What's your child's bedtime routine? If its anything like ours its often rushed, with tired parents and wild children. After baths are had, pajamas are on and teeth are brushed, our children can have 1 story (a picture book, a library book or a chapter of a longer book) and 1 Bible story read to them. We used to do this all together, but now we do each child separately with slightly staggered bedtimes- as their interests are diverse and it keeps it calmer and allows for more connection.
We've used a number of Bibles through the years (The Lift the Flap Bible, The Beginners Bible, The See with Me Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible, My Picture Bible, The Storyteller Bible, The Action Bible). But you don't need a children's bible. My dad used to read to us straight out of the Good News bible, and he would ham it up with funny voices and dramatic explanations). The variety suits the children as their ages and interests change, and also keeps us as parents engaged. Sometimes the children are fascinated, and engaged; sometimes they are not. I've never been phased by that. Sometimes they are excited to brush their teeth- sometimes not. That doesn't mean they don't brush them that night. There are times when I can feel a bit flat when I read scripture, but the discipline means that I still do it regularly and keep connecting and the next time I usually do feel more connection and revelation. (I don't force the stories. If they say they don't want a story, they don't have to have one, but its only 1 of each, so they can't have 2 new picture books instead of a bible story.) One child may go through a phase of wanting the same Bible story night after night (Jonah and the whale, or Jesus' Crucifixion story). I don't worry about this. I think this is very normal child behaviour. It's how they learn and process new things- through repetition, and obsession (particularly when aged 2-4). Although I usually ended up reading the resurrection story too, as I didn't like leaving the story with Jesus on the cross.
Then I pray over the child, usually I say "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace. (and give you a good night's sleep) Amen." Its taken from Numbers 6:24-26, and its what God told the priests to pray over Israel. Its what my Dad prayed over me every night, and I have it memorized - although I did have it written on a card over their bed when they were small. I love it because it allows me to simply release blessing, grace and intimate connection with their loving Father God who is smiling and always turned towards them. Sometimes I sing those same words over them. There is a song by Michael Card with those words that I love. I do it often enough that they know it by heart to and I hear my daughter singing the blessing song over her dolls as she puts them to bed.
Sometimes I pray other declarations or verses over each child, that feel pertinent in that season or that particular day. I've recently turned some well crafted declarations that I've written, found or borrowed into posters which hang in the children's rooms, and I often read these out as I pray for them. Its very powerful to see the children absorbing and receiving the words of truth about who they are, whose they are, and knowing their value and their security in Christ. I read about one mum who made the declarations part of her morning routine, speaking them over her sons as they went out the door to school. They would get a kiss from mum and have truth declared over them as they started their day.
You need to know, we're not perfect! Sometimes we forget. Sometimes its a rush and our hearts not in it and it can be more functional as part of a nightly routine, but because we've made it a routine, we've factored in space for praying together and talking about the Bible together at bedtime. So the children know the routine, and they hold us to it. They ask for Bible Stories (or more than one!), and to be prayed over and with, for me to sing over them, and for me to read out their poster over them.
I love Rachel Turner's ideas on prompting children to chat to Jesus about their day, so all the praying isn't just coming from the adult, and the child is passive in it. This is brilliant but requires a bit more time, so sometimes this gets squeezed if I've got to go out for the evening, still my kids know how to draw me into the most amazing theology conversations or prayer times just at bedtime!
My husband encourages the children to pray for different people around the world, friends, family, missionaries, world situations, and the children like to pick a country on the map to pray for. I think it's so important for our children to get a window into our prayer life- to hear us pray (so we're going to have to do it out loud with our children, or they won't know we're doing it. We just have to go for it, even if it feels a bit awkward at first): interceding for situations, releasing blessing, thanking God, and simply worshiping in such a way that brings an atmosphere of peace and the presence of God in their bedroom. That's how they experience the power of prayer, and will take hold of it for themselves.
Inspired?: What Bible reading or praying could you incorporate into your child's bedtime routine? If you're already doing some of this, could you add in some declarations (here are some images with some of ours) or other prayer ideas from time to time?