A mother’s personal Bible study is the best school for devotions with children. Teach what you are learning and unleash the power of God through the catalyst of prayer.
O our God… We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you (2 Chronicles 20:12).
Teaching With Excitement
We cannot get our children excited about God if we are not excited about him ourselves. The best school for teacing our children is to first have private devotions ourselves alone with God.
If we sincerely seek what God has for us in his Word, he will show us. The greatest thing we can teach our children is that which we are learning ourselves from God’s Word.
There are several advantages to teaching what we are learning:
- We have the Scripture references handy for the truths we’ve just discovered.
- We are able to present new truths more completely before time has had a chance to steal pieces of the concepts.
- We are able to start with the basics and build upon the concept as we learn more.
Most importantly, if we teach what we are learning ourselves our excitement about the things God is showing us will be contagious. It will bubble over into our children’s lives as well. Our children will become excited about God when we share our excitement about him.
Teaching by Explanation
There are several ways to teach what we are learning. For example, did the illustration of Hannah’s faith that God would use her son in spite of corrupt role models inspire you? Were you excited to realize how God honored Hannah’s faith by using Samuel to write Scriptures that still speak to us today?
We can share the drama of this story with our children. “Hannah loved her son, and she knew God loved him, too. She knew she could trust God to help her son do what was right, even if all the people around him did wrong.
Hannah believed God, and God didn’t let her down. He used her son to give us part of the Bible that we read today!” If this simple story is told with a sense of drama and excitement, even a very small child can catch a glimpse of God’s faithfulness.
When our devotional time includes children of different ages, we should aim them toward the level of the younger child. The older children will admire the simplicity of these beautiful truths from the Bible. And we can share more depth one on one with an older child later.
Teaching by Exploration
Another way to share what we are learning is to ask questions. This stimulates our children’s interest.
“Is there anyone that loves you more than Mom?” (God does. He loves you even more than Mom does!)
“Why was Hannah not afraid to let her son go where God wanted him?” (She knew that if Samuel followed God, God would always take care of him).
“Samuel was just a little boy. Why do you think he worshipped God?” (There are several possible answers. Questions like this inspire us along with our children to think and learn great truths).
Teaching by Evocation
Every concept God teaches us has not only the truths we have learned, but a “sidebar” concept for our children. For example, the story of Hannah can be presented to our children not only from a perspective of God’s honoring Hannah’s faith, but from the perspective of a boy who knew God would take care of him, and who grew up to help write the Bible.
Our children will be able to relate quickly to Samuel, the child. And as we dig more truth out to share in the sidebar, God will use these simple childlike concepts to speak to us, too.
We can’t always do formal devotions with our children. But we can still teach them what we are learning in little “asides.”
Teaching by Edification
It is especially difficult to have a devotional time with teenagers. But we can sneak a piece of the treasure into their lives as we walk through the mall parking lot together:
“There sure are lots of young people out today. I can’t imagine the stress and temptations all of you face. It reminds me of the Bible story of Samuel, and how he grew up with Eli’s wicked sons.
“It must have been hard for Samuel. But Samuel’s mother prayed for him, and God gave him the strength to get through it. God helped Samuel grow into a man he could use to write part of the Bible.
“I want you to know I’m praying for you just like Samuel’s mother did, because I know it must be awfully tough. But Samuel’s mother knew God would help her son do what was right, and I know God will help you do what is right also.”
Teaching by Example
Another way we can bring excitement into our devotional time is to share our needs and concerns with our children. As parents we tend to shield our children from anxiety by hiding our problems from them.
For example, in times of financial crises, we are often reluctant to let our children know that there might not be enough money to meet our needs. Or when a parent has a serious illness, she may not share this with her children because she does not want to scare them.
But for some of us it goes even further than this. Some of us consider our difficulties very private, even to the exclusion of our closest family members. To bare these areas would make us vulnerable to scrutiny.
On our “up” days, we could be big and brave. But on our “down” days, some of our real fears might come out. No longer could we be the person who handles all things well. We fear that if we share a little, people may pry more and open up areas that intimidate us.
In addition, we fear that we cannot get away from our problems if others continue to question us about them.
Yet our God lives within the deepest part of our vulnerability and our need. That is where he does his greatest work in our lives. If we do not allow our children into these areas so they can see God work in our lives, we can only tell them about him.
Only as we share some of our deepest needs with them can they see God calm our fears. Only as we share our human frailties with them can they experience with us the God who is sufficient for those needs.
King Jehoshaphat’s Example
Consider the story of the great King Jehoshaphat:
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat.
Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard and said:
“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.
O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, `If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance.
O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.
He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: `Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'”
Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with very loud voice.
Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”
After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.”
As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value — more than they could take away.
There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the LORD. This is why it is called the Valley of Beracah to this day.
Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lutes and trumpets.
–2 Chronicles 20:1-28
King Jehoshaphat was afraid. Several nations had joined forces and his nation was being attacked. He could have hid his fear and displayed the front of a brave commander.
But Jehoshaphat did a far greater thing. He called together the nation and let them know about his fear. This great king demonstrated his helplessness in himself and his faith in his God in the presence of his people. He cried out to God: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
According to the passage above, “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.” Jehoshaphat included the children in this time of prayer so they could see for themselves the mighty work that God would do for them.
Even the children must have been overwhelmed with the seriousness of their plight. And even the youngest must have been touched by the splendor of Jehoshaphat’s faith.
Imagine how the children must have rejoiced when the battle was over, and the men came back to Jerusalem in victory to share how God fought the battle for them. “They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lutes and trumpets…”
There are times we must bring our children into our most vulnerable areas so we, as Jehoshaphat, can unleash before them the power of our God through the catalyst of prayer!
There are many ways to teach God’s Word to our children and grandchildren. We’ve discussed only a few. Select a time to read God’s Word each day, and ask God to show you how he wants you to share with your children or grandchildren what you learned in your time alone with God today.
Thought to Remember
We cannot get our children excited about God if we are not excited about him ourselves. The best school for conducting devotions with our children is to first have private devotions ourselves alone with God.
Questions for Discussion
- How can I keep family devotions from being boring?
- How can I convince my children that God is a reality in my life, and not just someone we talk about?
- How can I help my children experience the reality of God for themselves?
Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted