirit to protect her. Then, he would conclude by asking God to walk with my friend and guide her, give her hope, and fill her life with joy. (Now, I’m tearing up writing this.)
Family members should let each other hear their prayers.
Let’s let our family members hear us say how much we love them.
Let’s ask God to be the defender of our family members.
Let’s let our loved ones hear us ask the Holy One to shower peace and joy and blessings on them.
Let’s cry out to God to give our family members guidance and hope.
A family’s love for each member of their crew is unique and powerful. To love each other through supplications to God on behalf of each other is lifegiving and something everyone remember forever.
7. Pray as a Family to Teach Healthy Routines that Will Get Us Through Hard Times
I’ve already talked about Elijah, but I want to continue – he is my favorite. He was such a complex character in the Bible. In one moment, he had such faith, and in the next second, he was in despair with dwindling trust.
Elijah’s known for the big story in 1 Kings 18-19 when he challenges Baal worships to a whose-God-is-real-dual? The short version is that both sides built two altars. The Baal worshipers cried out to their god to light their altar on fire and nothing happened. Then Elijah cried out to the One True God and poof – flames. This made the ruler of the Baal-people angry, and she set out to have Elijah killed.
And that Elijah, the one who just witnessed the miracle and power of a God who supernaturally lit his altar on fire, well – he ran. He ran like Forrest Gump. When he finally paused, he was depressed and anxious and told God that he wanted to die.
What does God do? Tell him to pick himself up by his bootstraps and keep going? Scold him for not having enough faith?
God tenderly cared for Elijah. He told him to eat and sleep. Next, God instructed Elijah to travel to the mountain, Horeb. However, it took 40 long days, so during that time, Elijah was to eat, drink, keep walking, and listen to God.
Do you see?
God gave Elijah the gift of mindless purpose through routine, so his brain had time to process his feelings and his heart could start to heal. Healthy routines help ease our anxiety as we hang on during a tough season and wait to find our next right steps.
Life is going to throw us zingers, no doubt. We can be doing “everything right,” being responsible, trying our hardest and at some point, the other shoe will drop. Hard times are a part of life.
But if in the good times, we establish healthy routines like eating well, exercising, carrying on the day’s responsibilities, and praying, then we’re giving ourselves a gift. Because when the difficult hits, we go back to the security those routines provide as we sift through our thoughts, sit in the pain, look for direction, and let ourselves begin the healing journey.
Prayer is a powerful part of our healthy routines and benefits us and our families in huge ways.
The Lasting Effect of When We Pray as a Family
I’m way past those teen years and our family prayer time with my parents. Instead, I’m in the years of raising tweens and teens.
My husband, our three boys (ages 15, 13, and 10), and I had just spent a lovely week visiting my folks. The morning we left, my mom did her familiar grab our hands and circle our family. My dad prayed over us with such love and care as he thanked God for our visit and asked for safety during our long drive home.
I didn’t laugh as I used to when I was a teen. Rather, I felt grateful. For the gift of family. For the gift of prayer, and how it binds us all together.
Pray as a Family using the Prayer Journal: Bring Your Family Closer Together in 30 Days
In raising tweens and teens, parents are acutely aware of the years speeding by and how much we still need to teach our kids about faith and family and loving well. However, between our kids’ schoolwork and places to be on time and ortho appointments to forget (then feel bad about later), it feels like there’s never time.
In the busy, how do we teach our kids (in a tangible way) to daily see God around them and daily walk with Him? How do we create moments that help us really get to know who our kids are and how they think?
This Family Prayer Journal has been life-giving for my family, so I wanted to share it with your family too.
It’s a simple tool for your family to come together before bed, share what’s on your heart, and pray together. Bring your family closer together in 30 days through the pages of this Family Prayer Journal. Learn more here.
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Read the Full “Raise Kids of Faith” Series. Pray as a family and more…
Over the years, as my kids have grown and their seasons have changed, I find myself going back to this one prayer, “Dear Jesus, please let my kids desire to have a relationship with you and follow you.” If as they journey through life, they consistently go back to their Creator for comfort and guidance, it’s all going to be okay.
So, as a mom, I strive to (in my imperfect way), teach my boys faith.
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.