Titus Two Encouragement for a Young Mother – Part 2

Last month I began answering questions posed to me by a mom with two small children. Her desire is to have many children and the energy to keep up with them all. At the age of fifty-one with eight children, three of whom are now adults age twenty-five and older, I can relate to her thoughts and concerns. I asked her permission to use her letter and answer her questions in these Mom’s Corners. As a reminder, here is the information she gave me with her questions:

“I have just two children. They are both very young, and I am very tired. I would love for our family to keep growing, and I dream of having LOTS of children, but I am worried about how I’m going to find the energy to keep up with everyone. I am having a hard time with my energy levels now. I do take naps nearly everyday. I am naturally a night owl, but would LOVE to be an early riser. I really need to get up earlier than everyone to get everything done in the day. But it seems hopeless to be able to do so. Do young children really take so much energy out of you like people say? I don’t like that excuse for being tired, but the daily chores of changing two diapers, changing two outfits, feeding two extra people, brushing mine and their teeth, and finally finishing about the time a snack or lunch is needed seems like it zaps my energy. Being overwhelmed when you are tired only makes things harder. I need some encouragement from those who have had their children close together, and any advice on how to keep myself healthy while having children and managing them.” A young mom (used with permission)

While I see waiting on the Lord as ultimately the most important aspect of gaining energy for being home with and raising little children, I also highly endorse the use of a daily schedule. Looking back on my days with little children, I realize what a bountiful blessing my schedule was. It gave direction for both my time and my children’s time. I had a concrete plan for the day—to accomplish the tasks I needed to do and to productively spend time with the children. The schedule became the framework for helping me receive more children into my family. The schedule gave me time to teach my children how to do their chores and become responsible. It helped me with my priorities for my time with my children such as reading to them, playing with them, doing preschool activities, and working with them.

I would encourage this mom that even though she is a night owl, she should get to bed at night early enough that she can wake up in the morning before the children. Her time in the Word is imperative to the daily preparation of her heart for her hours of mothering and homemaking. When we change habits, it takes prayer, effort, and determination. Upon choosing to begin going to bed at a reasonable time, one might lie in bed the first few nights unable to get to sleep. However, if we stay the course of going to bed and getting up at the determined times, we will soon find ourselves ready to go to sleep at the earlier bedtime.

I believe a schedule could be the key to finding solutions for the issues with which this young mom is struggling, beginning with her time in the Word. Working with the schedule, we can find the needed bedtime for our children so that we are waking them up when we want them to wake up in the morning—a time that is just after we have our personal Bible and prayer time. The schedule helps Mom, working with her husband, to find the proper time to go to bed each night so that she can arise in the morning to spend time with the Lord Jesus. It can also enable her to accomplish other early morning tasks she might want to do, such as making her husband’s lunch or exercising before he goes to work.

The schedule can ensure that a mom is receiving an adequate amount of sleep. Here is a link to a Mom’s Corner I wrote on the topic of sleep. If she is getting a good night’s sleep, has a nap in the afternoon, and is still tired during the day, she would probably want to seek medical attention to determine whether there is something causing her excessive tiredness such as a thyroid problem or other treatable medical condition. A day with busy children and toddlers does take energy, but shouldn’t, as this mom is indicating, cause her to be “very tired” and “zap my energy.”

Sometimes young mothers neglect a healthy diet and therefore undermine what would be of great benefit to them: to have the energy they need for their active and growing families. The time investment in preparing nutritious food will pay dividends in the family’s overall health and in developing good eating habits in the children. From the time my children were about two years of age, I began including them as meal preparation and cleanup helpers. When they were young, they were little real help, but they were productively occupied, learning new skills, and fellowshipping with Mommy. As they grew older, some of my time pressures were relieved because the children were able to do much of the kitchen work, reducing the amount of meal jobs that I had to accomplish.

Weather permitting, when the children were young, I always took them for a walk. That way I was getting exercise, and they were burning off some of their abundant energy. The walking was good for my health and the children’s as well. The mom who was asking these questions had also indicated to me that she wouldn’t feel safe walking in her neighborhood. In that case, if she has transportation, she could drive to a safer neighborhood.

Praying with Your Wife

The title and content of this Dad’s Corner was suggested by a dad in an e-mail in which he writes:

“In the January 2007 Dad’s Corner, you mention praying with your wife is so important. You were very clear on the importance of prayer time (the ‘Why’) but my question is more the ‘How.’ I have always been unsure what this means. You did give some hinting that it is ‘conversational’ for you, which is the first inkling of understanding of what it means ‘to pray’ with your wife. I have always heard people say they pray with their wives yet no one has really explained it. I would like to pray with her, but don’t know how. My ideas of prayer and hers are vastly different. She would be on her knees, possibly, and I would be rather inclined to have a conversational approach discussing the day, the children, herself, etc. Does punctuating the conversation with ‘In Jesus’ Name’ classify the conversation as a prayer time?

