On a recent episode of “Ask Pastor John,” John Piper weighed in on the question of impromptu vs. memorized prayers at mealtimes. I appreciate his measured answer, and I think its wisdom applies to any recurring prayer time.
I think the wise thing to do would be to mix it up. If the only prayers that children hear their parents pray are memorized prayers, it will probably communicate to them that’s the only way that you can pray to God, at least at mealtime. And yet I don’t want to discount memorized and well thought through prayers, because they too have a blessing…they say things often that we ought to pray and might forget to pray if we hadn’t thought them through. They’re also easy to memorize for little children, and they have a kind of family identification and bonding effect.
So for today’s post, here are a few of the prayers we’ve incorporated into our family repertoire:
Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy great bounty.
Give us grateful hearts, O Father, for all thy mercies, and keep us mindful of the needs of others.
We thank thee, Lord, for this our food,
For life, and health, and every good.
By thine own hands may we be fed;
Give us this day our daily bread.
(sung to the tune of The Old 100th, or the Doxology)
Good morning, God! This is your day. I am your child; show me your way.(Also a song, and not about meals at all. But it’s what Abby always chooses when it’s her turn to pray, no matter what time it is!)
Be present, O Merciful God, and protect us through the quiet hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world may rest upon thy eternal changelessness.
Lord, may we rest in your peace, safe from all that could harm us, that we might rise again, refreshed and joyful, to praise you throughout another day.
The peace of Christ be over us to shelter us,
under us to uphold us,
about us to protect us,
behind us to direct us,
ever with us to save us.
May the peace of all peace be ours this night,
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(When we’re in the process of learning a new prayer, I literally write it out on an index card and we read it out loud for the first few (or several) times. It’s a little awkward feeling, but it doesn’t take long before we can recite without the card, which is much more natural. But it is important to pray the exact same words every time, if you’re wanting children to memorize along with you.)
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