Prayer. It’s a word that can be divisive, but it doesn’t need to be. Most of us, regardless of our approach to religion, have bowed our heads, closed our eyes, and said thanks or petitioned for help at one point or another in our lives.
As a child, my mom would pray for my brother and me on our way to school. She’d ask us to bow our heads and close our eyes in the car as she would say a prayer for protection for our day. Before going to bed, she would say another prayer for us as we went to sleep. My brother and I went to a private, Christian school, but we rarely attended church. I’m not sure why my mom prayed for us. Her father is agnostic, and her parents did not practice any organized religion. But I always found prayers comforting — both hers and, later, my own. I liked knowing that I could go to someone other than my mom for answers and the help that she wasn’t able to provide.
Setting aside the question of whether or not prayer “works,” I’ve found that prayer can change my own experience of the world. As a father, I want my kids to have that experience of calling out to someone, or something, beyond the realm of human influence when they feel challenged, or grateful, or afraid. Here’s why prayer matters to me and what I hope my children receive from it:
Prayer Makes Us Humble
I’ve often felt that people’s relatability is tied to their level of humility. An act of humility can open up doors that are closed, squash arguments, heal families, and help leaders lead. There’s nothing more disheartening that seeing a person who is full of themselves.
For me, prayer is an act of humility. Helping my children learn that there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that something is greater than themselves is tantamount to teaching them that they are not the center of the universe, even if they think they are.
Prayer Teaches Respect
There’s a great commercial where a little girl is opening the fridge to get a yogurt when her dad tries to stop her. She tells him that mom said she could get a midnight snack, to which her father says that it’s late and that she needs to go to bed.
“Why?” she asks.
In his authority, he says, “Because I’m the boss.”
To which the little girl responds, in utter incredulousness, “You’re not the boss. Mom’s the boss.”
We pan to the father’s face as he’s trying to think of a response. “Technically, we’re both bosses.”
But the little girl knows the truth and says, “Technically, mom’s the boss.”
The commercial ends with both of them eating a midnight snack.
Each of us answers to a higher authority in different situations. For me, it’s my boss at work and my wife at home. For my kids it’s their teacher at school and their parents at home. Acknowledging that there is someone with more authority than ourselves is part of the human experience.
In every facet of my life and in theirs, there are authority figures that we need to respect. Through the act of prayer, I want my children to learn that, just like in the physical realm where there are authority figures, so there is in the spiritual world — whether you believe that’s God or another Higher Power — and ultimately, we’re accountable to someone other than ourselves.
Prayer Helps Us Develop Gratitude
Most mornings, my wife calls me at work so I can pray for our kids on their way to school. I encourage them to be thankful for the gifts they’ve been given, such as the house they live in, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, their able bodies, and all the other things we tend to take for granted.
What I noticed is that even if they’ve been fighting with one another or have been in a bad mood, stopping to pray and give “thanks” causes them to have a sense of gratitude, which is a key component to life. As a father, I want my children to express gratitude for what they’ve received and, more importantly, to have the feeling that their life is full.
Prayer Strengthens Trust
Faith is simply trust or confidence in someone or something. Every day, each of us practices faith in one form or another. We have faith that the person driving in the next lane over will not swerve into our lane. We have faith that our spouse will honor their commitment to us. I want my children’s faith to serve as an anchor when the world rocks their lives. Through prayer, the development of their faith can occur and grow.
Prayer Makes Us Closer
I don’t have all the answers to life’s mysteries, but I do know that when people pray together, a bond is created, especially between a parent and a child. Praying is a time for us to be open with one another about what’s bothering us, to give thanks or make special petitions, and to create special moments. Through prayer, my children and I are deepening our relationship while creating a bond that will last long after I’m gone. Just like when my mom would pray for my brother and me, I hope that my kids will do likewise with their children.
Zachery Román is a speechwriter and freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. He’s also the father of two daughters who is always seeking opportunities to help fathers connect with their children.