Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Teaching my Toddler to Pray

Our favorite turkey turned 3 Thanksgiving weekend
Becoming a parent has forced this theologian to ponder a lot of difficult questions about what and when to teach my child about God, Christianity, and other religions.  I'm improvising as I go, but I've settled on a method for teaching prayers that is working well for us, so I thought I'd share.

I decided I didn't want Evelyn to think that prayers were phrases she recited that she (hopefully) would someday understand. I also didn't want to instill in her a view that prayers are about asking/telling God to do things for us (God is not Santa Claus).  After binging on TEDTalks that pointed out the link between happiness and gratitude, I realized that I wanted the foundation of her prayer life to be a discipline of thankfulness--of being in awe of the majesty of life and the Source of Life.  Thank-you was a concept she understood, so early this (last?) year we started doing thank-you prayers with her.

As far as Evelyn knows thus far, praying is saying thank you.  Before meals and before bed, we say "Dear God, Thank you for..... [family], [friends], [food], [things we appreciated about the day]. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen."  She often surprises us with the things she decides to express gratitude for (ex: 'thank you toilets'), but she certainly grasps the concept.

She also knows that we can sing prayers too.  She often hears and comments on the sounds of singing prayers coming from the nearby mosque.  Church, she knows, is where we go to pray and sing.  It is also now where we go to see the statues of mommy Mary, daddy Joseph, and baby Jesus, whose birthday party is coming.

If you haven't guessed where this is going, yes, I've found our thankful prayers a good spiritual discipline for me too.  As I deal with adjusting to life in yet another country, I am tempted to be grumpy or whiney in my prayers--or neglect them altogether in my pity-party funks.  Sticking to our new prayer formula has been keeping me focused on all the people who are supporting me (both here and far away) and all sorts of other stuff that is worthy of my gratitude.

Soon, when I think she is ready, we'll add other components to our prayers like apologies and lifting up things that make us sad or scared.  Eventually requests for help will make their way in there, but right now, we're just a really thankful family.

I'm thankful that the Catholics in Algiers share their building and include us in their children's events.

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