The Bible And Prayer In A Child's Life
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 19 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Children)
Prayer and Bible study in the life of a child should be just as normal as playing, eating, sleeping, and talking. In order to insure this, both should have a vital part in the child's life from infancy. Prayer should be as natural as conversation and Bible reading should be as natural as reading the newspaper. It should be considered routine and acceptable so as to include God in every decision of the family as well as in every conversation and activity.
1. There should be prayer at mealtime. A simple earnest prayer of thanksgiving for the food and of asking God's blessing on the food should be offered before each meal. Our Lord did this in Luke 24:30 and 31, "And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight."
The Apostle Paul in writing to young Timothy reminded him that this should be done. I Timothy 4:1-5, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."
Then Paul himself after a time of fasting blessed the food that he ate in Acts 27:33-37, "And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls."
When prayer is said at mealtime the children learn to grateful for the food. It is a simple teaching of the Scripture that the food will better nourish the body of the child if it is received with thanksgiving.
2. The Bible should be taught to the children. Especially is this true when the children are little. The should learn the basic Bible stories such as "The Prodigal Son," "Sampson," "David and Goliath," "Baby Moses," "Noah and the Ark," "Daniel and the Lion's Den," "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace," "The Battle of Jericho," etc. These stories as well as other parts of the Word of God may be taught in the family circle or in private sessions with the child. My mother used to teach me the Bible with just the two of us alone. Ah, how she could make the stories of the Bible live to me, and how they helped in forming the principle by which I have tried to live!
There are some good Bible story books that the parents could use to teach the child. One of the best of these is Egermeier's. Another is Hurlbutt's. Sunday school is wonderful and Vacation Bible School is good, but neither of these can take the place of the Bible being taught to the children at home, especially in the early years.
3. The children should memorize the Bible! This can be done as a family group while their little minds are vital and tender. By the time Cindy was seven she could quote Psalms 1, 8, 19, 23, 95, 100, much of 103, 117, 121, and 126; I Corinthians 13; much of Romans 8; and many other passages in the Bible. Start when a child is very young and memorize the Scripture.
II Timothy 3:15 and 16, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
You will note that from a child Timothy had been taught the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother. The word "child" here means "very young child." These are the years when it is easier for the child to learn and memorize. These tender and impressive years should be seized upon by the parents.
4. The parents should pray with the child when special needs arise. The child should be taught to bring everything to God in prayer.
When Becky was a little girl she had a tooth that was about ready to be pulled. I tried and tried and tried but simply could not get a good enough hold on the tooth to make it come out. Becky looked up and said, "Daddy, let's ask Jesus to help you pull it the next time you try." So we bowed our heads and asked God to help us pull the tooth. The next time the tooth came out.
When Linda was a little girl she was very sick. Every night I would slip into her room, have a prayer with her for God's healing mercies to be upon her body. These special prayers can be offered in a family group prayer time. They can also be offered as the parent and child pray alone together. The main idea is for the child to get the idea that God is interested in every phase of his life. There is nothing in the life of the child that is unimportant to God and the child should have nothing in his life that he cannot bring to God in prayer.
When Cindy was younger she was afraid of storms. Many times we have bowed our heads and asked God to watch over us through the storm and give us peace and assurance of safety.
When David was a little fellow he sucked his thumb. I made this a matter of prayer and the two of us many times asked God to help David about his thumbsucking, and God did.
5. The child should be taught to have a private devotion daily. This devotional time should probably be in the morning before the day begins. Great Christians have traditionally started the day with God. Moody began the day in early prayer. John Wesley rose to pray at four o'clock every morning. He prayed for two hours. Some said to him that they were too busy to pray for two hours a day. He replied that he was too busy not to pray for two hours a day. Other great Christians such as Payson, Fletcher, Judson, David Brainerd, and Sprugeon have testified that they met God in the morning times. Here is the opportunity for the boy or girl to ask God for strength for the day, for power to resist temptation, for wisdom to make the right decisions and for leadership in all he does.
