Faith of our Children: A Siren Call to Prayer

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What do you do when you hear a siren?

Do you hope your loved ones aren’t involved?

Do you wonder what’s going on?

Does fear clutch your heart?

(If all of the above, by the way, you’re probably female, and live in a small town.)

Do you not even notice a siren because they’re just a part of the tapestry of your city?

My kids start to pray.

And that impacts my faith life each time.

Ever since I was in college and teaching Vacation Bible School, through my time as a Catholic school teacher and now as a mother (the primary teacher of the faith for THREE!), I’ve taught my students and children to pray when an emergency vehicle’s siren sounds. When we hear a siren, we pray either a simple Hail Mary or a short prayer like, “Lord, please help those who are sick or in trouble and the people going to help them.”

My oldest son, a creature of habit through and through, picked up on the routine at a very early age. I feel like he hasn’t missed a siren since he was two years old. Imagine the surprise of people we’re with when the little squirt, not even able to reach the sink to wash his own hands, out of the blue begins the Sign of the Cross and a Hail Mary. I’ve often had to explain what’s going on.

But you know what?

There are some lessons for us adults there.

1. Quit Being Afraid to Show Your Faith in Public

My son (and now my 3-year-old daughter, who has learned as much from her big brother as she has from me) has never worried about who’s listening when he hears a siren. He doesn’t pray quietly under his breath so he doesn’t offend anyone or get a weird look.

He just prays when it’s time.

If anything, he’ll tell other people what they should be doing.

The same thing happens in restaurants at mealtime.

Since I became an adult, I’ve always prayed before every meal. In group settings and restaurants, however, I would usually do the itty-bitty-mini-sign-of-the-cross – if you’re Catholic, you know the one I mean. It looks a little more like you’ve dropped your napkin and are glancing down to find it while scratching your head than an opening to prayer.

Now that I have kids, it’s nothing for a whole table of six or eight of us to pray in a restaurant, out loud in unison, led by the kids. If we forget or let it slide, one of them will remember. When the kids even pray before their plastic food meals in pretend play world, certainly they’re not going to forget the habit of prayer at a real meal.

I’m sure many a person has noticed when we’re out. How many have been inspired in their own faith to see the faith of the children?

2. Pray Always, Obediently

The uber-consistency of the habit of prayer is another lesson to learn.

My kids pray for others and their meals because we’ve taught them to.

They don’t question why we do it.

They don’t ask if it’s really necessary.

They don’t doubt that it will actually work.

They just pray. Because they ought to. And because they believe, quite simply, that it’s important.

Shouldn’t we all be so obedient to God our Father, who tells us to pray constantly and trust in Him?

Even the Baby…

Although Baby Jonathan is only five days old, he’s already impacted the faith of our family.

I of course had the opportunity to offer up my labor, which caused me to pray more consistently and fervently than I have in a long time, reestablishing the habit of moving prayer I used to do so well with.

And when he and I were still in the hospital, my husband tells me, little Leah quite out of nowhere decided she wanted to pray for Mommy and Baby John. She initiated, she led the prayer, and we all benefited.

Let us pray today with St. Therese of Liseux that we may be more childlike in our faith, with courage and abandonment, loving trust in the Father, obedient prayer, and a simple gaze toward Heaven when things go wrong.

How has having children affected your faith? (or how do you expect it to?)

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14 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    My mom taught all 7 of us to pray at the sound of a siren–and I think most of us still do, maybe all? I, too, have taught this to my 4. Isn’t it just one of those great parent-moments when you see them do this without being prompted? :o)

  2. says

    yes, yes, yes! Our children have a boldness that we too often lack. Lack of fear of what people think, an instinct that prayer is what is needed in the moment. I was so surprised when I talked to my sons about a fish that died, and my 2 year old son said, Let’s talk to God about Nemo (fish’s name). I was moved so deeply… I would not have thought to pray with them about Nemo. “and a little child shall lead them.” Enjoy your site more and more, thanks for all you do!

  3. lizi says

    when my daughter was barely one, she had this habit of dipping her hand in water and dabbing anyone or thing nearby on the head with it whilst babbling. i didn’t really think much of it, until she was about 18 months old and i discerned her saying “holy of Christ” clearly and making a more obvious sign of the cross on herself or whomever when she would “bless” them with waters. she did it at dinner, with the dog’s water, in the tub or at the pool, anywhere….we thought it was sooooo adorable that she picked that up from such an early age; she really soaks up our faith habits and i hope her baby brother will too. it reminds me that children are always watching and thank goodness they pick up the good habits too!! thanks for your post i will try even harder to model these values in my family, for all the world to see :)

  4. Amy says

    We always prayed at home before meals, not out in public though. My children changed that. We pray every time we eat in public now. It is amazing how many people come up to us and thank us for doing so.

  5. Tammy says

    We also pray for any siren… and my kids will stop playmates for a second to pray when a siren is heard from the nearby freeway. And our 5 year old was invited across the street for a meal.. and when my friend brought her home, she told me that E had asked “whose day for grace today?”, and when the host family looked very confused.. my preschooler covered for them “oh, you can’t remember? It’s no big deal, I can pray for us all, fold your hands, please…” :)

  6. says

    Thank you for this post. I think we often forget to pray, really pray, a lot!! I grew up catholic and am now Lutheran (still make that sign of the cross!! :) And find that teaching my kids to be open about their faith without them even realizing they are is one of my huge goals!! We always pray before a meal, even at the restaurants….its always great when my son picks is favorite prayer….Johnny Appleseed (which of course has to be sung!!) I like spreading that faith around!! :) Makes me smile!

  7. says

    we always pray for sirens, too. for those in need and those who are helping. our old dog would howl with the sirens, so we would pray for him too. love your site! just came across it!

  8. says

    I started praying at sirens when my son was an infant and I saw a toddler boy and his mom cry out, “There go the helpers!” and wave excitedly at the emergency vehicle–that started me thinking about the helpers, which naturally led to prayer. We live in the city and typically hear several sirens a day. My son does not pray for every one but usually will at least say, “Helpers!” and look out the window to see what kind of help is on the way.

    He just started first grade, which triggered my memories of my own first grade. It was the one year I went to Catholic school (for academic reasons; my parents are Unitarian) where I had my first exposure to many Christian ideas. My teacher sang a “repeat after me” version of “This Is the Day That the Lord Has Made” with us each morning–so I introduced this to my son as a new tradition for our walk to school each morning. I like the way it’s putting ME into a more faithful and joyful frame of mind!

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