One of my favorite times with my children is saying bedtime prayers with them. When they were quite small, our prayers consisted simply of a list of “God bless”-es: “God bless Bammy, God bless Pappy, God bless Auntie Susan,” etc. As they’ve grown, we’ve added thanksgiving, confession, praise, petitions, and a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, but we still always include a list of God blesses.
At first, the list was merely a recitation of the names of family members: grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Later, we added friends and teachers and neighbors and various other people in their lives. Soon, the kids began to tack on qualifiers, like locations: “Tatie Pauline in France,” “Uncle Steven far away on a ship,” “May-May away at school.” Once they were old enough to understand reasons for special prayers, the qualifiers became, “Ben who doesn’t feel good,” “Pappy who’s in the hospital,” “Vincent who has a broken arm,” “Thomas whose dog is lost.”
I think that asking God to bless our loved ones in good times and in bad is a good lesson for children to learn. But I would be remiss as both a Christian and a parent if I left it at that. It’s all well and good to ask for God’s blessing on behalf of another person, but that’s a secondhand blessing. It’s like saying, “Yo, God, you take care of this one, okay?” It’s handing off the problem to Someone else. I want my children to learn to not only ask for a blessing for others, but to BE a blessing TO others. I want them to grow into the kind of people who not only pray for a friend who’s sick, but who also bring them a care package and send them flowers and call to see if they need anything. I want them to be the kind of people who don’t just pray for your lost dog but who print up flyers and drive you around the neighborhood to hang them up. I want them to be the kind of people who pray for their friends to do well on an exam but also help them study. I want them to be the kind of people who actively look for ways to help those who are struggling, for whatever reason.
I pray that God will bless them by making them blessings.