We promised to raise them in the faith . . . I still remember each of them as infants receiving the waters of baptism. I will never forget the promises we made that we would teach them “the way that leads to life.” So from the moment that they were born we have gathered as part of what we now affectionately call our “evening ritual.”
Bath, pajamas, tooth brushing (when they were old enough), and prayer. At first it was a simple blessing as we rocked them in the middle of the night. In those early days the prayers were mostly for us, for strength, for wisdom, for rest! From the beginning we used the prayers of the church, we sang the psalms, said the Lord’s Prayer, and used the ancient antiphon “Guide us waking O Lord, and guard us sleeping . . .”
As our oldest reached pre-school age we began to use the full Night Prayer service (the office of Compline). It became our time together as a family, a powerful way to end our day together. I began to pray Compline as a college student and has been a part of the closing of my day on and off since then, but saying it together has been more transformative than I would have ever thought.
My prayer book sits on the side table in the living room, that way its available for our evening gathering. The other night as our two year old came into the living room with his pj’s on, with his blankie and his George (stuffed monkey) on one hand, he headed straight to the side table, picked up the prayer book and said: “daddy’s God book, pray daddy, pray.” He proceeded to crawl on my lap ready to begin our time with God.
We were surprised. Somehow the rhythms of prayer and gathering were actually forming, shaping, and calling our children. God’s Spirit called upon them at their baptism doing a work in them, reminding them of who they are in light of our story of faith. We made a promise but in the end what is blooming is God’s promise to them, that they belong to God, that sin and death do not have the last word.
It has not always been easy. We have been busy, tired, sick, or just not in the mood. At times we have allowed so many other things to get in the way. But now, over seven years into it, we are grateful that we have kept at it, that we have gathered, that we have rehearsed the prayers of our faith.
Through our children we are learning that our faith is learned. That the way of Jesus is not automatic, that it does not happen, it does not take root, unless it is modeled and practiced. It turns out that learning to love God and neighbor is a lifelong task but that it starts with the life of prayer.
So, we’ll continue to gather around “Daddy’s God Book” and pray that they will continue learning the way of Jesus!