How to Teach Your Kids to Listen to God's Voice...
“God is there anything you want to tell me today? I am listening!” I am trying to spend time asking this question every day. I want to teach my kids to do the same. This is NOT something that comes naturally to me.
I often struggle with investing in listening prayer and quiet, though my soul needs it desperately.
Here’s the crazy part: every time I am quiet before God for a substantial amount of time (even just a few minutes), He shows up. I hear from him. Even when I don’t hear His voice, I feel His presence or I’m at the very least reminded that He is with me. Sometimes later on that day or week, I read a verse or hear something said that directly relates to something I have prayed for. When I stop and listen, I just notice God's presence around me more. Why don’t I come to him every morning on my knees ready to hear from the God who created the universe? I think I often buy into the lie that all of the things on my to-do list are more important.
God is waiting to hear from us. His ears are attentive to us each and every time we cry out to Him! (from Psalm 34:15).
It breaks my heart to think of God just longing to speak to me as I run around like a madwoman, too focused on my to do list to invite the God of the universe to speak!
Recently, I made myself a little prayer closet and have made a goal that listening to God would be a non-negotiable part of my day. My kids are watching, noticing, and catching on.
Providing space for your kids to listen and truly meet with God is so valuable and not as scary or complicated as it might seem. We can model for our kids how to respond to God in a personal way and how to truly know Him.
Here are the 3 steps we are working on in our family:
Step 1: Talking with our kids about how God speaks...
God speaks to us in many ways... dreams, passions, longings, conversations, sermons, etc. He is a creative God and He speaks to us in different ways at different times. One of the major ways He speaks to us is through reading the Bible. Another way He speaks is through the Holy Spirit. This concept can be confusing for kids and adults because typically we can’t physically hear God’s voice.
I explain it to my kids by reminding them that sometimes when we quiet our hearts and minds and let God know we are listening, He can direct our thoughts and even place thoughts into our minds. For example, sometimes a person might pop into our head and we can pray for that individual. Sometimes God might remind us of something we learned at church or at home that is true. We might even see a picture of something in our mind that could remind us of God’s love for us or of a way we might show love to someone else.
Sometimes when we pause and listen we don’t hear anything at all. And that is totally ok too! We just keep practicing the presence of God. The more we slow down and listen and talk about where we are seeing and hearing God, the easier it will be for us to hear him.
Sometimes we wonder, did God tell me that or did I think of that on my own? Here’s how to test it. If God tells us something, it will never ever contradict what His word says is true. So, we can test what we think we heard or felt by making sure it’s in the Bible.
Step 2: Listening to God’s Voice on our Own...
Here’s how to do it by yourself first so that you can feel more comfortable doing this activity with your child.
Set the timer for five minutes and just listen to what God has to say to you. Quiet your heart before Him and ask Him to speak to you. If you don’t believe He can speak to you or if you happen to be doubting His existence altogether, that’s okay! Tell Him that. Tell him to show up. Ask Him to tell you He loves you. Sometimes I like to be quiet before Him with a song in the background to help guide me into a heart of worship.
When I do this activity by myself or with the kids, I often ask God to speak to me or show me something about my child. It is fun to be able to share that if God speaks in that way.
One morning, I was doing this activity by myself at a time when I felt really overwhelmed by parenting. I was struggling with postpartum anxiety and just feelings of overwhelm after the birth of my third child. I felt like I was at a loss at how to parent and even how to get through my day. I felt like I just needed wisdom and guidance from the Lord and I couldn’t do it anymore in my own strength. That particular morning, I asked God to give me a word to focus on for each child. After listening quietly for a few minutes and just begging for His help, one single word popped into my head for each child.
For Charlie, the word I thought of was “hold.” For Brinley, “guide,” and for Lila, “see.”
You see my oldest, Charlie, loves physical touch. I am always holding the younger girls, but Charlie needed more connection from me even though he was the oldest and most responsible and capable of being left alone to do things for himself.
Brinley was a tantruming threenager at the time in every sense of the phrase and I had been letting things slide because of the chaos of our busy lives. God was reminding me how important it is to constantly guide her, redirect, send her to timeout when need be, and train her.
Lila, the baby at the time, was always on my hip being dragged from place to place. Sometimes I would go through an entire day and wonder if I really looked at her in the eyes. We were so busy with church and ministry, and homework for Charlie, and dance class for Brinley, and dinner, baths, and diaper changes. Because of the Holy Spirit’s direction, I was reminded to stop throughout my days and look at her big beautiful hazel eyes and say to her, “I see you Lila!” We laughed more, she had more peace in her spirit, and I felt more connected to my baby girl.
I was able to share these words with the two older kids and they were delighted and surprised to hear that God knew them so intimately that he would actually tell me something new about them! I am still so touched that God is so sweet to speak directly to me about my parenting. Why does this surprise me? He made them and He loves them more than I do!
Step 3: Listening to God’s Voice with our kid(s):
Here’s an example of how to listen to God’s voice with your child. Find a quiet place to sit with your child. Pray over your child and ask God to speak to both of you. Kneel or lay down, breathe slowly, and close your eyes. Sometimes it’s helpful to set a timer for one minute or even two. Start slow. Kids have a shorter attention span, so even just being quiet for 30 seconds or so is enough. My kids and I do this silently and sometimes we do it while a soft worship song plays in the background. We might just be practicing listening to God or we might have something specific to ask Him-- a tough decision to make, wisdom with how to deal with something that is troubling us, etc. Sometimes I just tell them to think about God for one minute. I pray at the end of the minute or two and then ask my kids what that experience was like for them and share what it was like for me. You can increase the amount of minutes as your kids get older.
I tried this the other night at bedtime because I knew we needed to calm things down a bit before going to sleep. I asked them to think about God and to be totally silent as we listened to a quiet song on my phone. Afterward, my son shared that he didn’t hear anything but he thought about how cool God is. The two year old said that she thought about lollipops. Brinley, my spunky middle girl said, “Well, God told me that he will always love us and will forgive us when we come to him and tell him we are sorry.” My heart skipped a beat. I needed to hear that. I needed to be reminded of that for myself and I needed the reminder that God really does speak to us, even when we’re only four.