By Melissa Miller
“I wish I had faith like you and Dad. I wish I could experience God like you guys experience Him.” My oldest daughter confides in me, with tears welling up in her eyes.
With each child in my home comes a completely different personality … and a completely different way of experiencing God. I love seeing Jesus through their eyes and watching their eyes light up when they read a certain scripture for the first time. However, one thing I wasn’t expecting was insecurity regarding their relationship with God. From all my kids, I’ve heard statements like … “I wish I could pray like (insert name of pastor or leader here).” Or “How come I can’t hear God’s voice when I ask Him to speak?”
Comments like these aren’t to be dismissed, they are invitations for us to speak truth into our children’s lives. They are also invitations for us to stifle the enemy’s lies before they dig deeper in their hearts.
Here are a few ways I’ve handled conversations like this:
It’s the WHO, not the HOW, that counts most in our relationship with God.
When comments like my daughter’s arise, I remind my kids we are all created by God uniquely. Some people experience God deeply through studying the scriptures, some people through worship, some people thrive when praying fervently while out in nature. I remind my kids that their relationship with Jesus doesn’t have to look exactly like the person sitting next to them. In the particular instance with my daughter, I reminded her of her special connection to God in worship. That day, she went into her room, turned on worship music, sang at the top of her lungs and wrote down a bunch of truths in her journal. I didn’t give her a one-size-fits-all formula for her connection with Jesus, but empowered her to start with what’s most delightful and genuine for her. It’s the WHO, not the HOW that counts most in our relationship with God.
2. The only ingredient to successful prayer is SINCERITY.
When my kids feel insecure about their prayers, I remind them that the only ingredient to a successful prayer is sincerity. I remind them that Jesus rebuked the scribes for their long prayers done for show (Luke 20: 46-47). Which tells me that Jesus doesn’t want anything artificial, He wants a real, genuine relationship - even if that means our prayers are messy, imperfect, and honest. God takes our messy, sincere prayers over our perfectly polished ones any day.
3. Hearing God’s voice looks a lot like FAITH.
When my kids feel insecure that they can’t hear from God, I tell them that I’ve only met one person who claimed to hear the audible voice of God, once. For the rest of us, we have the scriptures, God’s still small voice inside our hearts, our circumstances, His Holy Spirit shaping our desires, and hopefully we have Godly people around us too. Most of the time when we say “I heard God …” what we are saying is that some, or all, of these things lined up and we are choosing to believe it is from God. It doesn’t mean we are 100% certain or that we heard a booming voice, it means we put one foot in front of the other and trust God to continue to guide our path. Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) says “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
It can be easy for us to oversimplify things like prayer or hearing God’s voice, but it’s important we take the time to shepherd our children’s hearts regarding these areas of their faith. These questions and thoughts from our children also serve as a great reminder that living out our faith authentically is what is going to give them permission to enter into their own authentic relationship with God. You may not cross every t or dot every i in your faith journey, Jesus is the only one who gets it perfect every time. Let them see your messy prayers. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that question, let’s look in the scriptures together!” Apologize when you mess up. Let’s all stand as humble children of God, not in perfection but in process. It opens the door for our kids to walk towards Jesus knowing it’s not about their performance but about a real relationship.
Melissa Miller is married to her best friend and has three children. She serves alongside her husband at Canvas Church in San Diego, CA. Melissa works for a marriage ministry, and is passionate about helping marriages and families thrive. Melissa and her husband are in the process of adopting a child from the Philippines. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and beach days with her family. Check her out on Instagramand Facebook!