“Why are you doing that? Stop! Stop! STOP!” I was out of control. I screamed so loud my throat hurt.
He was just being two. My son had gotten out all the cereal boxes and dumped them out onto the floor. When I started yelling for him to stop, he began stuffing all the cereal into his mouth.
I wasn’t actually mad at him. He needed direction. I was just stressed! Overwhelmed with the baby, stressed about my messy home, worried about a deadline at work I’d missed, frustrated at myself for answering an email, and knowing full well that this situation could have been avoided if I had been more present.
Immediately the familiar feeling of guilt and shame washed over me. The pit began forming in my stomach and the hot tears began to well up.
Often when we react to our kids like that, it has more to do with a lack of peace than anything else.
God is a God of order, peace, and rest. He wants to be our peace. We don’t have to conjure it on our own. We don’t have to be perfect to obtain it; in fact, it’s because of our imperfections that we really need God’s peace.
Psalm 121:1-2 says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
God is our peace. He is our help.
God has used these words from Scripture to speak to the depth of my soul and to bring me His peace.
I would be lying if I told you that our home is peaceful all the time. Like I said, I’ve had entire boxes of cereal poured out on my kitchen floor. Once, my youngest two kids decided to dump copious amounts of confetti all over the carpet. My toddler has accidentally called 911 on more than one occasion, causing police officers to pay us a visit. Red food coloring has been squirted across our white cabinets during a science experiment. And I’ve never ever been caught up on my laundry.
What are the things that cause you to lack peace in your heart and in your home? Is it the mounds of laundry? Is it that you aren’t getting any free time for yourself . . . ever? Maybe it’s trying to be the “perfect mom” and/or the “perfect wife,” and you find yourself realizing that you never seem to hit your (unrealistic) mark. The thing I am asking God to help me realize is that he understands all of this and he wants me to let go of control and perfection in my role and instead operate in God’s peace that is freely offered and given.
Philippians 4:5-7 promises that God is close to us. He is with us in our worries. He wants us to pray about everything. He wants to use our anxiety, fear, and overwhelm to bring us closer to him.
Did you know the word prayer has been one of the most-searched words on Google over the past few years? Deep down, we know that prayer is the answer to our fears. In our book, Raising Prayerful Kids, we dive deeper into the research behind prayer and the incredible impact it can have on our kids and families!
5 Ways to Bring Peace to Your Home through Prayer:
#1. Cry Out to God
Cry out to Jesus all day long. Let your kids hear you asking him for help, patience, and wisdom. You are modeling for them what it is to need Jesus. Thank him when you see something beautiful, taste something delicious, or receive an answer to prayer. Ask him to bring comfort when one of you is hurting.
When you are in the habit of crying out to Jesus, your kids will notice. They will learn that even grown-ups need Jesus—and that you ask him to help you parent them.
My kids even know there are many things I am working on with God. They hear me say I am sorry over and over again. They watch my husband and me apologize to one another in front of them because we want them to see how conflict can be resolved through apologies and forgiveness. And you know what the best part is? I am watching them run to Jesus too. I am hearing them say things like, “Holy Spirit, give me peace” or “Jesus, please help. I am so mad right now!” As we learn to ask him for peace and receive his peace, our kids will learn to do the same.
#2. Practice Breath Prayers
Breath prayers will bring peace to you and to your kids! The next time you are struggling with a lack of peace, try a breath prayer. Breathe in slowly through your nose and say, “Jesus.” Exhale slowly through your mouth and say, “Please help me.” Or you might try: “Jesus, show me what to do!” He is ready to love you and care for you with open arms.
Breath prayers are great for you to use throughout the day in front of your children. When they hear you call on Jesus for help, you are modeling your faith for them.
Teach your kids to say short breath prayers too. This is a great way to calm tension and to stop a tantrum in its tracks. This kind of prayer is a tool you can give them that they can use anytime, anywhere.
#3. Practice Listening
What do you feel afraid of right now? What do you feel guilty about? What is causing you a lack of peace? What are you sad or angry about? Jesus wants to fight for you and handle it for you.
Think about what that fear or worry is, and just spend some time telling him about it. You might choose to get out your journal and make a giant list of the things that are causing you anxiety. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about what’s on the list. Maybe he will help you cross some things off the list. And maybe you’ll receive insight into the issues you need to ask someone for help with. The more we practice being quiet with God, the more we hear him.
It’s the same with kids. Kids share what’s on their hearts when you slow down and take the time to notice and look into their eyes and ask them how they’re feeling. Most kids don’t voluntarily share their worries or fears or the things that make them sad. They need to be asked and listened to.
Get good at asking questions and listening. Ask your kids if they know how much you love them. Speak truth over them. Share what you love most about them and some special things you’ve noticed about them.
Ask God to show you how much he loves you and to show your kids how much he loves them. The greatest remedy for anxiety is to focus on his love that drives out all fear, as 1 John 4:18 promises.
It took our family years to get in the rhythm of practicing Sabbath. God finally convicted us to slow down and rest for a full 24 hours each week. Now that we do, it has brought us immeasurable peace. In our family, Sabbath starts on Friday nights. We turn off our phones, light candles, and eat a nice meal together. We usually have a delicious dessert while we share about our weeks. We talk about what was hard, what was great, and where we saw God working. We praise him for it all.
On Saturday, we spend time together as a family, and I practice really living. I laugh at my kids’ jokes. I give my husband a kiss in the middle of the day for no reason. I listen to what my kids say. If I read a book out loud to my kids, I actually pay attention to the words instead of trying to multitask by solving all of life’s problems. I savor this beautiful life that I’m in and take deep breaths. It is my favorite day of the week.
Find a time to rest each week. This will be uncomfortable at first, but so is every new thing we learn to do. Spend your day of rest ditching your normal to-do list and being more aware of the unseen moments. Look for opportunities to pray and moments to speak truth over your kids.
#5. Praise Party
In our family, we frequently turn on the tunes and praise God with our bodies. This is a fun, bonding, silly way to connect with one another while we connect with God. Dancing, singing, shouting out something we’re really thankful for, clapping for God—it’s all prayer! It reminds me to let go of the urgency, to slow down, to savor my kids, and to praise God for who he is.
So I might have Cheerios all over the floor, and I definitely have to say sorry a lot, but, by the grace of God, we have peace in our home! Peace comes when we make our home a house of prayer.
Sarah Holmstrom is cofounder of Raising Prayerful Kids, a ministry that equips parents to pray with their kids in meaningful ways. She has her master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University and has taught elementary school and worked in kids’ ministry for most of her adult life. She currently works part-time as the elementary creative director at her church.