Continuing in Prayer (part 1)

In the previous post I wrote about getting started in prayer.  Talking to God on behalf of our families should be something natural for us, but at times it may feel awkward.  The only way forward is to face our awkwardness by praying, because we know that God is pleased even when we make baby steps in obedience to his voice.   Just as we learn to walk by walking, so we learn to pray by praying. Here are some further basic thoughts on continuing to pray in households.  

Our aim is that prayer should become a habitual practice in our households, but by no means an empty routine.  The most common time and place where we see families practicing prayer is before meals. When the family sits to eat a meal together, one member of the family speaks to God on behalf of all those gathered to say thank you and to ask for God’s help and blessing.  

Today we know that many households do not gather to eat meals together. Instead each person gets food for himself from the kitchen or orders food online and occupies himself with a television program or computer game while he eats.  In today’s world, we cannot assume anything about family life, but we strongly encourage parents to bring the family together at least daily around a common meal. Turn off the television and put cell phones out of reach.  

Research now shows there are many benefits to families eating together.  Young people who regularly eat a meal with their families are less likely to become obese, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, less likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, than children who do not eat meals with their families.  They are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, are better able to respond appropriately to cyber-bullying, more likely to have positive self-esteem and more likely to have stronger social relationships than those who do not eat meals with their families.  With the television turned off, and smart phones not available for distraction, young people acquire a better vocabulary by participating in conversations around the family table with adults. This helps them both academically and socially.   

But all of these reasons to gather the household for a meal fade into the background in comparison to one supreme reason related to our mission.  Our primary mission is not simply to civilize our children, but to evangelize them. Our mission is to make disciples of all nations, beginning with the family God has given us. We are a little house on the great commission.  Telling all the world the good news of Jesus must begin with telling the good news in our families. Jesus Christ is Lord.  

When we pray before a meal we are expressing a simple fact, a truth about God and ourselves.  We express the fact that our lives are totally dependent on God. God is our maker, our Creator.  The food we eat, without which we could not remain alive, comes to us because God made the earth, and each day causes rain to fall and the sun to rise.  Without God’s constant work causing food to grow on the earth, no creature could live more than a few hours. The food we eat, whether it grows in a garden near our house, or is purchased in a grocery store or is cooked in a restaurant is a gift from God.  We cannot live long without the physical nourishment and we cannot spiritual help that always come from God. Life is the gift of God that has been redeemed for us by death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

We encourage you to begin each meal with a prayer to remind yourselves, and anyone else who is present at your table, that God is the sovereign Lord who created us.  It is Jesus who died to save us from sin and has raised us to a new life with himself. It is God who speaks the word to create and give salvation to families through Jesus.  Families must answer by speaking to him in gratitude. This is what we do when we pray.  

In the next posting we will continue our discussion about praying in families.  

Donald Marsden

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