There are two quite touching scenes in the scriptures that illustrate the participation of families in prayer. The first is the gathering of Judah to ask help of Yahweh when confronted by an invasion of the Moabites and Ammonites. Jehoshaphat’s public prayer and confession of great need was given on behalf of all Judah who “stood before Yahweh, with their little ones, their wives, and their children” (2 Chron 20:13). Here were many families, inclusive of little ones, united in prayer and supplication and the effectual fervent prayers of many hearts availed much in a remarkable deliverance. They came to Jerusalem with the spoils of Yahweh’s victory and rejoiced with psalteries, harps and trumpets unto His house. We can well imagine each family rehearsing the amazing sequence of events and as they had begun in prayer to conclude their celebrations with heartfelt praise and thanksgiving. Each child in those families would have had a salutary lesson in prayer made powerful to have seen Yahweh’s hand not shortened that it cannot save.

The second illustration is on a more sombre note. It was the sad occasion when the disciples of the Lord, together with their families, bade farewell to the apostle Paul as he pressed onto Jerusalem and to imprisonment. Luke records the occasion, “we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore and prayed” (Acts 21:5). Many hearts were knit together in love and sorrow that day. Many tears were shed and if we may deduce from a later farewell (v13) Paul himself could well have been moved to tears, such was the emotion felt towards the great apostle and stalwart for the Faith. It was an occasion that we sometimes experience when a trial or calamity is felt by us all and our children share in that grief. In those times of communal sorrow our sense of loss is shared by our families and children and the fervent expressions of our Hope are as powerful a testimony to our children as many formal meetings. Let our children join hands with us as we bow our heads and unite our hearts and minds in times of family blessings and family sorrow. Our children will learn what they live. If they enter into the spirit of our prayers daily given they will learn the God-centred focus of our family life.

Giving Thanks Always for All Things

 A favourite picture in many Christadelphian homes is a simple but reverential scene: it portrays an old man resting his furrowed brow on care-worn hands engaged in prayer. Beside him is a bowl of soup and some homemade bread. But more importantly on the table is a well worn Bible and a pair of reading glasses. It evokes a lot of thought. A simple and frugal way of life is marked by prayer and thanksgiving for, in this case, meagre provisions, the blessings of life, health and the spiritual sustenance of the Bread of Life. That scene is a timely reminder for our families as they pause in their busy lives to sit down together and pray together. In contrast to the scene in the picture of the old man, our families probably have cause to thank God for much more of this world’s goods, but the lesson of family thanksgiving is for it to be more devout and more fervent than what it can become in our western lifestyle.

The evening meal lovingly prepared and appreciated by all is precious time for family interaction. It is a rarity to this maddened world for families to eat together at home. All too often ‘TV’ dinners nullify family interaction. But Christadelphian families value the evening meal as a time for appreciating the blessings of heaven, of family ‘catch-up’ time and for parents to apply the principles of the Truth to the many concerns of the children. It is ‘prime time’ for wholesome food and wholesome conversation. There is no other time in the day for such positive family involvement. It is made more positive by the next ‘meal-time’, the follow-on Bible readings. A much squandered custom should be seen for what it is—the building of a family on the Bible foundation. Again with succinct and well chosen words in prayer, the family reads together and freely exchanges questions and comments. The Word is the cornerstone of that house and devout prayers will seek guidance to meet the needs of each family member. Not infrequently a chapter or verse can be highlighted to shed light on the quandary confronting the family. Surely “the entrance of Thy Words giveth light” to all of our families taking refuge from this uncertain world in little family circles where heads are bowed in prayer and Bibles open. We can imagine the pleasure of the Father looking down on these little pin pricks of light in a world of darkness and wickedness.

