Throughout my twenties, I remained unmarried. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was able to pursue my education without other distractions. Serving a parish as a single man had a lot of advantages too. I was able to devote all my time to the church without many of the same worldly concerns which families face every day. At the same time, there were notable disadvantages too. One glaring disadvantage was my prayer life. When I left my parents’ home and went off on my own, my prayer life suffered. It’s not that I never prayed. I did. But not having a family holding me accountable to it, it was easy to get lazy sometimes. It was no less an issue being a pastor. Fighting the sinful flesh on this is an issue which every child of Adam has to deal with every day.
That’s why it was a great blessing to get married and have children. All of the sudden it wasn’t just me, but I had these people who needed me. They needed to see my example in prayer, and needed my prayers themselves. Having a wife and children, my prayer life became much more regular and better. That’s not to say it is perfect. Every night poses its own distractions and struggles, but I have learned that having a family is an excellent impetus for prayer. Every night, it’s just what we do. There is no question. There is no debate. It’s something we’ve learned to do together.
This is good for fathers to know especially. You need to teach your family how to pray. It’s your duty. The greatest men in the Bible were men of prayer. We think of King David’s association with the Book of Psalms. The largest book in the Bible is essentially a prayer book. We think of Daniel, who would not give up praying to his God even if it meant being thrown to the lions. Most of all, we think of our Lord Jesus himself. We consider his High Priestly Prayer, his prayer in Gethsemane, and the numerous times we find him in the Gospels going off on his own to pray. Of course, we remember the prayer which he has given us, the Lord’s Prayer. With this fine prayer ready-made for us, we have no excuse. The Lord’s Prayer is all you need in order to teach your children to pray.
But we not only teach our families how to pray, we pray for them. Here prayer takes on a usefulness which is hard even for the unbeliever to deny. Worldly and degenerate attitudes would encourage us to be cynical about our families. The world would teach us that married life is a bore. It would teach us that children might be cute accessories here and there, but they are really a burden which we have only brought on ourselves. Nonsense. The Bible teaches us that marriage is beautiful and that children are a blessing. Armed with these simple Bible truths, we use daily prayer as a corrective to the toxic attitudes which the world feeds us every day. We sit down, straighten out our minds, and we give thanks to God for these children he has given us. We ask him that he would be with them, protect them, and help them grow in faith and good works. In doing so we recognize our families for what they are. They are not burdens as the devil and the world would have us believe, but they are a gift of God. We must remind ourselves this every day. We can’t let up in doing so, and prayer gives us this opportunity.
As a template for prayer, I like to suggest Luther’s orders for daily prayer found in the Small Catechism. It is very simple. There is an invocation, recitation of the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and if you wish, Luther’s morning or evening prayer. One thing I also suggest is praying from the heart, usually before saying Luther’s prayer. This gives you a chance to pray for your family, loved ones, congregation, and any special needs. Here you are reminded what special blessings these all are. It is true that this seems a little long and burdensome sometimes, especially if your children are becoming overtired, yet I find that all parts are necessary. We need to remember every day the God in whom we believe. This isn’t just any god, but the Holy Trinity as we confess in the Creed. We certainly should pray the prayer which our Lord Jesus gave us. It is good to pray Luther’s prayer, not just because of its solid content, but that it connects us with our congregations and those dear people with whom we have communion. And finally, we pray from the heart. We do this because we all face unique challenges every day, and it is good to bring these cares before our merciful Father in heaven.
So instead of seeing prayer as another item on a busy schedule, see daily prayer as a blessing. Under all circumstances, it is quality time with your family, and it gives you a chance to realize once again what a blessing they are. No doubt, the devil fights God’s people on something like this. Even for those who have a good routine, it is never easy. It would be much easier to just go with the direction where the lazy flesh leads. But we must assert the truth. Prayer is good. It is good for your family, and God answers prayer.
As for the single folks out there, God hears your prayers too. Even without a family, there are things you can do for yourself which will remind you to pray. You can keep a prayer book, devotional book, and/or Small Catechism on your nightstand. This was always useful for me, and I’m sure your pastor would have great suggestions. Lutheran Service Book and the old TLH have tables for praying the Psalms which are very useful and encourage good discipline as well. No matter where we find ourselves in life, single, married, or widowed, God has given us prayer that all his children may approach him in confidence. No doubt, the distractions are many. And so as God’s people, let us use our families and whatever else we have at our disposal to help encourage us in this salutary practice.