Say, Play and Pray


"Training up" a child is more than just imparting knowledge to them. It's stimulating a taste for godliness. Let's do that for our children.

The Bible tells us to bring our children up "in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Training is the teaching part of bringing up a child. In Judaism, mothers taught the children from birth to age three. Then the fathers took over with the boys and taught them the Law and a trade, while the mothers continued to teach the girls domestic duties.

Parental training was spiritual in nature as well as practical. This is summed up in Deuteronomy 6. "And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (vv. 6-7, NLT).

In other words, spiritual training is to be part of everyday life. It is to be very natural, very normal. Parents should use every opportunity to uncover a spiritual truth. Make it fun. Use your imagination, and be creative.

My first attempt at this happened when my son was very young. I noticed that he liked to dress up as his hero. He kind of morphed into that person. I think children do that a lot, to identify with a hero of some kind. So we went through the Bible and we did this little thing that I called "Say, Play and Pray."

Number one, we would say it. That is, we'd read the Bible story, in an easy translation. Number two, we would play it. We'd dress up like the people in the story and act it out. For instance, he would be David and I was Goliath. He had so much fun watching me fall, he wanted to play it all night. And then number three, we'd pray about the vital lesson we learned in that text.

I think that was part of training a child at his level. What that did for my son was give him a visual handle to help him understand the story. And he knew twice as many Bible stories by the time he was 10 as I did by the time I was in my mid-20s!

But my overall point is this: Create a love for the Word of God in your children. The Hebrew word for "train" means "to affect the taste." When a child was born, the midwife would dip her finger into something sweet and put it in the baby's mouth, to stimulate a sucking response. So "training up" a child is more than just imparting knowledge to them. It's stimulating a taste for godliness. Let's do that for our children.

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