Prayer — The Best Self-Care for Parents

To parent effectively, we’ve got to take care of ourselves. How do we do this … and find the time?

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Family, Guidance, Power of Prayer, Sermon on the Mount

As parents, it’s highly important to take time to center ourselves so that we can take care of our children. Many experts recommend meditating, spending time in nature, or finding some mindful practice that will help rejuvenate and fill us with all good thoughts.

Jesus has the best answer: daily prayer done quietly and alone. Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ words found in the Sermon on the Mount this way:

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (The Message, Matt 6:6)

Now the King James Version translates finding a “secluded place” as going into a “closet.” More modern versions usually say “room.” The concept of a closet is actually quite wonderful. The closet is full of supplies, full of everything we need. So when we go into our prayer closets, we’re going into a place that has everything we need.

I also love the concept of being honest. When we’re with God, we don’t have to make a show; we can drop all pretenses. We don’t have to pretend that we’ve got it all under control. Indeed, God’s in control. God knows us, our real selves, as wholly good. What a gift we give ourselves to listen to what God is telling us, how God is parenting us, directing us, protecting and loving us and each family member. To feel that unconditional love that God is giving us changes our moments and our days and our lives.

And that’s what our children need—to feel our unconditional love, to know that we’re there for them to help them navigate the unknown, just the way God is there for us, directing us through unknowns of parenthood (which is pretty much most of the time). They need our gentle guidance—not frustrated, scattered, or upset reactions, not screen substitutes.

So we have to show up to our appointment with God. We have to go into the closet, room, or quiet place by ourselves with God. Often, that’s most of the battle—just showing up. It seems that there are so many other things that take priority. So what can we do? Here are some ideas:

Spend five minutes alone with God everyday before the kids get up, before the house gets noisy. Without any agenda, just listen to God until you feel God’s presence in your hearts and lives.

Set reminders on your phone every hour with messages that help you reconnect with God and center yourself. I have been doing this and loving it! For example: Smile and appreciate each family member. God is in control of my family and me. Be in the present. Laugh and enjoy. Check in with God. God is equal to every emergency. And then, as an extension of this, find space to be by yourself with God throughout the day.

Have God time with the children in the morning before school. This may feel really rushed, especially if they wake up late. But even if it’s just five minutes, God-time, prayer-time, as a family does so much to secure individual and family success. Open a passage in the Bible and talk about it. Pick a quality of God to express that day. Appreciate each family member.

Take time to be still with the children or the family. Recently, I challenged my 5-year-old to be still. So he wanted our entire family to sit down before bed and practice stillness. It was challenging … and rewarding. We listened for God’s peace and then went around and said what we were grateful for that day. What a beautiful way to end the day—worthy of putting into regular practice.

Gratitude is a form of prayer. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated. It can simply be an affirmation of God’s presence working in our lives. It can be listening to God. It can be holding onto a simple truth about God and God’s view of us—it’s all “very good.”

Just praying to find out more about God brings blessings to us and our family. It’s a gift we give ourselves—to sense God’s grace amidst our hectic lives, and then to walk with grace during our days, to talk with grace to our children or spouse, to clean and cook and chauffeur with grace. Grace—that can be found in a moment and in a “secluded space” filled with the presence of God.