How To Keep Children Engaged During Prayer?
Created by Mohit Sawhney Updated on Jan 16, 2016
I recently watched a video which showed how growing children end up being in awkward situations in front of their parents. This video shows a teenage boy and his mother praying together. Mother was singing Om Jay Jagdeesh Gaare, a popular Hindu prayer. She held a tray (‘Puja Ki Thaali‘) in her hands. This tray had a candle light (‘diya’), incense sticks and sweets as offering to the God. After a while the mother starts to look for a matchbox to light the candle. Seeing that, her son, inadvertently, takes out a cigarette lighter from his pocket and starts lighting the candle. Only when he has already done that does he realize his mistake. It’s a funny video but we’ve all been there and done that in our own growing up years, haven’t we? The boy was supposedly praying but he was not present in the moment. He was probably thinking about something more enticing, a fag may be? But why? As a small child, I used to go to Arya Samaj with my parents or grandparents. The practice there was to read out prayers in Sanskrit and making offerings into a consecrated fire. I never quite got it. Why did we have to speak to God in a coded language? Couldn’t He understand if he was spoken to in simple plain language… one which both He and I could understand at the same time? Why didn’t anyway make any efforts in translating the Sanskrit into plain Hindi or English for me? I am sure I would have asked my Grandma and Mom but I didn’t get a satisfactory answer. I continued going there just because my Grandparents did so and I thought one day I would understand. Well, I never did! Actually, one day I got disconnected from all this. It was so not worth it. I had lost trust in the God who couldn’t understand me and my simple words. In fact, he should have been the one to understand even without me speaking anything! But here we were, speaking Greek (Ok, Sanskrit) for hours, and putting clear butter (‘ghee’) into the Holi fire. All that really happened was that the coded language brought me boredom leading me to fall sleep. But no, I couldn’t even sleep because the holi smoke would bring a lot of tears to my eyes. At one time, I thought all this slogging and toil was the pathway to reach the God.. to make Him happy! Perhaps, that is what our Vedas expected us to do. Over time, I just stopped myself from all the pain which have me Zero satisfaction or peace. I stopped going to the religious place where my ancestors so religiously went. Sorry about that you guys up there. But I tried! I keep prayers simple for my children. My kids know that God listens to children faster because they have just come down from up there where He lives. My children pray in simple words and ask for simple things: They pray so that God helps them be good kids. They pray to strengthen their good wolves (eveyone has a good and a bad wolf inside, you know!). They pray so that their Grandpa and their Aunt who are sick, become well soon. Sohana, my 3 year old daughter, often reminds me of ‘Prayer time’. Both my kids, Tanav who is 7 and Sohana, love lighting the candle and the incense sticks. I’m sure they don’t know how that helps. But they know what their prayers mean and look forward to it this ritual every day. I guess over generations, we are becoming more saner. Question: Assuming you pray together as a family, how do you keep your children engaged with God when you pray?