Devotions in Motion: Moving From a Prayer Life to a Life of Prayer
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is perhaps the most commonly quoted mandate for parents in the entire Bible – and one that has meant a great deal to me through the years. However, I believe that in our efforts to challenge others and ourselves we may have taken these words a bit off the path of their original destination.
Verses six through nine of this dynamic chapter challenge the families of Israel as to how the wonderful book of the law should be used: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”(NKJV) In other words, the Word of God should be taught – and lived out – at all times.
Having spent much of the past two decades challenging families to take ownership of the faith formation of their children, I have used this passage to challenge lots of parents. I can almost hear myself saying, “Now, don’t you see? God is making it clear that we should have family devotions every day in our homes! If it’s that important, shouldn’t we set aside a time every day to spend as a family in the Word?” While family devotions are a positive step in the right direction, this passage is calling families to something far more encompassing. The time spent worshiping “when you sit in your house” is still and will always be a key component in handing off your faith to your children. It simply is not the only time. Instead, God is commanding us to make every part of our lives a family devotion – an opportunity to teach, to study, and to pray not only once a day, but in the midst of the mundane, day-to-day things of life.
In this age of information and online resources, there is no shortage of great devotional material for families, and we should take advantage of every tool we have available. Still, these should serve only as the springboard to that which will be truly transforming – the way in which we live out our faith in everyday life. As we have raised our children, Lana and I have discovered that there are a few simple steps that help faith connect with real life. We call these steps “devotions in motion,” because they help us take advantage of the spiritual opportunities often disguised as ordinary parts of life. These simple strategies help a household move from a well-intentioned, well-organized “prayer life” to an all-encompassing life of prayer:
- Get moving. Most kids talk more when they are “doing”. Have you ever noticed that kids open up at the times when you might least expect it? We tend to be more relaxed when we are working on other things. When a time of family prayer moves from the kitchen table before dinner to in the car when you’re waiting in traffic, you are indirectly communicating to your children that the things of God overflow into every aspect of our existence. Faith grows when it is put into practice in ordinary places. In Deuteronomy 6, we notice that the bible doesn’t just say to read the commandments throughout the day. It says to talk about the commandments throughout the day. The next time you have to pull the car over to let an ambulance pass by, why not spend that time in prayer for the people involved?
- Add on to some existing habits. Some of the routines you already have built into family life can turn into opportunities to continually come back to God and His promises. How about making an existing habit, like brushing your hair in the morning, into a key repetitious event that can help you instill an important principle? What if there were Scipture passages taped to the bathroom mirror, and challenges to pray those passages back to God in praise? If you take the same trip to school every day with your kids, what would happen if you made a habit out of sharing one of God’s promises on the way, and then having one member of the family pray before you say goodbye? Repetition is a great way to make impressions that last.
- Unlock the power of visual images. Any memory expert can tell you that the best way to remember a word, name, or concept is to associate it with a visual mental image. Pictures are easier to remember than ideas. The Deuteronomy passage is full of references to image-rich locations in which moms and dads are sharing eternal truths. In our home, for example, my wife has decorated with lots of Scripture references and even prayers that are artfully presented on plaques, plates, and figurines in nearly every room. Every room and piece of furniture has become a reminder of the eternal truths of God as we go about our lives. Never underestimate the power of associating common objects with eternal truths.
I believe that most of us have made spiritual growth at home much more complicated than God intended it to be. Walking passionately with Jesus daily ought to be as natural as the food we eat and the air we breathe. And as we utilize everyday elements to get our families talking about and praying to our Lord, we paint an indelible picture in the minds of our children – and more importantly, in their hearts.
Ryan Rush serves as the Senior Pastor of Bannockburn Baptist Church in Austin, TX. Ryan also oversees Faith Breakthroughs – a ministry providing resources to churches and families to help build homes of honor.