Becoming An Outward Family

As humans we are naturally selfish. One of the first words that we learn to speak is “mine.” And one of our first struggles is learning to share with others. The human left on his own is consumed with themselves.

And so one of the roles of a parent is to teach their young kids to begin to think of others, to share with others, be kind to others. And it becomes an on-going struggle to learn to view life beyond yourself. And so this struggle young kids experience should not surprise us because as adults we have that same struggle. It is so easy for us to be concerned about our own needs and wants. It is so easy to view life through the lens of our own challenges and trials. A huge reason many people become discouraged and depressed is because they become consumed by their own overwhelming needs.

As Christians, we are instructed to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We were created in the image of God to give of us ourselves to others. Our selfishness is not a design of God but a result of a fallen world corrupted by sin. And so as Christian parents, we have the role of teaching our kids to respond to God by having an outward heart toward others.

This is not an easy task.

One of the things that we have recently started doing as a family is that as we pray before a meal, we pray for one other person. During our dinner prayer time, each one of our kids will say a short prayer thanking God for the day. What often happens is that prayer time becomes a recap of that child’s day.

“Thank you God we got to play outside with our friends. Thank you God we had popsicles. Thank you that tonight we are going to the park.”

And I think it is great that our kids are cultivating an attitude of gratefulness even if it is more routine than thanksgiving. But what happens is that their prayer life is simply about them. And so we have asked them along with their prayers of thanksgiving to pray for someone else.

The first night we did this the kids jumped into the day recap thanking God for the all the things that they did and then they came to praying for someone else and there was a long pause. The pause was them trying to first think about someone else they could pray for and then when they thought of someone there was this struggle to articulate what they were wanting to pray for them about.

“God, I want to pray for John and I ask that….um….”

For one of my kids it was a real struggle to think of anything to that pray for about his friend. And one of the reasons is that we don’t tend to think about praying that way. Our natural bent is to be me-centered. We have to learn to serve. We have to learn to think of other’s needs. We don’t tend to view life through an outward lens where we are developing a heart for the people around us.

And yet the first step in cultivating a heart that relfects the heart of the Father is having a heart that thinks about others. Kids certainly think about others in terms of how their friends impact them. But it can be a challenge for kids to think about others purely for the sake of the other person.

But if we can cultivate that outward heart when they are young, it allows us enter into the mission of Christ with an outward heart when we are older.

Would you help your family develop an outward heart by developing a family prayer life that is outward. You will be creating a family culture that is aligning itself with the outward heart of the Father.