One of the challenges of being a missionary, living an ocean away from friends and family, is staying ‘connected’ to them. Thanks to modern technology , we now have ‘skype’ and ‘facetime’ to help stay in contact with those far away. But no thanks, to the minimum five-hour time difference, chatting with folks back home can get tricky. One of my friends was getting up at 5 a.m. once a week just so we could ‘skype.’
Living in Northern Ireland means that we are five hours ahead of our family on the East Coast. Needless to say, my children are rarely around or awake when I get a moment to talk to someone from back home.
I was becoming aware that my kids were losing their connection to our friends and family back home. I was not sure what to do, so I asked Jesus to give me a good idea.
It occurred to me, as I was asking God to give me an idea, that prayer helps us stay connected . Not only does it help us stay connected to God, but it helps us stay connected to others.
The Apostle Paul points this out to us in Philippians 1: 2-3 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy…”
Our relationship and affection for others is strengthened when we pray for them.
Through this realization, I decided the best way for my kids to stay connected to friends and family far away, was to help instill in them a habit of prayer for others.
Hence, the prayer board idea. So…I bought two small canvases for £1 each. Then I took the morning and printed up several photos of family and friends from back in the States. While drinking a delicious hot chocolate (it’s always key to pamper yourself while doing the ‘prep’ work), I cut out each picture and carefully laid them out on our kitchen table.
When my two little ones came home from their adventure in the park, I gave them each a paintbrush and some paint. I invited them to paint their canvases. Silas, my six year old, chose to paint his canvas entirely black. I decided to not read into his color choice too much. Perhaps, he thought black would be slimming. My four-year-old daughter, Olive, chose to paint her canvas purple and black – leaving a bit of white for dramatic effect.
I explained to them that we were making ‘prayer boards’ and that I wanted them to pick some pictures of our family and friends to paste on their board. These would be the folks we would pray for on a regular basis throughout the month of January. My kids love to glue things – so it didn’t take too much convincing. For the finishing touches, they each decorated their boards with stickers after they pasted the pictures on.
It was interesting to watch them pick who they would pray for.
They both chose family members…grandparents…aunts…uncles…and cousins. They also chose some friends from back home that they remembered. Olive picked up one picture of a family who she didn’t recognize and said, “They look fun,” and pasted them onto her board.
Every morning I put out the prayer boards on our kitchen table. While eating breakfast or getting ready, I try to talk to the kids about the folks on the boards. Some mornings we are rushed, so I don’t always get the opportunity.
Before they leave for school, I ask them to pick one person/family from their board they want to pray for. Sometimes, they will want to pray for two or three and I let them. I don’t tell them what they should pray for. I let their little hearts decide. It’s always very entertaining to hear them pray. One of the pictures is of a little girl who has red hair. Olive prayed, “Jesus, thanks for her red hair. Amen.” Who knows? Perhaps her prayer was more profound then we realize.
I have found that this silly little idea of ‘prayer boards’ has been effective.
Silas, our son, has a significant speech impairment. Visual aids are incredibly helpful to him. Having a board with pictures of people he wants to pray for has eliminated a lot of the potential frustration that comes with praying out loud. He is able to point to who he wants to pray for and I give him a cue, saying that person or family’s name. He is able to repeat it and then pray to Jesus in his own way.
Olive, our four-year-old daughter, has been asking me a lot of questions about the people on the board. We moved to Northern Ireland when she was 18 months old. For all intents and purposes, Northern Ireland is home to her. She doesn’t remember people from ‘back home.’
The prayer board has been a conversation starter and a great way to tell stories and memories of those we love from far away.
The boards themselves are nothing fancy. You could apply the same concept to poster board, cardboard, or even a piece of paper. The real key is staying consistent with it, which is much easier said then done. The more we make it a regular practice to pray for those far away, the more it becomes a habit. We remember these people more often, because they are the headlines of our prayers. Because we are talking about them to Jesus, it’s only natural that we become concerned for and about them.
This has been a wonderful lesson to me that prayer helps us stay connected to others.
I am tempted to make my own prayer board for the month of February. Heehee…
How do you stay in touch with friends and relatives who might be far away? Do you pray with your kids?
Noelle is married to her best friend, Troy, and 'mama' to two of the most hilarious human beings to exist: Silas and Olive Pearl. She and her family reside in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as missionaries. When she is not wrangling her children or beating her husband in a game of Scrabble, you would probably find her doing laundry. Noelle blogs at Coffee with Noelle