Children Praying at Mealtime....

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Carl Copsey

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm curious to anyone's thought on this: What is your take and standing on asking or having your child pray at dinner or lunch-time when adults are present, such as Mother and Father?

....and at that, if the father is there, what about the mother praying instead of dad?

Really curious on your thoughts and expressions! Thank you so much!! :)
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Generally speaking, if the father is praying at most dinners and for the family during family worship, I don't think anyone would question who is the spiritual head of the house. (Which I'm guessing is the question behind your question.) This also can be an important time for children to learn to pray. If I've fixed lunch for the boys and am not eating, I'll ask one of them to pray. Sometimes, even if we're all present, Brian will have me pray, usually because he is not feeling well or because he is feeling particularly stressed.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I'll occasionally have one of the kids pray. It doesn't mean I'm shirking my responsibility, just giving them some practice. My wife sometimes likes to pray, too, and when she asks I'm usually happy to let her.

As with any leadership, part of a husband/father taking spiritual leadership in the home is the freedom and wisdom to delegate on occasion, as he see fit.
 

sevenzedek

Puritan Board Junior
I look forward to our son Ashby praying his first prayers at meal-time.

I also encourage my wife to pray at meal-times.

On a similar note, I was pleased to find my local OPC having women pray during our prayer meetings because our former Reformed Baptist church implicitly disallows it.
 

Carl Copsey

Puritan Board Freshman
What would any of you say to someone, especially if the person making the claim was a woman, that only men should pray in the household? Keep in mind that these people would also take a Reformed view. Curious...what would you gently say to her....?
 

John Lanier

Puritan Board Junior
On a similar note, I was pleased to find my local OPC having women pray during our prayer meetings because our former Reformed Baptist church implicitly disallows it.
There is a difference between praying at a meal (not public worship) and praying at a public worship service. My 4 year old daughter prays quite often at meal time but I would not allow her to pray at my church's prayer meeting as I believe it to be unscriptural. I would be in agreement with your former Reformed Baptist Church.
 

John Lanier

Puritan Board Junior
What would any of you say to someone, especially if the person making the claim was a woman, that only men should pray in the household? Keep in mind that these people would also take a Reformed view. Curious...what would you gently say to her....?
I would ask to see the Scripture that requires such if she was attempting to correct my family. If it was just a casual statement that was not made to set laws on others, then I would refer her to the head of her household to make that decision.
 

Carl Copsey

Puritan Board Freshman
On a similar note, I was pleased to find my local OPC having women pray during our prayer meetings because our former Reformed Baptist church implicitly disallows it.
There is a difference between praying at a meal (not public worship) and praying at a public worship service. My 4 year old daughter prays quite often at meal time but I would not allow her to pray at my church's prayer meeting as I believe it to be unscriptural. I would be in agreement with your former Reformed Baptist Church.
Not to change the subject, but he did mention specifically women, not children. What would your stance on 'women' be? in other words, for example, would you allow your wife to speak at said prayer meeting?
 
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Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
From the Westminster Directory for Family Worship:

IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the family withdraw himself from any part of family-worship: and, seeing the ordinary performance of all the parts of family-worship belongeth properly to the head of the family, the minister is to stir up such as are lazy, and train up such as are weak, to a fitness to these exercises; it being always free to persons of quality to entertain one approved by the presbytery for performing family-exercise. And in other families, where the head of the family is unfit, that another, constantly residing in the family, approved by the minister and session, may be employed in that service, wherein the minister and session are to be countable to the presbytery. And if a minister, by divine Providence, be brought to any family, it is requisite that at no time he convene a part of the family for worship, secluding the rest, except in singular cases especially concerning these parties, which (in Christian prudence) need not, or ought not, to be imparted to others.
IX. So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make use of that gift of God; albeit those who are rude and weaker may begin at a set form of prayer, but so as they be not sluggish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure: to which effect, they ought to be more fervent and frequent in secret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to express, convenient desires to God for their family. And, in the meantime, for their greater encouragement, let these materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of, as followeth.
 

John Lanier

Puritan Board Junior
Not to change the subject, but he did mention specifically women, not children. What would your stance on 'women' be?
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
I think the Scripture is quite clear in regards to public worship.

However, my wife prays every night during family devotions and my 4 year old will pray on occasion as well.
 

sevenzedek

Puritan Board Junior
I am going to refrain from derailing the thread on the subject of women praying in the church prayer meeting. I didn't realize it was a can of worms.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I usually pray at meals and then have the kids pray.

One note: we don't do "formula prayers" (those cutesy "God is good, God is great.....let's all eat" prayers).....since I think those can become vain repetitions and seem to be treating prayer lightly. That would be the only suggestion I would have about letting kids pray...it must be from the heart.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Generally speaking, I think the head of the house should lead the family in prayer at dinner time and in family worship. The wife or children may offer prayers in addition to this, but I would't let it be in place of a father's prayer.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
One note: we don't do "formula prayers" (those cutesy "God is good, God is great.....let's all eat" prayers).....since I think those can become vain repetitions and seem to be treating prayer lightly. That would be the only suggestion I would have about letting kids pray...it must be from the heart.
But what about those prayers that were 'standard' from certain people. Both my grandfathers had those types, and I don't know that I ever heard them pray differently, but I would not see either one as being 'vain repetitions' like Matthew 6 warns us against. Saying the rosary? Sure, perfect fit to that chapter. But hearing Grandpa end every prayer with "pardon our many sins, cause thy kingdom to come with power, receive our thanks, in Jesus name we ask it, Amen" was a beautiful statement of faith every time I heard it. It makes me wonder about children who pray but only know to pray the Lord's Prayer - this seems like something that can be rattled off and reduced to 'vain repetitions', can it not?

