“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 6:6-7
Phew. That’s a pretty tall order, isn’t it? God may have said this through Moses to Old Testament Israel, but His words are just as relevant for 21st century Christian parents. God wants our children immersed in His word as they go about their daily lives. Ephesians 6:4 reminds fathers that they are to bring their children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” and as moms, we have the joy of supporting our husbands in that venture by bringing Scripture and prayer to bear on all those little daily “walk by the way” moments. But how? Here are some practical ways I’ve discovered for capturing those teachable moments and pouring God’s word into them.
1. Set an example
Be faithful to your own Bible study and prayer time. Let your children “catch you in the act” from time to time. Share with them what you’re learning from God’s word, things you’re praying about, things you’ve asked God to forgive you for, etc.
2. Train your children to have their own daily Bible study time
You might be surprised at how early you can start developing this godly habit in your child. With an infant, you might simply take a few minutes of her morning feeding to read aloud from your Bible and pray. With a toddler, you can regularly set aside five or ten minutes (when she’s not tired or hungry) for her to sit down and look at pictures in a children’s Bible, maybe while you’re sitting nearby with your own Bible, modeling for her. As children get a little older and can read, you can set aside a block of time before their bedtime for individual Bible study and prayer. When they’re very small, children aren’t going to understand much from the Bible (although they will surprise you sometimes!), but they will still be absorbing some valuable things: the Bible is an important book, God is the top priority in my family, and God and His word should be preeminent in my life.
3. Establish a regular time of family worship at home
If your husband is a believer, be careful not to usurp his leadership in this area. It is ultimately His responsibility to lead his family in worship. Help each other think of ways to make your family worship time age appropriate for the children, and support your husband as he teaches God’s word. Also, understand that with children comes chaos. (My four children who are still at home range in age from 11 to 19, and I still have to remind them to quiet down and stay on track during family worship.) It’s going to happen. Just tuck and roll and don’t give up.
Who cares if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket? God doesn’t, that’s for sure. Sing some hymns while you’re washing the dishes. Sing along with a worship CD in the car. Music is a great way to get God’s truths into your child’s heart and mind.
5. Conversation Prayer
During our family worship time, we used to go around and share prayer requests, then one or two people would pray. We found that the children were either forgetting the prayer requests or we would have to spend time writing them down. So now we often do what we have dubbed “conversation prayer.” One parent will say a brief opening prayer, and then the “floor is open” for anyone to say a (or several) one or two sentence prayer about whatever is on his heart (“Please help me do well on my math test tomorrow,” or “Lord, please save Grandmamma.”). When it seems like everyone is finished, the other parent says a closing prayer.
6. What is God up to?
Sometimes it’s hard for children (and even adults) to recognize and remember the ways God is answering prayers and working in their lives. When our children were smaller, I put up a piece of posterboard on the wall of the breakfast room with the title “What is God up to?” at the top. Whenever God answered something we had been praying about, provided for us, moved in our lives in some way, or blessed us, we made a little note about it, along with the date. It had big things – like my daughter getting saved – as well as little things – like my son finally learning to tie his shoes. It helped my children to recognize God’s sovereignty over all areas of our lives, that He does answer prayer, and that He gets the glory for everything.
7. Let’s pray about this
Your children are going to struggle with things. They’re going to have times of rejoicing and times of sorrow. There will be times when they have disobeyed and need to repent of their sin. What better opportunities to teach them to take everything to God in prayer? Teach them how to ask God for help when something is too hard. Teach them to thank God for blessing them and ask Him to comfort them when they’re sad. Show them how to ask God for forgiveness when they’ve done wrong.
8. Sprinkle life with Scripture
(In order to do this, you’re going to have to know Scripture, so be sure to be faithful to your own study of God’s word.) When you see a beautiful sunset, talk about how God created the sun and moon. When your child is kind to someone, praise him and tell him God wants us to be kind to others. When you discipline him, show him his sin from Scripture, and talk about repentance and God’s forgiveness.
9. Memorize Scripture together
There is a wonderfully wide variety of Scripture memory resources out there. My children were all involved in Awana at church when they were small, and we worked on their memory verses together at home. Our home schooling curriculum, at the kindergarten level, had a 26 verse Scripture memory program in which we memorized a verse beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Seeds Family Worship is a fantastic program with word for word Scripture songs and other great resources. And you can always make up your own fun programs, songs, and contests to help the whole family memorize God’s word.
10. Ask questions
“Would God be pleased with the way you’re acting? How do you know?” “What does the Bible say about the way we should treat each other?” “What does the Bible say about _?” Questions like these get your children thinking. They take your children from simply reading and hearing God’s word to applying Scripture to their lives and recognizing that they must submit to it.
11. The Gratitude Game
Forget popping in a CD or DVD. This is a great way to harness that down time in the car (or anywhere else) and use it to teach your kids about prayer and thankfulness. It’s kind of like playing “I Spy.” Just look out the window and take turns thanking God for what you see: “Thank You, God, for making birds.” “Thank You for ice cream.” “Thank You for police officers who help us.” Or pray for people as you pass by various buildings. “God, please help the sick people in that hospital … help the pastor of that church do a good job of preaching Your word … provide homes for the people in that shelter…” We also made it a habit to pray for victims of accidents or tragedies whenever we saw an ambulance or fire truck.
Our kids need to see us sharing the gospel with people as a normal part of everyday life, and we need to explain to them why it’s so important. There’s an easy way to get your kids personally involved, too, especially when they’re small: tracts. Get some doctrinally sound tracts and let your child leave one in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, on the table when you leave McDonald’s, or hand one to the cashier at the store. I’ve had people turn me down when I offer them a tract, but who’s going to refuse an adorable three year old? Get them started on a lifelong habit of sharing the gospel wherever they go.
As Christian parents it’s our responsibility before God- not the church’s, the Sunday school teacher’s, the Christian DVD’s, etc. – to train our children in the Scriptures, prayer, and godliness. If we slow down and ask God to direct us, He will show us all kinds of ways we can teach them diligently to our children, when we sit in our houses, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Satisfaction Through Christ. It has been republished here with permission.