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It’s Lent next week. Shoot. Where is 2014 going?
My friend Amy shared a great idea in our cell group recently: to commit to praying for a different friend for each day of Lent. This is just the sort of structure that I need in order to revitalise my own prayer life, so I’ve made my list and will be attempting to do this myself…but then I thought, why not do this with our kids?
We teach our kids the Bible, we hope to answer their questions when they arise, and we pray for them. We also pray with them, but these prayers tend to be limited to Just Before Bed (y’know, that time of day which is, like, really focussed and sensible and there’s absolutely no hysterical running up and down the landing whatsoever). I’d love to teach my kids how to pray – but don’t really know how to go about this, if I’m honest. Perhaps we need a Lent project, a sort of ‘springboard’ for getting us really praying as a family. Praying for a different friend each day could be the prompt that we need.
This is what I’ve done. First I made this tree by painting a large piece of stiff card (from an old box), then cutting out branch shapes in a brown woven paper I had in my craft cupboard of doom.
I am not an Artist. Forgive me. You get the idea.
I then made a list of 40 of the kids’ friends and family. Their godparents are in there, as are their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Friends from babyhood are on the list, as well as newer preschool friends, and friends who’ve moved away. I printed out their photos, stuck them onto leaf-shaped pieces of card in Spring-like shades of green, pink, purple and red, then put each leaf into a plastic egg – you can buy these from pound shops and supermarkets and the like. The eggs have gone into a basket ready for next Wednesday, and the kids will pick one each day of Lent, open it, and we’ll pray for whoever is inside.
The leaf will be stuck onto our tree so that, as we spot signs of Spring outdoors, we will also be seeing our prayer tree come into bloom. Eventually, it’ll look something like this:
I find it so easy, when I’m praying with my kids, to resort to easy, obvious prayers. I hope that, as we open each egg, we might be able to remind one another of the unique situation of the friend or family member we’re praying for, and use that memory to fuel our prayers. Perhaps Mister will remember All The Godparents who got married last summer, and we’ll pray for their marriages. Perhaps Missy will know that one of her friends has been ill, and we can pray for healing.
My own prayer for this project is that, just like Spring leaves continue through the summer, our family prayer life will blossom in this season and bear fruit over the coming months (hoping it doesn’t drop off like autumn leaves, though…hmmm, the analogy only works so far).
A note on the practicalities: This was a little time-consuming to put together. It took a couple of hours to find photos of 40 friends and print them out. A quicker version would be simply to write the names on little pieces of paper or card, but for my pre-school, pre-reading kids, pictures are really important as instant memory prompts. And hopefully we’ll be able to use the majority of them next year as well.
Another short-cut would be just to put the names/photos in a container, rather than house each in a plastic egg, although personally I like the Easter-y ness of the eggs, and they’re inexpensive. I have to admit, though, that I’ve cheated on this one: I have a dozen or so from previous Easters and I was going to buy enough eggs to make my total up to 40, one for each day of Lent, but actually I’m just going to re-use the ones I have, replacing the used egg each day with a fresh ‘leaf’ photo inside.
The tree took a little time to put together too – yet I know my kids love it when things are visual and kinaesthetic, and maybe yours do too? A quicker idea would be to simply stick the names/photos to the fridge, a pinboard, mirror or door – somewhere you see often. We will display our tree in the dining room, so that we can open the eggs at breakfast, pray and stick the leaves on straight away.
For older children or teenagers you could text them with a different name to pray for each day. You could also include a Bible verse about prayer, a reassurance that they’re in your prayers, or a word you’ve had whilst praying for them.
As for me…my prayer-a-day project will simply be a list I keep next to my bed. But I don’t know whether I’m more excited about making a start on that, or on developing our corporate prayer life as a family.
Enjoy Lent. And the pancakes. (And more on hospitality coming soon…)