Lora A. Copley is an ordained Christian Reformed Church (CRC) minister. She teaches in a pastoral leadership program on the Navajo Nation and at Rehoboth Christian High School in New Mexico and is a 2002 graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary. Elizabeth Vander Haagen ’97 is co-pastor of Boston Square CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
How is Teach Us to Pray different from other devotionals you have used with your children?
EVH: Teach Us to Pray is more holistic and invitational. It helps us use our bodies to prepare for family worship. There’s a balanced diet of prayer topics, entries from every book of the Bible, and Psalms covering the range of human emotions. It invites each person to participate, whether by leading, responding to dwelling questions, speaking the invitation and blessing together, or praying. The dwelling questions don’t look for particular information or answers. Instead they invite adults and children to wonder and reflect together about the passages.
LAC: Lots of devotionals are like one part of a worship service— telling God’s story, and that’s wonderful. Ours is like a mini worship service, and we’ve come to appreciate this fuller expression of coming before God as a family. We begin with multisensory preparation to worship. In Lent we pound a nail into a piece of wood. Then there’s a song and silence, which is powerful to share with a preschooler.
We hear scripture and dwell with it. Dwelling might be a Sonja Stewart [Children in Worship co-founder] wondering question. Sometimes it’s like lectio divina: “What word or picture comes to your mind from that scripture we just read? What might that tell you about God?” Each day includes two specific prayer suggestions, such as Tuesday creation prayers for scientists and astronomers or Wednesday local community prayers for those who pick up trash and deliver mail. There’s also a short set prayer themed to that day’s passage. We close with a benediction. The whole worship time takes 10 or 15 minutes.
How long have you done family worship, and how has is shaped you?
EVH: Lora had been writing family worship liturgies even before we began this project. We started testing Teach Us to Pray in 2012. We still use it at least once or twice a week, especially during Advent, when we somehow manage to all be home for supper more often. Using it closer to bedtime might work better now.
The Advent preparation is to set an extra place at the table as a sign of anticipating Jesus. My youngest would ask in the afternoon, “Is God coming for supper tonight?” We talked about whether to put food on Jesus’ plate or let guests sit in his chair. It led to conversations about hospitality and how Jesus is with us always, not just when we set a place for him. Recently the preparation has been to take off shoes or kneel. Kneeling together as a family powerfully embodies our reverence for and dependence upon God together. I really appreciate the stilling time. Those moments of silence together help us interact differently in the dwelling time.
LAC: Since 2012, we’ve done about two full years of Teach Us to Pray. We also want our kids to experience other kinds of family devotions, such as a catechism. My boys are 13 and 14 now. Recently, when my husband and I were at a meeting, they took it upon themselves to lead from Teach Us to Pray with their little sisters. I can’t overstate how formative the family worship times have been. It’s helped our whole family experience freshness to our faith. It reaffirms our identity as a family with God at the center. It’s simple enough that our 7-year-old daughter can lead from start to finish. I love to hear my children pray. They pray earnestly and without clichés. I sense the Holy Spirit powerfully using their ways of understanding God’s presence and work in our world.