TEACHING TODDLERS TO PRAY: Interview with Mother and Expat in Sarajevo, Taylor Irby.

Taylor Irby and I became friends as teenagers. Today she is mother of four living abroad in Sarajevo raising her kids to follow Jesus. I look up to her–as she is a more experienced mother than me and living in a cross-cultural context which is beautiful and difficult all at the same time!

Amy: Where do you and your family go to church and what is your involvement there?  

Taylor: We attend a local Bosnian evangelical church in Sarajevo, Bosnia. We are regular members. I help lead worship occasionally and volunteer in the children’s nursery once a month. My husband preaches every complete of months and is an elder.

Amy: When did you start praying out loud for your child/children or in front of your child at home?

Taylor: As soon as they were in my tummy! (well, really before that! you can never start too early!)

Amy: What were/are some of your daily or weekly traditions regarding prayer as a family? When do you pray? What do you say?

Taylor: We pray always at mealtimes. I’m trying to teach my children that is important. Not as much that we are thanking God for providing for us, but that we make time for prayer at those set times. I usually ask the children “who wants to pray?” at dinner. Sometimes no one wants to pray, and that’s ok. Sometimes they all want to pray and we take turns. We don’t have a set prayer, although sometimes we add a verse “Teach me the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, teach me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (adapted from Phil. 4:13)

Sometimes I sit with my kids and ask them specifically how we all can pray for each other. We each share a prayer request and then pray for each other. The next time I ask how that prayer was or was not answered. We give thanks and pray again and share more requests.

Giving thanks is a wonderful way to introduce your kids to prayer! Walking down the road and pointing out God’s creation and giving thanks right then and there!
Also, listening to worship music and worshiping with your children, teaching them that the songs we sing are a kind of musical prayer to God.

Amy: Have you done anything intentional to teach your children to pray?

Taylor: I think simply modeling prayer when you can is a wonderful thing! Other things we have done: set scripture around the house and connecting that to an action (see praying for your child 7 times a day), praying for “boo-boos”, praying whenever we see an ambulance drive by, praying for our friends and family. I tell my kids that prayer is simply talking with God through faith knowing that He hears us and cares for us, even if we can’t hear Him or see Him.

Amy: Does your child/do your children pray out loud? What do they say? When do they pray?

They do when they want to. I never force my kids to pray. I have four children, and they all pray differently. My oldest, age 9, prays about things going on in her life. My boy who is 8 prays similar. My 4 year old usually prays the same thing “Dear God I thank you for this beautiful day in the morning, amen.” although I see her prayers evolving some lately…she’s adding some more details. My little girl, age 2 wants to imitate her siblings. She often gets upset when she is skipped over for prayer time. We give her a minute, she folds her hands and is silent. Then we all say “AMEN”.

A word about meal time prayer. I’m really trying to teach my kids that when we are praying together it’s important to focus on Jesus, not on our food, not on our homework that is due tomorrow, not on anything but Him. It’s easy to get distracted so I tell my kids that I struggle with that too. A simple rhythm I’ve taught my kids is “Irbys, how do we pray?” and they all, even the 2 year old, immediately fold their hands and close their eyes. We talk about the reasons why we do this: fold hands so we don’t mess with anything that could distract us, bow our head and close our eyes so we aren’t tempted to look around and get distracted.

A resource Ive used in the past with my toddlers is “Playtime Devotions”. It’s simple little devotions that the smallest baby will enjoy.

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TEACHING TODDLERS TO PRAY: An Interview with Alisha Terry, Mother of Six

IMG_2407-7005“Our kids pray out loud at every meal and at bedtime, and when they have wronged someone and are asking for forgiveness.”- Alisha Terry

Over the next few weeks I will be interviewing friends and acquaintances who have been teaching their children to pray. When I sent out these questions I assumed I could learn something from these mothers, when I started receiving replies I realized the variety and creativity I was taping into. I hope you enjoy these interviews and are as inspired as I am.

In this first interview with veteran mother and childhood friend of mine, Alisha Terry, I was most struck with their family tradition of praying and asking forgiveness from God rather than just saying “sorry” to a parent or sibling who was wronged.

