“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen … And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:1,6)
If our families are to be set ablaze, the FIRE begins with faith. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please” God. We can spend all weekend helping at the parish garage sale; we can teach religious education to the 3rd graders; we can donate thousands of dollars to buy a new crucifix for the church. We can do great things, but, without faith, it is impossible to please God. Did you hear that? Impossible! So, faith must come before everything else. Faith is the basis of everything we do – that is, if we aim to please God, if we aim to have our families be lights in this present darkness. As such, in this second part of the series, we will lay out three things that you can do in your family over the next month that will build up your family’s faith:
- PRAY – Prayer signifies faith. If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for”, if it’s the “conviction of things not seen”, how better to point to the fact, to the conviction, that the invisible exists? Prayer points us to angels, to saints, to God, to the invisible. It reminds us that what we see, touch, taste, and feel is not all there is. Here are a few things to keep in mind with regard to prayer: (1) Pray frequently in short bursts, audibly. Don’t just pray before meals and at bed time. Pray audibly in simple words on the way to school, when you leave for a long car trip, or before a dance performance or a little league baseball game. For example, pray something like this as you take your child to school. “Lord, help us to see you in others today; help us to be you to those people. Give us the words of encouragement to help someone who’s having a bad day.” The prayer could be as simple as, “Jesus please help us today!” Bottom line, use every change of scenery as an opportunity to say a quick, simple prayer. St. Therese said that prayer is just a simple glance toward Heaven. So, just glance! (2) Pray specifically. Don’t pray in general terms. When we believed that the Lord directing us to move and that the move would require the selling of our house, we didn’t just pray for the sale of the house. We prayed that it would sell for a definitive amount and that the buyer would not want any work done. So, we prayed this: “if it is your will that we move, please provide a buyer who will offer no less than $149,000, Lord. Additionally, Lord, we request that the buyer not ask for anything to be fixed.” A realtor friend told us that we would have to do some improvements. So, in spite of our prayer, I began the project. The first person to look at it made an offer meeting our dollar amount, and then said, “please do not do any more work on the house. I have plans for the rest of the house”. God can handle specific requests. Furthermore, since the kids participated in our specific prayer, when we told them about the offer, they experienced the awe that faith brings. God answered the prayer! But even when He doesn’t answer the prayer in the way that we had hoped or prayed, we have an opportunity to teach. We, like God, have to say “No” or “Not right now” and that is for our ultimate good. It is an opportunity to teach that God has our best interest at heart – He only wants what is best for us. He always has the better plan! (3) Pray as Jesus taught us – pray formal prayers as well, particularly the Our Father. Jesus and His Bride, the Church, provides these prayers that we might pray as we ought.
- READ, WATCH, AND TELL STORIES – Human beings love stories. St. Paul tells us that “faith comes from what is heard” (Romans 10:17). We need to hear about God and His relationship with Adam, Noah, Moses, David, and St. Peter. Hearing these stories reveals God to us. They show us how He works in the lives of those He loves. Here are a few things to implement: (1) Expose children to Bible Stories daily. Read the Bible, watch movies like Veggie Tales or The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt that tell the stories of the Bible. With younger children, start with Bible stories with cartoon pictures and age-appropriate language. As they grow older, move towards a real Bible. Particularly when they are young, focus on the stories – the feeding of the 5,000, David & Goliath, Moses. They will keep their attention, and they provide great opportunities for discussion, which leads us to the next point. (2) Engage them with questions. Ask them how they would have felt as they looked at the charging chariots of Pharoah’s army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, leaving them trapped? How scared would they be walking on dry land through the Red Sea with walls of water on either side of them? The point is to get them to put themselves in the story and imagine what it would have been like, pointing out that there were children just like them there. Finally, (3) tell them stories of God’s intervention in your family’s life. If you haven’t done it yet, sit down and make a timeline of important events in your life. Pray that God will reveal His hand at work in your family. Write them down and tell them frequently. We’ve told our children about how we met through the mother of a guy who met Stephanie when she was 21 on a trip from Louisiana to Houston and met me when I was 22 because of the closing of a high school. The important point is that God was orchestrating our meeting years in advance. The children need to know that just like Moses and David, God is involved intimately and personally in our lives as well.
- MAKE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN FAITH AND LIFE – Faith and life intersect in every day moments. We just need to pray for the eyes to see them and then help our children make those connections. When my oldest was eight, baseball practice was rained out. His response to me, “How could God do this to me?” I guess he saw God at work in the rain. In those situations, teach. Connect the dots. I told Him that he was right in that God was in charge of all things, even the weather. But, I then asked him, “do you think anyone might really need the rain more than you need the practice?” We lived right behind some farm land. He said, “I guess people who grow stuff could use the rain”. I responded, “what might happen if no rain came ever and you never had a practice cancelled?” He said, “I guess that they would have no money, and we would have no food”. He finished with, “I guess it’s ok that it rained today. Can I pray that it doesn’t tomorrow? I want to practice.”
If each of our families just picks one of the above to try and implement in our family over the next month, we’ll be well on our way to setting our families ablaze. Which one will you choose?