I would love to travel the world with my kids. I imagine we’d get lost down colorful alleys, pop into restaurants beckoning us with the smell of butter and spice, and marvel at the variety of creation surrounding us. But right now, we spend most of our time at soccer practice and school drop-off lines. It’s our current life stage and I adore it. However, I long to instill a sense of passion in my children for the world and all God created.
God has entrusted us with nurturing eternal souls and if we desire our precious kiddos to be world-changers, they’ll need a love for its people because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). A powerful, practical way we’ve fostered our children to love the world is by teaching them to pray for the world. Not only has it brought us a step closer to God’s heart, but it’s one small way to start loving on a global level. There are many simple, yet meaningful ways to nurture your children’s love for all of God’s people. Here’s a peek into how this plays out in our household:
Each week we take turns choosing a country to learn about and cover in prayer. If you have a globe, it could also be fun to choose by spinning it and allowing your finger to land at random. We have a map with scratch-off colors for each country (You could also use a cork map with colorful pins).
After we’ve chosen a country, we open up the book “Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation” by Jason Mandryk. I can’t emphasize how deeply I cherish this book. It contains all sorts of interesting nuggets about every country in the world, including its most urgent prayer needs (my favorite part). This is where we focus. Whatever those prayer needs are (poverty, persecution, government corruption, child exploitation, orphans, lack of natural resources, etc.), we include them in our family prayers during dinner. The book also includes a section of answered prayers for each country!
As our eyes have been opened to the immediate needs of others, our hearts are often moved to action. If one of my kiddos shows a particular interest in the need of another nation, I help them research an organization they can support through their allowance. My children once worked hard to set up and run a lemonade stand in order to raise money for water wells in Africa.
We especially enjoy choosing recipes from our selected culture and cooking meals together. This can be a beautiful mess at times. Some of my major #kitchenfails include Russian borscht and Ethiopian injera. (Yes, Eli, I’m sure I followed the recipe. No, I don’t know why it doesn’t look like the picture!)
We love going to the library. I let the kids run amuck and grab whatever books they can find about the country. It’s so fun to discover new insights and share what we’ve learned after we read our books.
We plan a fun movie night. Older kids enjoy documentaries, but there are also great options even if your kids are younger. We are pretty casual with our movie choices—when my kids were babies, we totally counted “Beauty and the Beast” as French culture (you know, because of all the baguettes and Bonjours in the opening scene).
This summer we plan on organizing our first, “Pray for the World” club! Once a month we’ll host a potluck so every family invited can bring a dish that represents the country we’ve been praying for. Voila! Fellowship, fun, and practicing faith all at the same time. Traditions don’t get much sweeter.
Taking time to learn and pray for others around the world demonstrates to our kids that we should care because it is important. And praying teaches our children that God will use them to make a difference across the globe. We should care about hearing stories about people who are different from us. In Acts 17, we learn that Paul took the time to learn about cultures different from his own. He read their literature, studied their art, and observed the temples of their gods. This helped Paul treat others with respect and compassion, opening doors to share the love of Christ. When Paul found an altar with the inscription “To an unknown god,” he was prepared to point them to the one true God they so desperately needed.
We have a responsibility as parents to model practical ways to imitate the heart of Jesus. Praying for the world will encourage a global perspective in our children, which then will hopefully lead to a wider understanding of God’s kingdom. We’re reminded in the book of John that people will know we are disciples of Jesus, if we “have love for one another” (John 13:35). Cultivating a love for all God’s people is one important way we can turn our hearts toward Him and emulate the love He has for this world.
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