God has been compelling me to pray more and more and to lead Pure Word Church to become a church that is known for prayer. Every ounce of my flesh and every effort of the enemy will try to stop me from doing that. I can find a billion excuses as to why I should not try to make this a priority. As Christians, we all know that prayer is extremely vital in our spiritual walk and the health of the church; however, are we living up to those beliefs? We try to ignore it by saying, “We just have to have an attitude of prayer throughout the day. That’s what matters.” I agree. It is very important to constantly pray (i.e. pray without ceasing). However, does that mean we should not be disciplined to set a time out of our day or week to stop everything and fervently pray? Does that mean we don’t need to gather together with God’s people and pray as a body? As a church, we simply do not pray enough. We must change that. We can’t afford not to.
What scares me the most is: if the adults are not serious about prayer, what examples do our children have to follow so they can someday live their life believing that prayer for the Christian is just as important as breathing to any human? We are so quick to separate God’s people by age group: the adults, the youth, and the children. Is that what Scripture teaches? Now don’t get me wrong, I believe having a solid children’s ministry is a must and there should be times when teaching and worship are done to cater to different age groups. However, why is it that the thought of children, youth, and adults in one room, praying and worshiping together sounds so abnormal and impossible? Maybe it’s because we’ve simply grown accustomed to separating the congregation to make things easier for us. It is what we’re used to and changing that will be very difficult. If we include children in a prayer meeting, they may get bored, not sit still, and will distract the rest of us. You see how these excuses wage war against something that is so good?
I think the best thing to do is step into the shoes of children. I was once a child and since my dad is a pastor, I grew up in the church. I remember our church being so small that we had no children’s ministry. So while my dad preached, I took out my fanny pack of Toy Story toys, knelt down on the floor, and played quietly on the pews. Later, we did begin having children’s ministry and by age 10, I was preaching in front of our small congregation. I don’t give myself credit for that at all. What did I know? I was 10! I thank God for the opportunity to have been able to watch my pastor preach, learn from the adults, and grow up in a church that included me as part of the body. My dad’s Portuguese-speaking church here in America was always a smaller church but out of this church came 3 pastors, another Bible student (who is now leading worship), 2 pastor’s wives, and many others who are involved in ministry and walking with Jesus today. I remember traveling with my family to Jersey every Sunday afternoon as we were planting a Brazilian church in a tiny apartment. I didn’t understand much, there was nothing for the children, and most of the time I did not want to go. Today, however, I am so glad I was part of that. I see how the church grew, the struggles we went through, and experienced so many answered prayers.
Many parents go out of their way to give their kids great opportunities with fun programs, good schools, sports, and activities. All of those things are very important, but what about providing them with the opportunity to learn from us and make them feel like they are part of the church just like everyone else? Is it inconvenient? It can be. Will it be tough to get them used to that environment? Yes, but when has teaching and training our children ever been easy?
Looking back, some of the clearest memories I have from my childhood are those times I spent praying with other adults. I will never forget that time an older lady squeezed my hand so hard. I don’t remember much but I remember we were praying and my hand was hurting. I remember the day when my parents were going through a rough time and my dad went on his knees and asked the family to pray for him. I remember reaching out my little hands along with my older sisters and mom, and placing them on my dad as he cried in front of us. I will never forget that and I can honestly say that our prayers that day is part of the reason why my parents are still in love. I don’t have many memories of my grandma from when I was younger than 5 years old, but I do remember seeing her pray with her face to the ground and butt in the air. Today, in my own prayer time, I pray the same way.
Are we, as a church, so worried about being distracted and being uncomfortable that we have forgotten the beauty of gathering the church as a family to pray? Are we ridding our children of the opportunity to learn from us? To see our tears? To know our pain and see how Jesus has healed us? Sure we can teach kids how to pray on their own, separated from the rest, and there are times when this is necessary; however, they may never learn what it looks like to depend on Jesus as an adult if they don’t experience it for themselves.
God has been compelling me to let the children come. He has been reminding me of Jesus’ words, “do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14 ESV). He has been creating in me a desire to learn from children with His words, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (v. 15). How can we learn how to receive the Kingdom of God like a child if we do not experience it first hand? I want to try to include the children more in our prayer meetings. I want to make them feel like they are part of our prayer team and investing in this church plant. I want to give them the opportunity to see us broken, hurt, and in tears, but also see us rejoice, celebrate, and smile.
Is this even biblical? Here are some verses for you to judge for yourself. I pray that these verses convict you and create in you a desire to see the children of our church pray and worship along with us (at least once a month for our worship and prayer services downstairs). I pray it compels you to acknowledge the children of our church and help lead them to communicate with God, their Creator and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray that these verses will set your heart on fire to pray more, in church services, and at home, creating examples of Christian living for our children. Join me in getting Satan mad by praying more and leading the children to do so as well.
Crying Before God
Ezra 10:1, “While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.”
2 Chronicles 20:3-4, 13 “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord [ . . . ] Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
Rejoicing Before God
Deuteronomy 16:11, “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there.”
Nehemiah 12:43, “And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”