Let me introduce you to the Terry family:

Amy: How many children do you have and how old are they? Where do you and your family go to church and what is your involvement there? 

Alisha: We have six kids ages 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, and 8 months.

We attend Riverstone church in Kennesaw, GA. We attend a small group and have served in various ways throughout the 8 years we’ve been there, but mostly in areas of hospitality and children’s church. Right now, Aaron and the older two kid holds doors for people and greet them as they come in for church on Sunday morning, and I lead a small group of 1st and 2nd grade girls at one of our two services. We attend the first one, and I serve at the second one while Aaron takes the kids home. Staying for two services is WAY too long of a day for little little ones.

Amy: When did you start praying out loud for your children or in front of your children at home?

From the day they were born.

We pray together with them at night, and pray over them at night and randomly throughout the day. We also pray when the kids do things to hurt or offend a sibling or parent. WE say sorry to the person hurt, but also to God because we teach the kids that our sin not only hurts the people in your life, but also God.

Amy: What are some of your daily or weekly traditions regarding prayer as a family? When do you pray? What do you say?

Alisha: We pray at all our meals and at bedtime, and again, randomly throughout the day. Our prayer at a meal is done by a child and might sound like this:

“Dear God/Jesus/Holy Spirit/Heavenly Father, we love you and we thank you for the way that you love us. help us to walk in the fruits of the spirit (they usually list them out, which is kind of cute but also not when you’re hungry), bless this food, and other random prayer requests.”

We pray with the kids, pretty much just as we would pray with an adult. I think that talking and praying with your kids in a dumbed down way is not helpful. Kids absorb a lot, so we sort of talk to them like they’re older than they are. We try and bless the kids a lot, blessing them with things that we see or want to see in them. Maybe I might say something like this for Lucas “I bless you with the ability to lead with compassion and grace for those that look up to you.” FOr Isaac, “I bless you to see people the way that God sees them. To show love to others the way that God has shown his love to you.” For Abby, I know I have prayed blessings of Joy and that she would have joy overflowing and joy that would spill over on to all that she comes into contact with. Etc, etc! You get the idea.

Amy: Have you done anything intentional to teach your children to pray?

Alisha: We model it for them, and when they’re young, we say bite sized bits and have them repeat.

Amy: Does your child/do your children pray out loud? What do they say? When do they pray?

Alisha: Our kids pray out loud at every meal and at bedtime, and when they have wronged someone and are asking for forgiveness.

A repentant type of prayer might go something like this, “Jesus forgive me for valuing my car over my relationship with _____. Help me to treat others the way I want to be treated, and help me to be loving.”

I don’t want the kids to just say “Im sorry I took your car” and move on. Why did they do it, what really happens when they do something like that, What does it say to your brother when you take whatever you want whenever you want, etc.

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VOCATION BEYOND THE HOME

IMG_0195In all the craziness of moving to Chicago six years ago, getting married, and having a kid–my vocation seem to get lost.

I tried to hold on to what I thought I was called to do (that is start a church), but it just didn’t seem to mesh with having a baby.

My identity as an artist had long been subjugated to my pastoral identity only to show up here and there to make a message or event more creative.

But there I was, mentally bored yet emotionally and physically tired from being a full-time care-giver, when the idea came to me to create a book or books that I just couldn’t find for my kid.

A lot of people decide to write a children’s book for the same reason, but for me it also made sense in a way that nothing else I had ever tried.

My brother said, “That’s it Amy, that’s perfect.”

I spent my entire childhood, honing my drawing and painting skills. By my senior year of high school I spent at least three hours a day in the art room.

I spent my twenties studying theology.

My thirties have been all about marriage and family–causing an identity crisis in regards vocation.

But it seems like I have finally found something that I can do while being the wife and mother I want to be.

Reconciling vocational calling with a new parenting roll can be challenging. Has it been a challenge for you? What has helped you through the transition?

Do you want ideas on how to grow in faith in this season of life and how to help your kids grow in faith? Would you like a free ecopy of Keep Watch Sam? Subscribe to my newsletter. No spam, just good stuff.