Teach us to Pray

 We teach our children many things. One thing we must teach our children is to pray. We are encouraged to raise a “godly seed” (Mal 2:15) and children who might “set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psa 78:7). As parents, we are aware of the amazing growth potential of children from a very tender age in mental and character development. So we blend into their increasing awareness of life and all its wondrous discoveries, an awareness of God as a loving heavenly Creator and Sustainer of life. We express in relevant words and, at times in songs, our thoughts of praise and thanksgiving. Our busy daily routine with many household chores is lightened by bright animated conversation, a hymn of praise or a ‘Kindy song’ on our lips shared by our youngster. Come bed-time stories and prayers shall we not kneel with them and hear their heart-stirring words of thankfulness and prayers for their family, grandparents and sick friends. Many a parent has found a lump rise in the throat and difficulty to see through moistened eyes as they hear and endorse those delightfully genuine prayers. A child taught to pray the Lord’s prayer will never forget it as a teenager grappling with the challenges of young adulthood. A childlike expression of thanksgiving can blossom into a young adult’s humble desire to be one of Yahweh’s covenanted children by grace. Such is the latent potential of teaching a child to pray.

It is true that God does not hear sinners and the prayers of those who “hate knowledge” and would “not choose the fear of Yahweh” are not answered (Prov 1:24–31). But our children are not of that class. They are sanctified by covenanted parents. We endorse their prayers, their expressions of love and concern for family and friends. We encourage them to ask for the Kingdom to come soon, for all the suffering in this world to be healed at the coming of the Lord. That’s developing a child-like faith, a desire for the Kingdom and all the wonders of a world at peace with its Creator. It’s part of bringing up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—a vital part, since it develops an attitude of mind that is reverential and loving toward God. On that foundation a teenager’s faith will weather the storms of life.

A young adult developing a conscience toward God will equally show a reverential love of God by seeking for a blessing of wisdom from above. As they prepare for baptism they read, meditate and pray. They are not enabled to pray through an intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ as High Priest and mediator, yet their prayer for guidance and wisdom honours God and He, at His gracious discretion, can prosper their steps towards Him. How much joy is felt in heaven and in the newly baptised person’s heart when that prayerful preparation culminates in the granting of the sin covering in Christ and a son/daughter relationship with God that has been an earnest object of hope since early childhood.

That Your Prayers be Not Hindered

 Being heirs together of the grace of life” has been the delightful outcome of many couples right from their early days of courtship. Even before they were engaged two different people from two different family backgrounds blended, meshed and agreed together. How did they do that? They talked often together on a whole range of topics with God as the constant reference point. And they prayed together. There was a meeting of minds with God as the focal point as they sought the will of God in their lives.

Young couples in courtship need to pray together— in times of joy and thanksgiving, in times of testing and anxiety. Good communication skills are vital to an enduring relationship but a prayerful communication places that relationship on a three-fold bond with God that is not easily broken (Eccl 4:12). To picture a couple bowed in prayer is to see hearts blended in a submission to God and to one another.

Nothing on their wedding day would hinder their prayers of abounding joy and happiness. The day is a day of prayer and thanksgiving, in spite of all its attendant and frantic preparations! The joys of marriage provide daily cause for grateful prayer, both unitedly and individually. That deepening oneness of mind and unity of service is enhanced by each appreciating the qualities of the other, for each to evoke the best in their companion and to understand each others limitations.

This is particularly evident in the husband’s loving care of his wife who, as the weaker vessel physically, will gladly reciprocate to his loving ministrations (1 Pet 3:7). He will give honour to his wife in the family and in public. He will rejoice with the wife of his youth. His heart safely trusts in her, as it always has. His praise of her is genuine and sincere, passing over any shortcomings. She is gladly at his side, doing him good and not evil all their days, creating the home environment where they both may serve and pray to God without hindrance. She has the inner joy and peace of mind of a treasured wife and out of a meek and quiet spirit she will add grace and tenderness to their companionship. Each day they will thank God for His gift of each other. For when God made our marriages, He provided the greatest physical help to our acceptance of our Lord at his coming. Our companion is a treasured gift from heaven, chosen by God to implement divine principles and precepts for our good, for our salvation! What greater joy could there be than to see our beloved companion accepted by the Lord and for us to be welcomed by his side, one in glorious nature and together for evermore! Can we imagine that joy? That in all the highs and lows of our sojourning, in all our prayers, both joyful and tearful, in the many delights and not a few sorrows painfully shared a gold like faith has been forged and a shared faith commended by our Lord.

That’s the potential of our marriages. That’s the ultimate blessing of companions whose lives have been God-centred and to whose throne of grace their prayers have risen unhindered.