Sunday Post 182: Teaching to Pray

Last week my Sunday School class talked about prayer. We were discussing the news story about the woman who owns a restaurant and gives random discounts to customers who pray before dining.

The conversations in the room went from exasperation with those who would criticize the woman for her spiritual price cut to folks who felt praying in public was not what Jesus preached.

After reading the lesson, I was torn. It almost made me feel like praying with my kids at night, in particular my older two, wasn’t a great idea. Perhaps my push to pray at meals and bedtime was teaching my kids that those were required. Maybe we reviewed the same prayer list too often. Am I teaching my kids to have a conversation with God or am I teaching them an obligatory recitation?

That night I went to tell DJ goodnight. As I was walking out of her room I said, “Don’t forget to say your prayers.” And then I said, “Or not! I mean, pray if you want to – if it feels right. If not, don’t. You can pray later. Tomorrow. At 3:32 if you want. In the bathroom. Whenever. Goodnight.”

Later that week I ate lunch with a friend of mine. When we sat down at the table, with tons of folks around us, he looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s have an open-eyed prayer.” He then looked across the table at me and thanked God for our friendship and for our food.

He did pray in public. He just did it in an unobtrusive way.

After much debate and discussion, I think our class decided that there were two things we needed to keep in mind when praying:

Pray because you feel led to pray. Don’t pray for recognition or because you want others to see you. That ain’t what it’s all about. There’s no reason not to pray in a restaurant, but you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t. There isn’t an obligation to pray at any given time.

I don’t think God wants us to stand on a corner and shout at folks about His love or redemption. I think He wants us to quietly show.

I would rather see a sermon than to hear one.

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
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16 Comments

  1. Mom

     /  August 24, 2014

    Wayne and I talked about this also this week. An interesting subject. I came out of it thinking that if it was for show that it’s just useless but if it comes out of a real thankfulness that we have food as well as so many other things the rest of the world doesn’t have, then it’s good to acknowledge our gratefulness for what we have. Then there’s the verse….if you deny me in public, I will deny you also…..I feel that other religions often make a big deal out of their religious practices. It doesn’t offend me when they worship in the way they feel is right. I also have a right to do what I think is right for me. Religion can’t be forced but it can be shared with those we love which can help our kids have a more grateful heart and a willingness to share what they have. It can be taught at other places beside the table but I think parents do need to share their religious belief with their kids. They have the option to accept or reject them but too often, kids look for something to lean on and may find the wrong thing if nothing is taught spiritually in their formative years.

    Reply
  2. So true, praying can be so contrived and also it is so easy to feel guilty if you don’t give thanks when eating!

    Reply
  3. I think the woman who gives discounts has her heart in the right place, just as those of us who pray an obligatory prayer before meals or at bed time. I am very much a routine oriented person. When I take a shower I do it the same way every day. If I deviate I am likely to have skipped a step. The same can be said of a good exercise program.

    I don’t know if I am making any sense but I know what I mean. :/

    Reply
  4. I will tell you the other day I was asked to do the closing prayer in out Sunday School class and the very first thing I said to open my prayer was “Thank you God that I don’t have to eloquent and use big words when I speak to you!”
    🙂

    Reply
  5. I have a friend who is sure her mother drops to her knees when she hears one of her family members coming down the hall. Then she looks up with feigned surprise.

    Reply
  6. Laura

     /  August 24, 2014

    Just want to remind everyone the Bible tells us to pray in ALL circumstances. Our prayer regardless of when or where they are , are never silly or contrite to God. It is the will of God for us to pray and it brings us into a right relationship with him. Look to the scriptures for all the answers and clarity. I would hope it wouldn’t take a discount in a restaurant to encourage people to pray to our Father.

    Reply
  7. Daniel Johnson

     /  August 25, 2014

    Great post on a challenging subject.

    Reply
  8. I’m new to WordPress and found your blog listed under the family section. The title and little info line about it interested me and so, led me to this post. I just wanted to share with you that I think it is wonderful you encourage your kids to pray, but not because you want them to, because they want to. I’m twenty years old and by my own choice just completed the RCIA program and I can confidently say it was one of my better decisions. I was raised to have faith but I still do at times feel bad that my parents didn’t have me go to all the classes and do everything at the traditional time. But, the greatest part about being confirmed this year is that it was wholeheartedly my choice.
    However, because I didn’t grow up going to church every Sunday or praying every night or before every meal, or any meal, really, sometimes I forget things. For instance, I feel like I’m always one bite into my meal when I think, “Oh shoot! Gotta pray!”. But at other times, I feel odd depending on who I’m with to suddenly close my eyes and say a prayer before eating.
    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles in public at times and that God didn’t require it but we should pray when it feels right. However, the more I do it, the less shy I am about it! 🙂

    Just felt the need to share. God bless to you and your family!

    Reply
    • Danny Tanner

       /  August 30, 2014

      I don’t think God wants us to worry about prayer – not something for us to stress about. Should just be a conversation, not a mandate!

      Reply
  9. mel ham

     /  August 28, 2014

    just in general …I need to work on my out loud prayer skills. You mom has made some great suggestions. I get so caught up in emotion that I get choked up…even a blessing for the family. Is it the reverence? The title of blessing giver that I feel responsible for the destiny of all those that gather around. I have been moved to work on this. A sunday school lesson left me with this challenge. I can speak and have spoken to groups of 100+. It’s the prayer that makes me into a puddle, blubbering idiot. My conversations with God don’t go that way…..

    Reply
    • Danny Tanner

       /  August 30, 2014

      It should just be like having a conversation with your granddad!

      Reply

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