Pastor Sheffield, dead on. I think it is not his to do because he's there, I think it is a serious responsibility that he must shoulder each and every time the family gathers for devotions.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
One note: we don't do "formula prayers" (those cutesy "God is good, God is great.....let's all eat" prayers).....since I think those can become vain repetitions and seem to be treating prayer lightly. That would be the only suggestion I would have about letting kids pray...it must be from the heart.
But what about those prayers that were 'standard' from certain people. Both my grandfathers had those types, and I don't know that I ever heard them pray differently, but I would not see either one as being 'vain repetitions' like Matthew 6 warns us against. Saying the rosary? Sure, perfect fit to that chapter. But hearing Grandpa end every prayer with "pardon our many sins, cause thy kingdom to come with power, receive our thanks, in Jesus name we ask it, Amen" was a beautiful statement of faith every time I heard it. It makes me wonder about children who pray but only know to pray the Lord's Prayer - this seems like something that can be rattled off and reduced to 'vain repetitions', can it not?

Pastor Sheffield, dead on. I think it is not his to do because he's there, I think it is a serious responsibility that he must shoulder each and every time the family gathers for devotions.
I think if it is from the heart every time then it is not a vain repetition (only a repetition...but not a vain one)..... but I hear many kids who memorize non-serious prayers that don't really mean anything and it becomes an exhibition of the child's cuteness rather than a serious talking with God. I think the Lord's prayer is the same way....if you pray it and mean it every time, then great. But mere recitation should be taught against.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I think if it is from the heart every time then it is not a vain repetition (only a repetition...but not a vain one)..... but I hear many kids who memorize non-serious prayers that don't really mean anything and it becomes an exhibition of the child's cuteness rather than a serious talking with God. I think the Lord's prayer is the same way....if you pray it and mean it every time, then great. But mere recitation should be taught against.
Exactly - I hope you didn't feel I was insinuating otherwise, brother. I'm all for training a child to pray and watching the child mature through their prayer. But 'yub a dub dub, thanks for the grub' aww, isn't that sweet, just turns my stomach.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I think if it is from the heart every time then it is not a vain repetition (only a repetition...but not a vain one)..... but I hear many kids who memorize non-serious prayers that don't really mean anything and it becomes an exhibition of the child's cuteness rather than a serious talking with God. I think the Lord's prayer is the same way....if you pray it and mean it every time, then great. But mere recitation should be taught against.
Exactly - I hope you didn't feel I was insinuating otherwise, brother. I'm all for training a child to pray and watching the child mature through their prayer. But 'yub a dub dub, thanks for the grub' aww, isn't that sweet, just turns my stomach.
Yes, same here. Better to be silent than to try to be cute before the Lord of Hosts. A sobriety and respect towards God ought to be cultivated even in mealtime prayers. Although, the prayers of children ARE cute, even when they don't mean it so.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Better to be silent than to try to be cute before the Lord of Hosts. A sobriety and respect towards God ought to be cultivated even in mealtime prayers.
Not too long ago I was in situation with some Christian folks who are considerably more laid back than I am (definitely not a bad thing) and everyone was kind of cutting up and having a good time, and then out of nowhere the head of the family called on one of the young men to pray and he prayed in the same manner that he had been cutting up. And every one in the room (with heads bowed and eyes closed) just kept right on giggling and laughing at the remarks he was making in his prayer. Suffice to say I was very uncomfortable.
 
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seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
Generally we have the kids pray at mealtime. For youngsters, what greater realization of the the Lord's provision and our dependence on Him than for our daily bread?

Deu 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Generally we have the kids pray at mealtime. For youngsters, what greater realization of the the Lord's provision and our dependence on Him than for our daily bread?

Deu 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
While I would not say that your practice is wrong, I would encourage you to consider the fact that prayer (like many spiritual disciplines) is something that is learned (cf. Luke 11:1). I certainly learn a great deal about prayer by listening to the prayers of those more learned and mature than myself. So it is in our homes that our children stand to learn a great deal about prayer by listening to the prayers of their parents. I'm not suggesting that kids never be encouraged to pray, quite to the contrary. But I am saying that parents, and especially fathers, should do the majority of praying when gathered as a family.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I agree... the father should normally lead....but part of learning is doing...modeling and practice. I think this also happens in prayer. Noah has stopped and asked me, "How do I ask for this Daddy..." when wanting to pray for something he is unsure about. Or, "I forgot to say, in the name of Jesus'...will God still hear my prayer..." question arise when the child begins to pray (albeit clumsily) that would not otherwise emerge.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Hearing my kids pray is a great encouragement to me -- they've clearly picked up on the love we show each other in the body of Christ and they are learning to take everything to their heavenly father. (And yeah, I agree with the "aw how cute" sentiments. Blah!)
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
How interesting, I have learned a great deal about prayer from listening to my children pray.
Well, that's great. Truly. But at the end of the day, it is the parents responsibility to teach and disciple their children. Not the other way around (Deut. 6:7; Eph. 6:4).

And unless it should be overlooked, as it probably has been, I affirm the practice of children praying in the family. What I'm in disagreement with is the general abdication by parents of leading their families in prayer.

In other words, if your children are not often hearing the prayers of their father and mother at meals and in family worship then a vital area of their spiritual welfare is being neglected.
 
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