Prayer is powerful! As Mack and I have grown in our prayer life we have tried to instill the importance and power of prayer into the hearts of our kids. We've started including more prayers and prayer prompts written by others into our prayer time as a couple, family, individually, and most recently into our homeschool prayer time.
You might think using a pre-written prayer somehow doesn't count, or come from the heart, or is less genuine. I agree that reading rote prayers is not a cry of the heart when the words are just spoken and not truly considered. And we should never heap up empty phrases...and think we will be heard for our many words (Matthew 6:7). Repeating the words of others or even bowing our heads during corporate prayer is meaningless if we don't also bow our hearts and focus on the meaning of each word and phrase. Honestly, even when we're not using prompts or pre-written prayers we can fall into a "prayer rut" where we are just mechanically going through of list of names or words with little-to-no thought or feeling. This is not how Jesus teaches us to pray.
In Matthew, Jesus tells us how to pray and even gives us a model. I don't believe His intention was for us to just repeat the words He gave with no consideration to their meaning. Rather, it gives us guidance on the posture of our hearts and Who we have the privilege of confidently approaching with our prayers and petitions. Jesus gave us the perfect prayer prompt!
My family enjoys using pre-written prayers as prompts to help us grow our prayer life. They give us the opportunity to consider things we may not have considered before; learn new ways to praise our "Incomprehensible but Prayer-hearing God"; and to examine more closely our own hearts. We use prayer prompts to help us better understand the needs of our church family, neighbors, missionaries, nations, and so many others. Right now, I think my family may be using around four or so different prayer books pretty much daily and our un-prompted prayers are becoming much more thoughtful and richer.
Not long ago a sweet friend of mine... wait that does not describe her well enough. This woman ya'll!!! I drive 8+ hours back to where I was raised a few times a year to have my "righteous highlights" (gray hairs) covered up so I can spend a few hours in this precious woman's chair and we can talk about Jesus and all that He is doing in our lives. She is such an encouragement and a beautiful example of loving hard, even when it isn't easy! I don't see her enough but she is on my heart often. She does big Kingdom work from her quaint little salon attached to her husband's workshop way out in the middle of nowhere. From the scripture and the prayers she has posted on her walls, to the worship music she always has playing, to the kindness she shows, you cannot sit in her chair without knowing that she knows and loves Jesus. I doubt you can sit in her chair without knowing that she wants you to know Him too! She inspires me to love harder, right where God has me at any given moment. Okay, back on track... 'What does that have to do with Family Prayer Inspiration?' you might ask.
My friend and I were chatting about some difficult things going on in our lives and in the world around us, which sparked a conversation about the importance of lament and prayer. She recommended the book The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett. It is a compilation of prayers written during the Puritan Movement of the sixteenth and seventeen centuries. Chocked full of so many thee's, thou's, thine's, -est's, and -eth's, these prayers make my word-nerd heart sing. My tween and teen kids - not so much. Don't get me wrong, they enjoy the 'old-dead-guy language', but in the moment of prayer, they struggle to attach much meaning to the words.
What's a language-loving mama to do? I now simplify the language and do some creative edits in order to make the prayer prompt speak more specifically to things going on in our lives at the moment. I totally geek out on this little weekly project and the family seems to be enjoying the fruits of my geekiness. We use one prompt a week and rotate through who reads the original prompt and I pray through the simplified version during our family prayer time that is part of our homeschool day.
Adding our voices to those of the men and women who have gone before us has been such a rewarding experience that I thought I would share my simplified prompts. I highly recommend that you purchase the book because the prayers are beautifully written, while mine are simplified to the point of losing their poetic style.