Prayer, Fasting and Giving with Children

We are not suggesting you fast from your children or give them away. (Tempting though it may be on some days.) Instead here are a few suggestions, a few practices to engage with children during Lent. A few suggestions from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide on celebrating Lent, at home, family style.

The Big Three: Prayer, Fasting, Giving

Prayer begins in the heart.

Family Altar or Prayer Corner: Cover a small table with a purple cloth,. Arrange on it a cross, or a family Bible, maybe a small shallow box with sand in it, where children can draw their prayers to God, maybe a family prayer journal.  Choose a Christ candle to place in the center. (Battery powered candles are wonderful for the not yet fire worthy.)

Invite children to light the Christ candle in the morning or evening, or when you are reading the Bible as a reminder that Jesus is the Light of the World. This is the light of Advent that continued through Christmastide and Epiphany–and still shines on in Lent. Invite family members to visit the Altar at least once a day during Lent.

Prayer Box: Take a 3×5 index card box and write prayers from the Bible, or from saints, or beautiful pieces of poetry on the card and place them in the box. Read one each evening before bed, or at the dinner table. Try prayers from This is What I Pray Today by Phyllis Tickle or Prayers for Each and Every Day by Sophie Piper.

Fasting begins in our bodies.

Fasting from Meat:Traditionally many folks fast meat on Fridays and they will also choose some other vice to give up for 40 days. If this works for you and your people, go for it.

Fasting from Superfluous Foods: Others I know have fasted eating out for 40 days, still others have fasted sugar, or chocolate, soda.

Fasting from Technology: For children giving up nutritional food is not an option, but giving up TV, or video games, or texting is certainly a good choice.

Fasting is not popular in our culture. To deny myself something I want will sound strange to others, but it is imminently important that we and our children learn to tell our bodies, “No.” Letting our bodies and our desires run our lives will destroy us. Fasting is directly related to prayer. We will need strength beyond ourselves to die to our wills. The will is loud, and irritating; only the peace of God can quiet it.

Fasting is directly related to prayer. In fasting we teach our wills to ignore our mere desires and focus on our true needs. But the will is loud, and irritating, and is the habit of responding to the body’s wants. We need strength beyond our own to die to our desires and retrain our wills. Only the peace of God can quiet  the will long enough for it to learn.

Giving begins with others.

Giving begins right where we are. We look to our families and see where we take instead of give. We make the effort to overcome our natural pet peeves. We do something nice for someone who irritates us.

Giving Money: We choose to eat simple meals, or to fast junk food, and send the extra grocery money to someone else. There are many great organizations that truly give life to others.

Giving Time: We fast our favorite TV show and instead pack the family up and visit the local nursing home.

Giving Attention: We give up always having to talk about ourselves and give the gift of listening.

 Let us know how it goes.

Prayers of Children

This past month instead of our normal Good Dirt talk each evening we made a commitment to pray for the persecuted church around the world. It was interesting. It is hard enough for Mike and I to identify with these brothers and sisters in Christ.  We have both traveled quite a bit and been to multiple 3rd world nations including some that are in governmental unrest. Nevertheless our kids who are middle class America, have never been hungry or never not had a Christmas or birthday present waiting on the special day. But we read stories each day from Voice of the Martyrs. We read stories of dads that had to flee from their homes on our daddy’s birthday. It made it a bit more real to them that while we participated in celebrating our very special guy, a very special guy to someone else had just lost his life only because he loved Jesus. As we discussed that where these events happen we could not even sit as we were and talk and pray and read about Jesus.

Our kids each in their special ways got it.

Isabella while she sits fully entrenched in her self revolving, 16 year old thoughts had a glimpse of losing everything she knows because of her faith. Did it strengthen her? I do not know. Did it challenge her? Yes!

My Kadin, in all his 5 year old innocence just knows that he “loves Jesus and everyone should love Jesus but I guess they don’t have to.”

And our Quinn who teaches us more than any long educated professor could, writes in his Revolutionary War paper for school that the ” colonists just wanted their independence so they could love Jesus without being killed in their own homes.” He cannot fathom a world without freedom. He knows no persecution or racism or judgement. He only knows freedom in life and in Christ.

I am not sure that any of us can truly understand what the persecuted church faces daily… But they do have a few more prayers coming from some young ones in Colorado.