How to tell God he matters to you?

Here it is — the first official Dinner Table Talk Guide! This is designed to be used in conjunction with our summer movie series, but if your kids missed class this past weekend (or, if you don’t have any kids in your household) don’t let that stop you! Use this guide to help your family cultivate a growing faith — bring love and joy to yourselves and to the world around you.

Our questions from this week’s lesson centered on showing respect to God, specifically through prayer.

God is our awesome creator, he is loving and powerful! We want to show him respect, but how?

By not ignoring God.

God puts an offer out there to always be available for conversation with us. Prayer is what we call talking and listening to God. When we pray we open ourself to God, sharing the parts of our life that matter most to us. We are saying, God you rank high in my book!

It is important to note that God lets us choose whether we decide to join in dialogue with him, or not. Getting to know God takes initiative on our part! What are some ways to help us in our prayers?

a child with a purple balloonIn our lesson we used balloons to pray! What a fun way to “lift” prayers to God.

We also reviewed a “recipe” to follow when praying. We’ve heard this one before — applying the acronym ACTS.

(I want to stress that a formula for prayer is not a requirement, but it can help one to stay focused. I find using ACTS beneficial, as it is too easy for me to be distracted whenever I pray; utilizing ACTS keeps me on track.)

What are some other ways to help us talk to God?
  • Invite God to your activities. The next time you are about to start an enjoyable venture, invite God to savor the experience with you. For example, before jumping into the pool, pray: Be with us, Jesus. Come and share this refreshing swim along side of us. We’re so grateful that You created water for us to enjoy!
  • Practice praying in silence. (It’s how most people pray!) Make the amount of time spent in silence appropriate to your kids’ ages. You may want to start out with just 15 seconds of silence.
  • Get out the crayons. Prayers don’t always have to be words. Provide coloring tools and have your child draw a picture of things for which they are thankful.
What prayer methods can you share?

See these past discussions on ways to mix up your prayer life:
What is Breath Prayer

a blue line

Photo credits:
Purple balloon by Thomas Rydberg, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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What sort of fascinated fan are you raising?

Young sports fanAre you raising a “Go Blue” sports fan? (Or perhaps a “Go Green”?) If you are a fan of a certain team, it’s very likely that your kids are too.

You are probably not intentionally raising such a child – drilling the Michigan fight song every night or teaching them player nuances – it just sort of happens doesn’t it? Because you are interested, they become predisposed.

What about raising a Jesus fan?

Is that just “happening” in your household without any effort on your part?

I’ll admit, when my kids were young, I did not focus much on raising them to be disciples of Christ. My thinking went along the lines of:

  • Who me? I can’t do that. (That’s the church’s job.)
  • I don’t know enough. (I didn’t go to Bible school.)
  • I’ll screw them up / turn them off to religion. (I’ll probably say something wrong!)
Raising a Jesus fan takes some intention.

Does it help you to know that Jesus struggled with the role he was to play in God’s plan of redemption for the world?

We see it prominently in the Garden Of Gethsemane, the spot where Jesus and his followers went after the Passover meal (the one we now call the Last Supper). Jesus knew he faced imminent distressing events — arrest, torture, and death on a cross. At this critical juncture, Jesus is compelled to spend time with God in prayer.

Spend Time in Prayer.

Share your feelings of uncertainty with God. Jesus did. Matthew describes a time of intense agony in amongst the olive trees, with Jesus’ words expressing his anguish:

Open quote markMy Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering away from me.

This is like Jesus saying: “If it is possible, can’t we do this in some other way?”

Christians believe that in Jesus, God became fully human; he was a human being who faced temptations and feelings of anxiety! Isn’t it freeing to realize that we don’t have to stand up to pressures and trials with super-sized strength? It is okay to be fearful, questioning, angry, and to feel agony.

It is okay to struggle!

We know from the prayer that Jesus prayed in the garden, that in the very same sentence of asking for a different path, Jesus turns and submits completely to God, “I want your will, not mine.” This is not an admission of defeat; he says it with a cadence of perfect trust.

Acting as Jesus did can be a tough pill to swallow. Here’s what I tell myself when faced with something I’m unsure I really have the guts to do:

Do the next thing. Do it with prayer.

a blue line

Here’s something to pursue this week: Be on the lookout for a “trigger” which prompts a short burst of prayer.

A collage of green thingsTaking a cue from the Garden of Gethsemane, when you see something green (a houseplant, some produce, a stray toy) thank God for the ability to speak openly with him in prayer!

Try this out yourself for a couple of days. Then report back to your kids. Get them onto the hunt for a little green prompting.

What spiritual practice can you include in your family’s life this Lent? How will you plant seeds of faith in the lives of your Jesus fans?

Stay tuned for other Lenten prayer hints.

Photo credits:
Young sports fan by PublicDomainPictures, and the collage of green things – from other artists – all who licensed these photos on Pixabay under a Public Domain Dedication.

