top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Passing on a Legacy of Prayer to the Next Generation

“Calling on the Name of the Lord” is a skill that can take a lifetime to mature.

In the Toldot, which means “generations”, we see how Isaac followed the example of his father only after he experienced life’s trouble on his own. Isn’t that usually how it works? How could the young man – who was spared from being sacrificed himself – not already have had his own personal encounter with the God of His father, Abraham?

Like other things you learn from your parents, prayer is a practiced behavior that is better “caught” than simply taught.

Mark and I learned how to pray being discipled by Rabbi Jonathan Bernis when we were newlyweds. Neither of us have memories of our parents praying for us, or with us, as children. Now, we can’t imagine life without being able to pray to God for help!

Modeling Prayer for your Children

Modeling prayer to our children makes us better than a team, we are a family –  with generations of prayer encircling our circumstances, like rings of yearly growth in our family tree. Prayer strengthens us and centers us around the will of God for our lives. I appreciate being married to a man who prays. I have seen him cry out to God in pain and in joy…  mostly joy. Happy is the man who trusts in ADONAI and makes the Lord, his God, a mighty fortress.  

I hope my children remember the “prayer times” as good times in our family history. One way to ensure that is to be intentional about praying in the good times, not just the bad. For example, I know that we remember being with extended family members at weddings and funerals and holidays, but do we remember the sacred moments when we prayed together? Do you think the reason most people love “The Lord’s prayer,” is that we ALL seem to know it instinctually? I think that is what makes the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer in Judaism so powerful! I also believe that may be the only praying we ever did with Mark’s family. I can see now why its usually recited in groups instead of alone.

Prayer binds our hearts together with God and each other.

Passing on Prayer to the Next Generation

Mark and I both DID have grandparents who prayed. My Catholic grandmother spent hours a day reading her Bible and praying. Mark’s Orthodox grandfather went daily to prayer at his synagogue, even into his nineties. Yet neither of those faithful in their generation were able to pass it on to their own children! Why is that? Does faith skip a generation? Do you have to see the tragic results of a Godless life to look for God on your own? Oh, God!

Please help us find a better answer! What can we do to share our faith with our children? What makes our own offspring run into God’s arms like we do?

I don’t claim to know the “right” answer, but I can tell you from personal experience that my children call on God because they NEED Him, just like I do. They have seen us pray and they have seen God answer us. They have believed in His power to save, because we didn’t hide our failures along the way, but cried out together with one voice for God to help us get back on track.

Daniah and Son, Joseph praying

Daniah and her son, Joseph praying at Beth Judah in Ormond Beach, FL

Hopefully, we showed them God was approachable. But, we also had to be sure to show them that He is sovereign. Thank God that our children also saw some prayers go unanswered. They watched how we responded and looked for the “why” to be revealed in due time. Often, God’s answers were so much higher than ours. His vantage point is unsearchable. That is why the Psalmist proclaims that “I know two things, God is both strong and loving.” God did things He thought better for us, even when we didn’t understand. That is the true measure of His grace.

Instead of commiserating about the troubles of the past week, celebrate Shabbat around the dinner table together – with a “take-out” dinner if necessary! Practicing prayer each week can elevate your loved ones out of bad behavior faster than having another dreaded “family meeting.” Families that grow disciplined in praying together can be a strong light in difficult times, with unwavering faith and enduring love.

Thanking God at the end of a full week of living life together is a wonderful tradition, but an even better OPPORTUNITY!

I would encourage you today to pray together – with your family on Shabbat – as a memorial of thanksgiving to God. Practice inviting the presence of God into your home, and help grow your family tree strong by trusting God every week. We love imagining the generations of family prayer that have gone before us, buoying us up out of our circumstances to get a better view of the bright days ahead! •

3 views0 comments


bottom of page