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*This article modified from its original in Worshipful Living.
Parents today are at an impasse.
Meaningful seasons like Advent approach and we want to answer our kiddos’ questions on the symbols and the stories and how to connect with them all through prayer.
Pop-out candy Advent calendars can only go so far in illuminating the power of prayer.
So, here are three tips to navigate Advent with kids, plus three prayers you can pray during advent to help your children understand the power of prayer.
Tip #1: PRAYER ENGAGES SOMEONE WHO IS ALREADY WITH YOU.
Tell this to your kiddo over and over. God is already with them. Then tell yourself.
This can get dicey, because we have lived life, and it isn’t pretty. We know what it feels like when someone is with us, and a lot of the time God’s involvement in our lives can feel…unpredictable.
Wherein we resort to that Book with all the stories that we once thought were unrelatable, but desperate times call for: Gideon.
Gideon hit the Bible scene after the Israelites had been sprung from Egypt (with the help of God), survived a stiff-necked wandering in the desert (with the help of God), dispossessed the bad guys and finally scored the Promised Land (with the help of God), and enjoyed peace, glorious peace (thanks to God)!
Then they blew off God.
Their world came crashing in, and into a crushingly oppressed and lonely time, God visited Gideon. And Gideon, in one of the most under-excited-to-see-God moments in Bible history, wondered aloud: God? Where have you been?
Lord, thank you that you are always with us. Thank you that even at our worst moments, you never leave us, and you never shame us. Instead, you offer us gentle mercy and grace for every moment of life. Thank you that during Advent we get to celebrate the Lord’s coming. Help us look forward to Him coming again with hope and joy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Tip #2: DO NOT GUSSY UP YOUR PRAYERS FOR GOD – BE HONEST.
Gideon takes some hits in church circles for this seemingly whiny response. I mean, God’s here! Buck up and be glad! Who wouldn’t respond that way?
God did not treat Gideon that way. Here was a man who had heard stories about God’s benevolent leadership and love, but where had God been all this time when Gideon needed him?
If you have read the backstory, you know it was not that God left the Israelites, but the Israelites who had left God. After all God had done to build a relationship with these folks, the people had turned away from God. God said, “You have not listened to me” (Judges 6:10).
Leaders like it when you listen to them. And really, we should, if we want to win.
In Gideon’s case, he didn’t know how to win. He had heard about God; now he was seeing something he thought might be God. But life had been rough. He did not trust what was right in front of him.
God could have justifiably gotten smoking mad at Gideon with an accusing “You’re not listening to me!” However, it’s one thing to be obstinate, but another thing altogether to be unsure.
This is a God who cares about that difference.
Gideon was hearing God say great things, but Gideon did not know if God would actually do the greatest thing of all.
Lord, we know the full story. We know you always come for your children, and you always stay with us. Thank you for never leaving or forsaking us. Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Tip #3: ASK FOR GOD TO OPEN YOUR EYES TO HIM.
The God of this Bible has a much greater mission than demonstrating his greatness. His mission is demonstrating his love (which, P.S., is GREAT). His greatest challenge was getting the people of the Bible to receive that from him.
In Gideon’s case, that was about to change.
“Don’t go away…” Gideon said to God. God did not go away.
And then He did a lot more than that.
So commenced a bit of fire that lit up a little meat and unleavened bread. There was later fleece and then later still, a big barley loaf in the middle of someone else’s dream – all of which were powerfully and precisely meaningful to Gideon.
Over and over, God reinforced Gideon’s confidence in the predictability of God’s love. His leadership. His commitment. His plans to stay. His personal affection for Gideon as a person and for people as a whole.
For a God who had already demonstrated his character all the way over to owing not one more kind gesture, he…did a lot of them anyway.
So Gideon could see how great God was? So Gideon could see how trustworthy God was.
If the Israelites hadn’t listened before, Gideon was listening now. Intently. What transpired was a monumentally triumphant turn of events for Gideon and his people. And Gideon came to believe that the hiding place of God’s word was a place he could trust.
Prayer is based on trust, which is a funny thing. It is a fleeting thing. It is fragile, unimaginably personal, and the constant rebirthing of its integrity is a reinforcing joist on which a relationship is borne. You want predictable?
Expect that God is already waiting for you to spend time with Him. Be honest. Ask that your eyes be open to what God is trying to show you and remind your kiddo (are we really talking about the kids still?) that you are engaging a God who made you, longs for you, loves you and has told people from page one to page 700 plus in the Bible not to fear for one reason: I am with you.
Revisit the Gideon story and others like it, especially this Advent season as we anticipate the greatest “I am with you” story of all. Your experiences may not be the same, your feelings may not be the same, but this God does not promise that sameness.
He promises: personal.
Lord, thank you that you love me and long for me to be in relationship with you. Thank you for your Son and the gift of Christmas- his long awaited birth! He is the hero of our lives- help us make him the hero of our days. Thank you that you promise a personal relationship with us. Thank you that you’re always with us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses for anyone who asked questions in Sunday school but didn't get straight answers. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership and can be found here.