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Beyond Sky: Using Prayer to Build Trust

“Sky” Vacation Bible Camp (VBC) is complete. We’ve had the chance to show off our enthusiasm by singing VBC songs in the downtown church service.

Kids sing songs from VBC in church

We sang the VBC theme song “Fly,” and “You, You, You.”

children's moment in church reports on mission collection

We’ve also heard a report from some of the Grad Group members about our “Share a Smile” mission collections.

Ah, we had a great week!


So, are we there yet? Do we fully trust God?

That’s what we heard all week long, right?

No matter who you are… Trust God!

No matter how you feel… Trust God!

No matter what people do… Trust God!

No matter what happens.. Trust God!

No matter where you are… Trust God!

(Did I miss any?)

I’ll admit, it’s hard to trust God. We want to, but it means giving up control. (Yikes, is that scary!)

And then sometimes it seems like God can’t be trusted; we prayed really hard but then God didn’t answer. So how can God be trusted?

How can we teach our kids about building their trust in God,
when we (the adults) aren’t sure how?

First off, be prepared to admit to your kids that you don’t have all of the answers. Living with unanswered questions is an unavoidable aspect of being on a faith journey. If you are like me it will be easy to tell your child(ren) that you all can work together to learn to trust God. Here’s a way to start: How do we come to trust anyone? We take baby steps to build a relationship, right? So how do we work on a relationship with God?

Use prayer.

It’s appropriate that this month in Saturday and Sunday’s Cool kids are learning about prayer. Prayer is talking and listening to God. It helps us to feel closer to God, to build a relationship with God and thus, to build trust in God. There are multiple ways to talk about prayer with your kids. (Here and here are a few). Let’s focus on a technique that is reinforced this month in our workshops: using the acronym “ACTS” to keep our prayer time focused. Each one of the letters represents a different type of prayer.

A: Adoration – A great way to start by saying, “I adore you God!” or “God, you are awesome!”

C: Confession – What we are sorry for, something we did wrong, or something we should have done but didn’t do. (How about feeling like we aren’t totally trusting God?)

T: Thanksgiving – List a few things that make you feel grateful.

S: Supplication – Send in the troops! Listing some of the needs of others or for ourselves.

I’m working on building my trust. How about you?

a blue line

Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

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Praying a blessing

a cartoon figurine sneezes Ahchooo!When someone sneezes do you say, “Bless you”?

Or perhaps, “God bless you”?

It’s a habit isn’t it.

Here’s a new habit to start:

Bless your child every day.

Don’t wait for a sneeze!

What does it mean to bless a child?

A blessing is defined as a formal act of approving. (As in: “She gave the project her blessing.”) The word “blessing” comes from the Latin word benedicere or benediction, meaning: speaking well, or saying good things of someone.

Since the our kids in Sunday school at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI have been learning about prayer, the type of blessing I had in mind is more like a prayer; it is praying (out loud), saying in your prayer, good things for someone.

Out loud?

Yes, say the blessing out loud. Your child needs to hear you say the words. Moreover, they need to hear you say it in front of others. It’s showing how you value them; it’s displaying your trust in God’s provision for your child.

What sorts of words?

This is your chance to remind your child that God loves them! There is great power in your words; they can have a lasting effect! Henri Nouwen has written:

'To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.

Can you give me some examples?

  • You may choose to use a blessing from the Bible such as this recognizable one from Numbers 6:24-26.
  • Pray a blessing at bedtime: ___(insert child’s name)___, may God’s love and peace be with you this night.
  • Or as your child leaves for school: ___(insert child’s name)___, go boldly, with confidence of your goodness, for you are a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
  • Or for something special: ___(insert child’s name)___, there is no one else on this earth like you. You are special, uniquely created by God. God has given you skills that the world needs. You have a very bright future in the service of God, called by God to do good.
  • Once your child understands the concept of a blessing, it can be as simple as saying: God bless ___(insert child’s name)___.

Plant a treasure in your child’s heart.
Say (pray) a blessing today!

Click on the box if you would like to…
A check-box View other suggested blessings.


Photo credit…
A sneeze by by Zhao !, originally licensed on Flickr under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0), however it appears to no longer be available.

Why we pray: a friendship needs feeding

Do you remember your best friend when you were a child?
How much time did you spend together?
Two kids enjoy time together jumping into a pile of leaves

It was as much as possible wasn’t it?

A way to explain to your kids about the importance of prayer: Use conversation with a friend as an example.

Put it this way…

  • Do you enjoy hanging out and spending time with your friends?
  • Do you like talking to your friends?
  • Do you talk to your friends only when you need something?
  • Is part of being a friend, listening to your friend?
Our friendships need this “feeding.”

Then add…

  • Jesus is our friend. (Jesus would very much like to be our friend!) Jesus likes spending time with us.
  • The way we talk with Jesus is prayer.
  • Prayer isn’t just for asking for something. (Though it is OK to ask for things.)
  • Prayer includes listening to God.

