One year after coming home from the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Summer School, I went into our daughters’ bedroom ready to tuck them in and turn out the light. When they heard me come in, they looked up as if they’d been caught out in some sort of mischief—quite the contrary, they were praying for Cambodia using the CMS Kids’ Prayer Diary. They would have been five or six at the time.
Perhaps it should have been obvious to me but it came as a surprise: my children enjoyed praying for missionaries.
A simple routine
As the years have gone on, we’ve established a simple routine to help us as a family pray regularly for people involved in mission. It’s nothing flash—we set a craft activity one rainy afternoon for one of our kids to illustrate six cards (about A6 size) with the location of each of the missionary families we support. With a bit of research they have drawn the flags of Spain, Indonesia and Tanzania; maps of South Africa and the Northern Territory; and a bowl of rice with two chopsticks. The five cards are stapled together and, at the end of breakfast, we toss the booklet to one of the children who turns to the next card and prays for that family—one family a day. When it’s the youngest’s turn to pray for the missionaries, we get something like, ‘please help Ruth have a good day’ and not much more detail than that (although he’s beginning to add, ‘and help them tell the people in Numbulwar about Jesus’). The older two children will read through any prayer notes we have, or my wife and I will suggest things that they could pray for.
Why they want to pray
I’ve put some thought to what has helped encourage our children to keep up the practice. Of course a lot of the answer is that we, as parents, have made it a routine practice in our family life. The illustrated cards help but whatever resource you use, the challenge is in making it a habit. But there are other routines that our kids don’t seem to take to as much as praying for missionaries, so there’s obviously more to it than just telling them they should!
Part of it seems to be the sense of adventure that’s tied up with thinking about people who live in very different places compared to our corner of the world. Perhaps we unknowingly tapped into this with the original task of illustrating prayer cards and the research they did to find out something about the location, flags and customs of these ‘exotic’ locations.
It’s been very helpful for our children to be able to meet the people we have been praying for in person. We’ve noticed, particularly for our son, the way that meeting the son of a missionary couple in China has forged a connection between him and the family. They’re not close friends at all—the other boy is still a baby and they have just met at church one Sunday morning. But there’s something about having met baby Micah that makes him more enthusiastic about praying for his family. It’s an obvious point of connection that helps our children identify with other children in a different place.
Making a connection
The other thing that has been helpful is to connect what each of the missionaries is doing ‘over there’ with the mission work that is going on locally. In particular, we pray for the Scripture teachers in the local school and pray for the opportunities that our children have themselves for helping their friends know about Jesus. So, as well as having a set of cards for overseas mission, we also have a set of cards for local mission covering our local school; the girls’ outreach group at church; our church leaders; my work and my wife’s work (and now I think about it, we need to add our son’s soccer team as well).
We’ve been following this pattern for a few years now and have been encouraged by the way our children are growing in their sense of what God is doing through his people around the world.
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