Help Your Young Ones to Be Close to God
WITH fewer than a thousand words, the Bible writers describe the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. But with tens of thousands of words, they report on the last three and a half years. This is because Jesus Christ’s public ministry—not his birth, childhood and young manhood—was the dominant subject of the Gospel accounts. Nevertheless, the Bible’s brief references to Jesus’ earlier years do make it apparent that even young ones can be close to God.
When we open our Bibles to chapter 2 of Luke’s account, we find 12-year-old Jesus at the temple, “sitting in the midst of the teachers” of God’s law. He was “listening to them and questioning them” but was also astounding them with “his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46, 47) Moreover, we read that as he grew physically he also increased in wisdom and understanding.—Luke 2:40, 52.
How can we account for Jesus’ having this spiritual inclination? At least some of the credit must go to his parents. As Jews, they were under obligation to follow Jehovah’s counsel on child rearing. God’s prophet Moses had said: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Doubtless, God saw to it that his Son was placed in a family that would carry out this counsel. Parents today should show the same interest in their children. Are you helping them to know Jehovah and to want to serve him?
Spiritual training is not something that can properly be put off until children get older. Timothy, for example, grew up to be an outstanding Christian. But he had been instructed in the Holy Scriptures “from infancy.” (2 Timothy 3:15) In harmony with this, some Christian mothers have been observed asking Jehovah’s blessing aloud before giving their babies their bottle. No wonder these infants are soon saying “amen” at the close of such prayers! This is a small first step in helping them to develop appreciation for all the spiritual and material gifts that they receive from God.
Michael and Sephorah (seven and eight years old respectively) showed the results of fine parental training. Once, when they and their parents went on a trip, they took the initiative in asking God for guidance and protection. And at their destination the children remembered to thank Jehovah for a safe arrival.
Christian and Eric (three and six years old) were out in a park with their parents. As sometimes happens with little ones, they got lost. When did the parents find them? Just as the little boys had prayed to Jehovah to help them!
Many forms of training can be given successfully while children are quite young. At a large Christian assembly in Belgium, three-year-old Gino was brought to the platform and seated upon a high stool. The speaker asked him to recite to the audience the names of all 66 books of the Bible. Can you do this? Well, Gino could! He continued thriving under his parents’ training and today serves as a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of course, not all children have the same abilities to learn, but this does illustrate the benefit of giving them spiritual instruction.
Young children can even be given a grasp of Bible doctrines. At a nursery school in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, four-year-old Kai refused to pray along with the other children. When asked why, he replied: “We do not believe in a three-cornered god!” Now Kai’s conception of the Catholic triune deity may not have been completely accurate, but it was sufficient for him to know that he should not pray to it!—Mark 12:29.
Making God a Part of Their Lives
Children at times have problems. Rather than keeping these to themselves, they should confide in their parents. But the children should also be encouraged to ‘throw their burden upon Jehovah.’ (Psalm 55:22) They can be helped to appreciate that Jehovah will not treat their requests with disdain, for his Son, Jesus Christ, said: “Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them.” (Mark 10:14) And children should be taught to pray to God through Jesus Christ.—John 14:6.
When children learn to depend upon Jehovah for help and see the results of doing so, this often has dramatic effects upon their faith. Jacquy, a young man now serving at one of the Watch Tower Society’s branch offices, says of an experience that took place when he was 14 years old: “That year our circuit assembly was scheduled the weekend before final examinations. The problem was that our teacher did not give us the material for review until Friday. After talking the matter over with my parents, we decided that I should not miss the assembly program, even though it meant I would have very little time to study. [Hebrews 10:24, 25] I prayed to Jehovah to help me in my efforts to prepare as best I could for the examinations.
“Came Monday morning, and all the students were very nervous because, for the first time, the examinations were oral. I again prayed for Jehovah to be with me. What happened? I received the highest grades of any of the students for the subjects dealt with that day. One teacher from the jury even questioned me further, remarking, ‘I want to see just how far he can go.’ Yet I could answer his questions.”
What did Jacquy learn from this fine outcome? “Experiencing Jehovah’s help brought me still closer to him. I learned that we should not be anxious about anything but should turn to Jehovah God with every form of prayer and supplication.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Yes, it is important that we help our young ones to “know” Jehovah, to make him a part of their daily lives. When they perceive that Jehovah is with them in their dealings, will they not have much greater incentive to continue serving him faithfully than they would have from only hearing and reading about him? Training them in this way, of course, will not be easy. But young ones will not quickly forget the enthusiasm and conscientiousness with which their parents pass their spiritual inheritance of knowledge of Jehovah on to them. Neither will Jehovah forget such faithful efforts. (Hebrews 6:10-12) May those of us who are parents therefore work toward helping our young ones achieve the reward that our heavenly Father holds out for those who know him and are known by him—“everlasting life.”—John 17:3.
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Words That Warm the Heart
HER father asked eight-year-old Debora: “Do you pray to Jehovah?” Her answer: “Yes, much.” “When?” “When I am alone.” “Why then?” “So that nobody bothers me!”
A mother asked six-year-old Laurent: “Do you want me to leave the light on in your room tonight?” (Laurent was afraid of the dark and had been told to pray to Jehovah about it.) “No, I am not afraid anymore because Jehovah is with me.”
A girl of six years said in prayer: “Thank you, Jehovah, for the hope of a resurrection. It is a very good idea!” In another prayer, she said: “You will have a lot to do here in our country when we are in Paradise, Jehovah, because it rains here so terribly much.”
Three-year-old Udo prayed: “Please, Jehovah God, get my father to read the Bible so that he will not die at Armageddon!” The door of the boy’s bedroom was open, and his father heard the prayer. That broke down his last resistance to the truth, and today he is a faithful servant of Jehovah.