Whether you are a parent or a teacher, I am sure you can look back and recall moments in time that became powerful teaching moments. Or, perhaps you can think of a few times where you realized later that you missed the perfect opportunity to teach a valuable lesson.
Paul’s instructions to the Christians in Thessalonica set a clear example for us regarding our Christian lifestyle. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV). On the surface, those mandates seem like an impossible task, and humanly speaking, they are. Can I really rejoice when my car won’t start and I’m late to my Girls’ Ministries meeting? How do I pray while I’m on the clock at work? How do I give thanks when my circumstances have gone from bad to worse?
The answer to those questions comes directly from the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:26 when he said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (NIV). Faith in God allows us to see beyond circumstances and believe for answers. I learned some of these lessons early on through life experiences that my parents used as pivotal teaching moments.
As the daughter of church planters, life had its challenges. My parents followed the call of God to several new locations to plant a church where there was no P. H. church. No established church meant no salary compensation, no parsonage to live in, no guarantees on anything. When he had no car, my dad would hitchhike to his job of driving a school bus to help provide for his family. He and my mother relied fully on the fact that God turned impossibilities into possibilities. Prayer and faith were integral factors in daily life. They chose to involve me and my sisters in praying for our needs to be met. On more than one occasion, I can vividly recall them calling us together to pray for groceries. The pantry was bare and there was little or no food left for the next meal. We would pray together as a family and without fail, our prayers would be answered. Usually, it came as a knock on the door and we would find a bag of groceries and no one in sight. These faith-building moments were incredible experiences for me.
While I am grateful that David and I never had to worry about where our next meal might come from, I had learned the importance of being involved in praying for answers. I did my best to seize any opportunity to involve our son and daughter in faith-building prayers. One of those “top-of-the-list moments” came early in 1989 when our 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter were watching Alvin and the Chipmunks (one of my personal favorites). I was working that morning in my home office and my son came to me in tears. In that episode, Alvin and the Chipmunks were traveling to Berlin. As the story played out, it showed how families had been divided by the wall. His heart was broken as he asked me if this was real. As we talked about the unfortunate events, I realized that God was giving me a great opportunity to turn this into a faith-building experience. We immediately prayed for those affected by the Berlin Wall and proceeded to pray over the few months on a regular basis.
Early on the morning of November 9, 1989, as I watched the morning news, they showed a breaking report of ordinary citizens knocking down the wall! I ran to Ryan’s room to wake him up. I wanted him to see first-hand that God was answering his prayers. It was a powerful faith-building experience for him and his sister. Our prayers combined with the prayers of untold hundreds had touched the heart of God and we witnessed the results that morning. It was neat too that their Grandpa was in Berlin during those days when the wall came down. The kids were able to hold a piece of the concrete that he had picked up from the crumbled wall.
Lesson plans are valuable tools for teachers. However, some of the most powerful lessons happen when you allow God to take over the moment and you follow His lead. Remind children that God’s timing is perfect. When we were praying for food, the groceries almost always arrived in hours. However, not every prayer is answered immediately, so continue to pray for specific needs. Over the months, as we prayed for Berlin, we talked about Germany and learned about the culture that the war had created. It took months for us to see our prayers answered, but when it happened, we acknowledged it for what it was–the hand of God at work. We celebrated it!
If you use the Mpact and TGM curriculum, there are units on prayer in each age level and plenty of suggested activities in the resource sections. If you don’t use that curriculum, look for books or articles. Check out the website for helps such as the Five-Finger Prayer and the ACTS guide (look for this soon!).
Here are other great ways to encourage prayer:
1. Emphasize that prayer is our way of having a conversation with God; it involves talking to him and listening to Him.
2. Put legs to your prayers by doing a prayer walk around your church or nearby neighborhoods.
3. Make a prayer wall in your classroom for prayer requests and answers.
4. Decorate a prayer chair for children to sit in for special prayer.
5. Help them see that prayer should be part of their daily lifestyle by using everyday occurrences as pivotal teaching experiences.