My wife and I believe it is important for our family to pray together in our home. We’ve been trying to find a practice that works for us, but this is tricky because we have two small children. We want to engage them in age-appropriate prayer practices that are inviting and meaningful for them at this stage in their development.
Instead of a devotion in the morning or evening, suppertime has naturally emerged as a time in our daily family rhythm where our family can pray together. We “say” grace together before meals. It’s short, sweet, and beautiful. It’s also loud, boisterous, and couldn’t happen without SpongeBob SquarePants.
The prayer we pray/sing/shout is from a little book from Forward Movement entitled Family Graces that I found here at the library in Sewanee. It was in a pile of free books and pamphlets and, after reading the description on the cover, I decided to take it home. Part of the description reads: “Eating and praying together as a family can be an important source of strength and renewal. Praying before meals opens our hearts to an awareness of God, who is the giver of all good things and sustains us in all of our lives. When we pray before meals, we follow the example of Jesus, who prayed with his disciples during The Last Supper.”
My kids like SpongeBob SquarePants, so when I saw the following prayer which was to be sung to the tune of SpongeBob Square Pants, I decided to try it out. The response was incredible. It took a couple of times for our son to catch the words, but both he and our two-year old daughter loved shouting out “THANK YOU JESUS” over and over again.
Now we ask our son to lead the prayer and he is excited to do it. We all are. We get loud and as we belt out the grace everyone is smiling and the joy is real. Yes, the tune is from a children’s cartoon, but I have been surprised to feel the “THANK YOU JESUS!” coming from a deep place within. The words aren’t just part of a goofy song we are singing. The words are real and the pandemonium of it all articulates my gratitude and joy in a way that wouldn’t be possible in hushed silence and reverential tones.
I look around the table and see the joy and the genuine thanksgiving. I see my family connecting with God and each other, filled with laughter. And then we all shout Amen! and our two children mimic the end of the opening credits of SpongeBob SquarePants by finishing the tune and our prayer with notes from their pretend nose-flutes. If this isn’t a picture of true prayer and the kingdom of God, I don’t know what is.
What is your favorite table grace with little ones?