“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7
All sorts of amazing conversations take place in our kitchen/dining room. Some are cute, like the stories she tells me about her stuffed animals [who receive new names daily, like “Mmpha” and “Buzoid.”] Some are deeper, like “Do we pray for Jesus?” “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” “Does everyone die on a cross?” “Can we pray for 2 people?”
That last one might sound random, but she’s my little accountability partner. Last year I saw this idea on Pinterest to make prayer sticks with names of friends and family with photos attached to the sticks. Each day the family drew a stick and prayed for the person. I was so excited about it, I headed to the store to buy the supplies, sat down and wrote all our family’s names on them, stuck them in a jar, and left them there for about six months.
I tried a few times to sit down and find photos for everyone but it was a daunting task, so I kept putting it off. Finally one day out of nowhere, God convicted me of what I was doing. I was seriously choosing not to pray for people because I didn’t have their photos on sticks. I wasn’t praying because my project wasn’t the same as what I saw on Pinterest.
Sometimes God has to work on me for a long time to soften my heart to His truth, sometimes the truth hits me square between the eyes and I’m confronted by how ridiculous I’m being. This was the latter.
I immediately plopped the jar in the middle if our table and explained to Emery that every time we eat she can choose 2 people to pray for, and told her the names of everyone who was written on the sticks. She was so excited.
Every meal time she chooses 2 sticks and says, ” Mommy, what does ____ have going on today? What could we pray for them about?” And I update her on their lives, their struggles, their victories, and we pray for them. It’s almost always Andrew and I praying but a few days ago she hollered at me from the kitchen after breakfast, asking who was on a stick she drew, and began praying for them all on her own about a topic she chose. It was beautiful – my heart melted into a puddle on the floor.
Another major reason I love these sticks is because Emery is more passionate about them than I am. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times she used to ask to pray when it wasn’t meal time and I would distractedly tell her, with my nose stuck in whatever I was working on, that we needed to wait until it was meal time. That was definitely another “right between the eyes” moment of truth – I’m telling my daughter now isn’t a good time to pray for someone? When is it ever NOT a good time to pray for someone? Never. She’s teaching me to stop what I’m doing and pray for people.
A few months after we got in the groove of praying for people, I decided to add a memory verse to our routine. When I was a preschool teacher, the kids would have a memory verse each week and receive a sticker on Fridays if they knew the verse. To help keep me accountable to having them practice, I had them recite it before praying at every meal and it helped tremendously. We’ve been doing it right before praying and she’s loving it. We explain different aspects of the verse on different days, or apply it to her life or a hypothetical scenerio. She’s loving it and it’s spuring on some amazing conversations. We’ve chosen not to have a reward system though – I don’t want it to be about a sticker or a treat, I want memory verses to just be about God and learning truth. No bribery necessary. You can find the printable scriptures we use, here.
As we learn a new verse each week, we’ve been going back and practicing the ones from the week before. It makes our routine longer, but for a very good reason. I don’t want this to become me patting myself on the back for having had her temporarily memorize something to make me feel like a good parent – I want these verses to be hidden in her heart. I want her to know them and God’s truth for more than just one week. When we’re addressing her heart issues, I want her to be able to know what I’m referencing when I bring up some of these verses to explain God’s commands for His people.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”
Also, while we’re practicing the verses and talking about how we’ll pray for the names we drew, we start eating our dinner. This wouldn’t go over well if she had to stare at her food the whole time and feel like it’s a droning lecture that she wishes would just end so she could eat. We stop what we’re doing and fold our hands when we’re ready to pray, but I don’t make her sit through a 10 minute verse and prayer stick discussion. She’s only three – I need to meet her where she’s at