“It would be so helpful for me, and maybe others, who are unsure of how to start a prayer time with their spouse, to gain some insight into what specifically IS prayer time. I did not grow up with parents or a church or anyone to teach me these things, and so I am now 38 years old, married eight years with three children, and playing catch-up with the feeling of wondering and guessing and trying to decipher what it all means from a practical, applicational approach. Praying with your wife 101, if you will.” A Wanting-to-Pray Dad

I appreciate this dad! Whewwww! How the “church” and families would be strengthened if our country was filled with men like this, who are committed to following Christ, even if they need a little help. The implication in the e-mail is that if he understands how to pray with his wife, he will do it. Amen. I will make my best effort to explain what praying with one’s wife is to me, although I’m confident there are many others who are far better suited to share what they do. I ask that you give me some grace in this as there can be as many different approaches to this as there are men reading this Corner. I am not saying this is the only way to pray with your wife, but I am sharing how Teri and I pray together.

Back in the 80s, Teri and I read a book on marriage that suggested husbands and wives pray together. If we remembered the name of the book and the author, we would tell you in order to give proper credit. I can’t even say that how we pray now is how the author suggested since it is likely we adapted their ideas to the way we wanted to implement them. The fact that we have been praying together for over twenty years has been a wonderful blessing from the Lord. It has enriched and strengthened our marriage due to bringing our spirits closer to our Lord Jesus and to each other.

First, it is a high priority of mine to be in bed before 10:30 p.m. on weekdays. I know that if I’m not getting enough sleep, my morning time in the Word will suffer. Therefore, I have to get to bed early enough to get the sleep I need. That is a wonderful thing about not having a TV. The world is not luring me into staying up late to watch shows that poison my soul and might take me away from my prayer time with Teri. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

It is important to take the needs of your wife into consideration as well. When should she get to sleep? Treat her bedtime as a higher priority than yours. If there are little children that Mom is up with during the night, she may require an earlier bedtime than you would have normally. If so, I would encourage you to see this as an opportunity to show your love for her and choose a consistent, early-enough bedtime to meet her sleep needs. If that means you will wake up early in the morning, great. Get up, have your time in the Word, and then do whatever else you would have done at night. Having a consistent bedtime is very important to having evening prayer time with your wife and having your own personal Bible reading in the morning. You will also fall asleep more quickly because your body is “tuned” to that being the time for sleep.

What if a dad says he doesn’t like to be “restricted” to a consistent bedtime? I would encourage him that his priorities are wrong and should be adjusted. Frankly, from my observation, many dads are dictators and are only thinking about themselves. Just one verse would help us to remember what God’s command is for us: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). If our focus is on loving our wives as Christ loved the church, consistent bedtimes should not be considered suffering in the slightest. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). God is very serious about husbands needing to honor their wives, and we would do well to honor them.

Once there is consistency in getting to bed, a husband is on track for being successful in praying with his wife. If you can’t get to bed at the same time every night, I believe you will struggle with having a husband-and-wife prayer time.

The dad who wrote with this Corner request mentioned he and his wife differed on their idea of prayer. Since his wife was most comfortable kneeling to pray, he couldn’t go wrong by doing it that way. I would consider kneeling to be more reverential in coming before the God of creation; therefore, I would encourage him to go with her preference. If you find that you are inconsistent because one of you is already in bed and reluctant to get out and kneel, then you might try what we do.

Once the lights are out and the alarm is set (if you get up at the same time every morning, you won’t even need to check the alarm), it would be good to pray before someone starts falling asleep. The temptation is to talk and discuss the day, which is a good thing, but realize it is better to first speak to your Lord. The longer you wait to pray after the light is out, the more likely someone is going to fall asleep. If that is a consistent challenge, then I would encourage you to leave the light on until after you have finished praying. Very likely, kneeling beside the bed would also help someone from falling asleep.

I always begin our prayer time, and it is similar to how I would pray if I was alone. However, I will pray one topic at a time and then stop to give Teri an opportunity to pray. This is what I call conversational prayer. We are each taking turns praying.

For example, I usually start praying by praising God and thanking Him for His blessing. I normally pray for fifteen to sixty seconds on each of my prayer turns. Rarely, if something is really heavy on my heart, I pray longer, up to several minutes. That is generally the maximum because during this time it is important that we both stay attentive to each other’s prayers. On some subjects I only pray three or four sentences. These would be topics that I want to mention, but I don’t have much to pray about concerning them.

On Teri’s turns to pray, she may pray about the same topic I have prayed about or whatever else comes to her mind. How long she prays could be as short as a few sentences to sixty seconds as well. We will continue to pray like this, alternating back and forth for awhile. Imagine a conversation between two people: normally, each person takes turns speaking, with no one monopolizing it by talking a long time. In this case, we are taking turns speaking to the Lord Jesus, out loud, so we can hear the other’s prayers.

Sometimes, if we are quite tired and falling asleep, then the total prayer time will be shorter. If Teri is very tired and falling asleep, then I will be the one to pray out loud until I have nothing more to pray. Since we don’t look at the clock, it is difficult to say how long we pray, so I can only take a guess that our prayer times range from less than five minutes to ten or fifteen. When one of us is finished praying, he or she says, “In Jesus’ Name,” and the other one finishes praying, closing with “Amen.”

Of course praying together doesn’t preclude praying longer individually after saying “goodnight.” What is most important is that you find a way and a length of time that feels comfortable for you and your wife and that you pray together every night.

Aside from taping one of our prayer times and putting it on the website, this should give a good idea of how Teri and I have prayed together for years. I pray our example will help other parents to begin praying together. It is such a blessing; don’t miss out on it.