6. Children should always say bedtime prayers. In the early years perhaps the child would repeat the same prayer each night, but as soon as possible he should say his own prayer.
When I was a little fellow my mother taught me to pray this prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless Mommy, Daddy, Earlyne (my sister), Jack, and everybody. Make me a good little boy. Amen." I said this prayer every night as a child.
When I became nine years of age I came to my mother one day and said, "Mother, I think I'm old enough now to make up my own prayer and quit saying that baby prayer." Mother began to weep a little bit and so I bowed my head and said again, " Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless Mommy, Daddy, Earlyne, Jack, and everybody. Make me a good little boy. Amen."
When I became thirteen year of age I realized I was a teenager. One night I said to Mother, "Now listen, Mom. I'm a teenager and teenagers don't say silly little prayers like `Now I lay me down to sleep.'" Mother looked at me and said, with tears in her eyes, "Of course, son," and as her lips began to quiver and tears rolled down her cheeks, I said, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless Mommy, Daddy, Earlyne, Jack and everybody. Make me a good little boy. Amen."
When I was seventeen I had my first date. When I got in from my first date I said to mother, "Now look, Mom! I'm seventeen and I'm going with the girls now. I am too old to say, `Now I lay me down to sleep.' Again she agreed and again the tears came. When I saw the tears I said, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless Mommy, Daddy, Earlyne, Jack and everybody. Make me a good little boy. Amen."
Believe it or not, when I went in the army in World War II I was still saying, "Now I lay me down to sleep." I was away in service for awhile until I got my first furlough. When I came home I found Mother had prepared my favorite food. Ah, it was so good to be home and she was so glad to see her only son! We ate, talked about old times, started to catch up on our conversation, and soon it was bedtime. I laid down and soon was off to sleep, only to be awakened by some sniffling. I looked up and there stood my mother in her old-fashioned nightgown looking down toward my bed. The lights were out but the moon was bright and my mother was silhouetted in the door of my room. I looked up and said, "Mother, what's wrong?"
Her little independent spirit prompted her to say, "Can't a body have a cold?" I turned over and went back to sleep. Again I was awakened by some sobbing. I looked up and there was my mother still standing in the doorway. She seemed to be crying, I asked, "Mother, what's wrong? Are you crying?"
She replied, "Did you ever hear of sinus trouble?" I turned over and went back to sleep.
A few minutes later I was awakened for the third time. I looked up and saw my mother weeping. I asked her what the trouble was. She had a handkerchief in her hand and she was twisting it. She said, "Son, would you...uh...just one more time....er...uh..."
I looked up and said, "Mommy, pray me." Then I said, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless Mommy, Daddy, Earlyne, Jack, and everybody. Make me a good little boy. Amen."
I am so grateful that my mother taught me to pray. I am not sure that it is wise for a person to pray the baby prayer when he is in the army, but the principle is there just the same. The wise parent will teach his child to pray about everything.
As the child grows in Bible knowledge and in the prayer life, the parent should watch carefully for any conditions that may point to the child's readiness for salvation. The Bible is very plain in teaching that it is guaranteed the salvation of his children in Joshua 24:15. "And if it seem evil unto your to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
The Philippian jailor saw his children converted immediately upon his salvation, for the Apostle Paul guaranteed him that if he would get converted, he could win his children. Acts 16:33 and 34, "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."
When the child shows signs of conviction the parent should explain the plan of salvation to him very carefully, and as soon as the parent has the assurance that the child is ready, he should lead him to Christ. Then it seems wise for the parent to contact the pastor, taking the child in for a conference so the pastor may give counsel and lend his wisdom to the course of action that should be taken. The if both pastor and parent are satisfied that the salvation is genuine, the should encourage the child to be baptized and to join the church.
With the church and the parents working together children can be taught that prayer and Bible study are as much a part of life as breathing. If children never cease to feel this way, they can become great Christians with a good knowledge of the Bible and with a confidence that God hears and answers their prayers and is concerned about every detail of their lives.
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