What do you tell your kids about God? And praying? Anything?
I didn’t learn how to pray until I was 26 and someone taught me this simple skill (and I do look at it as a skill) that changed my life forever. I’d love to teach my kids so they know about it much earlier than I figured it out. Praying can be so incredibly cool and calming. But the prayer I was taught, the only one I do really, seems way too grown up for them.
I was told to get on my knees every single morning and say:
I am totally powerless over people, places and things and my life is unmanageable. I’ve come to believe a power greater than myself is restoring me to sanity and I’m turning my will and my life over to that power.”
I did not believe a single word of this prayer. Most of the time, I still don’t.
But I was told then: what you believe doesn’t matter. If you want to get better, try getting on your knees and saying this. You’ve tried everything else, and nothing has worked. So, why not this? Is it any stupider than sticking your finger down your throat and making yourself throw up several times a day?
I had to admit, it was not.
I don’t know how praying works or why it works. I don’t even care anymore. All I know is that if something is bothering me or obsessing me, and I get on my knees and ‘turn it over,’ instantly, I feel calmer and happier. Remarkably and paradoxically, I also get the energy and focus to move forward and ‘do the next right thing.’ After praying about how powerless I am, I act. Happens every time.
So I’d like to teach my kids about this because it’s so damn useful.
Also, my seven year old daughter has started to ask me about God. What she’s picked up, somehow, somewhere, just as I did when I was a kid, is that praying is all about asking for stuff. And then if you’re ‘good,’ you get what you asked for.
But the kind of praying I do isn’t like that at all. More like the opposite. Still, those things I say– which as I wrote, I often don’t believe– seem way too heavy to put on a little kid. As is the whole powerless/powerful paradox. I don’t even get it!
I could tell my daughter: just tell God what you’re grateful or thankful for, but that seems sanctimonious, and it’s not what I do either.
Please let me know if your kids have asked you about praying or God, and if you’ve had any luck in teaching them anything. Especially if you don’t know if you believe in God.
I am a spiritual seeker by nature. I believe all the religions are true, as metaphor. All of them are poetic ways of experiencing the world. My daughter started asking questions about god and church around her third birthday. I wasn’t then involved with any spiritual organization. I looked around for a church that was compatible with my beliefs and found Unitarian-Universalism. U-U has no creed, is open to any idea of deity, welcomes all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, color, nationality &c. My daughter is four-and-a-half now and really enjoys going to our “little red church”. U-U “talks”, at our church, might be based on Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American mythology or the speaker’s personal experience.
We also talk a lot about the cycles of nature, day/night, winter/spring/summer/fall, life/death. We talk about God/Father/Sky and Goddess/Mother/Earth. We also talk about God as an undefinable Mystery. She understands more than I once would’ve thought someone her age could.
I pray in the morning and at night. She sometimes sees me. She knows what I’m doing. If she wants to know what I say, she’ll ask.
I think she’s like me (and her mom): naturally curious about spiritual stuff. The main thing I try to do is encourage her to figure it out. I share my beliefs, but I leave it to her to decide for herself.
Spirituality saved my life. I would have died years ago if I hadn’t found a Higher Power. I suffered a lot trying to find the path. I want my daughter to have the benefit of my experience.
Hey there, I really enjoy your blog and am fascinated by the run recently on books for girls. I really enjoyed this post on religion, especially having written a post recently about our experience of religion as a family. It’s here http://trailercommunity.blogspot.com/
We say grace before dinner, especially when we have visitors to our home (which is often). Grace is to remind us of what we have how we are blessed to have it and to share it. As a family we all threw in a line to come up with it. When one gives thanks, it feels very comfortable not to have to thank a deity but rather just to hold the gratitude in your heart & mind.
Combined thoughts on both, my mother was raised Catholic but really struggled with the lack of respect & gratitude & empowerment of women in the religion. She used to change all the prayers to be female-centric, “Our mother, who art in heaven.”
Love reading your blog.
I don’t believe in any sort of deity and have reared my children in atheism. They have never known prayer of any kind and see it for what it is… the insane requisition that the natural order be suspended in their favor. I wish I had not had to throw off such a ludicrous belief system as the Christianity I was reared in.
We do not “respect” any religion. We think they are pretty much crazy. But we respect the rights of others to engage in a bit of craziness as long as they aren’t trying to get any on us.
My youngest has type 1 diabetes. I don’t think anyone is ever going to convince her that there is an all loving god in charge of the universe or that he is her bestest buddy.
We haven’t tried prayer, but I suspect that it doesn’t work so well as insulin.
Interesting post. Cheers to you.
I totally agree with you! Margot, you really should just buy a christian bible and read it. You will soon find it to be really sexist. It’s such an irony that you, as a feminist, is worshipping the christian god , god of such a sexist religion. The bible is a ridiculous guide telling women how to behave, how to serve and please men, how women are inferior to men, how a woman should dress herself, among other things. In fact, most religions have sexist teachings, not just the christian religion. You should seriously go to this website to find out more: http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm and you should also check out the section “Retard of the Month”, about theists who follow the sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic teachings of the bible. You may also read “The Believing Brain”, a book that explains the “boundary between justified and unjustified belief”.
Actually, praying to any sort of god will not make you feel better. Yes, you may feel reassured initially, but when situations do not change for the better, you will eventually feel bad. The fact is, gods do not exist, and praying to them has no effect on situations whatsoever. Please, save your children the disappointment when their prayers fail, because that’s exactly what happened to me when I was young. (I’m 12 now) There was a scientific conducted on the effects of intercessory prayer on 1800 patients undergoing heart-bypass surgery. Read more here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=no-prayer-prescription. Also, make it a point to read joerocker’s comment.
Hope you will carefully think through your beliefs.
What an interesting post. I do not believe in God, and my immediate family (husband and kids) do not participate in organized religion. I follow Buddhist teachings if anything, and I teach my children that “god” is inside of them. I have huge faith in the power of the human spirit, so I try to teach my children that power is inside of them, not external.
We do pray, mostly prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Two years ago a dear friend was in a horrendous car accident that left her 13month old daughter clinging for her life. We prayed hard and heavy that week, and I told my children we were sending all the love and energy we could find to my friend, the baby, and her family. The baby didn’t survive, and instead of talking about “Why did God do this?”, we had discussions about how extensive her medical injuries were and what we needed to do now to support her surviving family.
I teach my children to respect all faiths and religions, and as they get older (5yo and almost 3yo) I will openly answer any questions they bring to me. I hope they grow up to see the beauty and light inside of each person, and how powerful prayer and grace can be, wherever it comes from and wherever that energy goes.
Sadly, my family is teased and disrespected for our beliefs by many of our Christian friends. I hope to set a better example.
Can you post your prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving? Or do you just make them up? How do your kids react?