Prayer is a dialog between God and us. We can talk to God any time, any place. We don’t need a good connection, or a charged battery. God is always available. God wants to hear from us!

How is your friendship with God?

Photo credits:
Leaf pile by lecates, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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More (creative) ways to pray…

Ten more suggestions (ABC’s !) on how to enhance your family prayer time…

Fancy letter A   Apply an acronym.

Ever heard of using “ACTS”—Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication—as a way to keep your prayers on track? Start with how you adore God! (Try using the Bible to pick out different “Adorations” for example: Psalm 139:1-6.) Follow up with Confession: what we are sorry for, something we did wrong, or something we should have done but didn’t do. Move on to Thankfuls (that’s always easy!) and finish with Supplication: Send help for the needs of others or for ourselves.

Fancy letter B   Be caught praying.

Allow your child to “catch you” at prayer. Show them your prayer list. (I keep mine on my phone.) Talk about those for whom you pray.

Fancy letter C   Create prayer reminders.

Did you know that pretzels – the twisted kind – can be tied to prayer?
A traditional twisted pretzelA woman holds her hands to her body (in a pretzel shape) while prayingIn the past our Cool Disciples have learned about prayer in the Cooking Workshop by making prayer pretzels. Bake some pretzels out of bread stick dough and sit down for a snack full of prayers.

Fancy letter D   Drive up to the fast food window…

Use your next trip to get fast food as an opener to talk about prayer. God is not like a fast-food restaurant where we drive up and place our orders… and expect God to deliver! God may answer our prayers with a yes, a no, or a wait and see. Say a prayer asking God for patience to rest for a reply and the insight to recognize God’s response.

Fancy letter E   Empower your child with a blessing.

You have been chosen to communicate to your child, God’s love for them! Do so by speaking a blessing. Something like: “Bless child’s name with wisdom. May the Lord God always be your guide.” Or use a Biblical blessing such as Numbers 6:24-26.

Fancy letter F   Frequently pray – so that it becomes a habit.

Pick a consistent time to say prayers. At bed time or in the bath time? Get into a groove!

Fancy letter G   Go on a prayer walk.

Walk around your neighborhood and say a prayer for each home that you pass.

Fancy letter H   Hold a Prayer Cross.

Use air-drying clay to form a cross that fits perfectly into your child’s hand. Clutch the cross while praying.

Fancy letter I   Identify God’s beauty.

Use every sunset, butterfly, and towering tree to point out God’s beautiful creation. Thank God for these gifts as you notice them.

Fancy letter J   Jar your table grace

Have kids write out table graces on slips of paper. Place them in a jar on the table. When it is time for the meal, take turns choosing a slip of paper and using the chosen grace. Click HERE for a few graces to use.

Okay, your turn… What other ways can you make prayer a part of your family life?

(It doesn’t have to continue the alphabet but it would be fun to think up ways for the rest of the letters!)


Photo credits…
Alphabet letters, in the public domain, from
A pretzel by Lara604, and Praying in a pretzel-shape by khrawlings. Both licensed their photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Making prayer a part of every-day life

I don’t know about you but dinner doesn’t feel right unless we’ve said grace.

A family says grace before a meal
But how about the rest of your day, does prayer receive much focus?

God wants to build a relationship with us; prayer is a way that we can build that relationship. Teach your children that prayer can happen anywhere, any place, any time, and in lots of different forms.

In the month of August, our Cool Disciples at FUMC will be studying about prayer. This coming Sunday they will be learning about “popcorn prayer” and about a way to pray that involves the acronym “ACTS.”

In the meantime, here are some different ways to enrich your family’s prayer life…
  • Sing your prayers. Create a simple tune or “piggyback” on an existing tune such as this one: This is Our Prayer for You by Cathy’s Music. (To Piggyback on a tune means that you use a melody but make up your own words.)
  • The cover of the book "Praying in Color: Kids' Edition"

  • Do something with your hands while praying: knit or crochet (each stitch is a prayer), work with clay or PlayDoh, draw symbols to represent who you are praying for. Here’s a neat book that guides your kids on drawing their prayers… (Click on the picture of the book will take you to Amazon – a non-affliate link).
  • Take your prayer cues from the Bible. Here are a few verses to try: ; Matthew 7:7-8; 1 Timothy 2:1; Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
  • Attend worship together. (A worship service can be thought of as one big prayer because we have set aside this special time to be in relationship with God!)
  • an interesting found object by a child
  • Carry around something that reminds you to pray: pick out a stone or a shell and carry it in your pocket. When you touch it, say a prayer.
  • Act on your prayer concerns. If someone needs help what can your family do?
  • Try out different positions to be in prayer: Palms pointing upward, or hands in the air, or lying on your back, or… follow the example of Jesus: he literally fell on his face to pray (Matthew 26:39); he knelt (Luke 22:41); and he stood ( Mark 11:25).
What are other ways to get prayer happening in your family?

Photo credits:
Western Grace by Ken Bosma; and Interesting find by Sophie ffrench-Constant, who both licensed these photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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