Creating Times of Prayer with Your Family in the Midst of a Busy Season
by Cheryl Sacks
In the midst of shopping for presents, decorating, baking, attending children’s plays and preparing for guests, it’s easy to get stressed out and exhausted during the holidays. God knows it’s difficult for us to keep sight of our priorities and that our temptation is to get too busy.
That’s why, as a family, it’s good to set aside time to invite God’s presence into our holiday plans and celebrations. I love what my friends Doug and Amy do each year before the holidays begin. They gather their family and ask the Lord to bring order not only to their schedules but also to their hearts, attitudes and priorities as they come together.
I’ve seen what a big difference it makes to visit our children’s homes or welcome them into ours when we’ve prayed in advance—prayed that we would find opportunities to talk about things that really matter as well as have fun, that we’d find ways to encourage them in the midst of their busy lives, that we would honor Christ our Savior as we celebrate His birth.
With holiday family gatherings just around the corner, here are some creative ideas to help your family pray together and welcome God’s Spirit afresh into your hearts and home:
1. Keep it simple.
My friend Lucy, the mother of two toddlers, says that when planning family prayer time during the holidays, it’s best to keep it simple. “Pray during times when the family is already together,” she says, “such as at mealtime or while driving in the car on the way to school or while out shopping.”
When wrapping gifts with my husband, daughter, or grandchildren, I like us to pray together over the person who will receive the present, not only that the gift will be a blessing but that the Lord will meet their intangible needs as well.
In the Johnson family, Mom takes the kids out shopping, then stops at a coffee shop, where they talk and pray about others the Lord might want them to help or reach out to during the holidays. Later, Dad takes the kids to a local restaurant; they order something to eat while they look at Scripture and talk about the meaning of the birth of Christ.
2. Create family prayer traditions.
It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. To hear one another talking to God opens our hearts and invites God’s presence in ways nothing else can. Children and babies may not be actively listening, but they are soaking up the spiritual atmosphere and being imprinted with a model they can pass on to their families when they grow up. For those at the table (guests or family members) who don’t understand your walk with Christ, being a part of your family prayer may stir their hearts to their own needs for relationship with their Creator and His Son, Jesus.
- Our son-in-law’s parents, Pete and Lona, start their holiday meal by asking each person at the table to share the one thing for which he or she is most thankful. This invites God’s Spirit into the family gathering, and everyone experiences His life-giving presence.
- One year when we were visiting Pete and Lona between Christmas and New Year’s, we gathered our two families (six children, their spouses and their children) and asked each one what he or she would like God to do in the coming year. Then everyone gathered around and prayed for each others requests. It’s exciting to see from year to year how God answers.
- Our family has a holiday tradition of taking communion together and dedicating the New Year to the Lord. We recommit ourselves and our family to Him. We share what we are hearing God saying to us for the coming year. We review what we did the year before, and sometimes we set goals that we sense He is laying on our hearts. We ask for protection and favor over our lives in the coming year. We pray words of blessing and encouragement for one another. It is always a little different, and we do this wherever we happen to be during that holiday.
- Sometime near the beginning of each New Year, our friends Doug and Debbie plan a getaway weekend at a hotel in town to pray and set family goals for the coming year. They discuss each of their children individually and write down things to pray for them. They review their goals from the previous year, too.I love how Doug and Debbie pray specifically for each of their children.
“During our New Year’s retreat,” Debbie said, “we identify Scriptures we want to pray for each child and specific things we want to ask the Lord to do for him or her. We compile a list of Scripture promises for each child. We keep these in file folders and add to them each year. This becomes our personalized guide to prayer for our family throughout the year.”
3. Write a family prayer for the holidays.
I’ve learned, when feeling overwhelmed with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, to stop and breathe short prayers to God throughout the day: “Lord, I worship You.” “Holy Spirit, fill me afresh and anew.” “Jesus, help me abide in You.”
This holiday season, I’ve written a prayer to help me and my family keep the Lord and His Word at the center of our lives. You may want to pray it daily or post it for each family member. Or it might inspire you to write a holiday prayer of your own.
Lord, we worship You—wonderful Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father and Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). We welcome You into our hearts and home at this special time of year. Help us to avoid the frenzy and commercialism of the season and to stay focused on the things that really matter. Cause our thoughts, our words, our schedules and our gift-giving to honor You. May we, as a family, be mindful not only of our own needs and wants but of the needs of others—those who are lonely, brokenhearted, or in financial difficulty. Come fill us afresh with Your Holy Spirit and empower us to take the Good News of Jesus Christ, our Savior, wherever we go this Christmas season.
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