bedtime-prayer-pic

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Bedtime Prayers

“Whether you are in church, or in your house, or in the country; whether you are guarding sheep, or constructing buildings, or present at drinking parties, do not stop praying. When you are able, bend your knees, when you cannot, make intercession in your mind, ‘at evening and at morning and at midday’. If prayer precedes your work and if, when you rise from your bed, your first movements are accompanied by prayer, sin can find no entrance to attack your soul.” ~ St Ephrem the Syrian

“Pray also before your body rests on the bed.”  St. Hippolytus

As we can see from the Church fathers’ quotes (and, better yet, from their lives!) prayer is a vital part of our Orthodox Christian life. Therefore we must include prayer in all parts of our day, including at bedtime. It is so important that we model this in our own lives as well as teach it to our children. Prayers should be part of our family’s bedtime routine. They give us the opportunity to review our day, ask forgiveness for sins we have committed, renew our focus on God, entrust ourselves and our loved ones to His care while we sleep, and thank Him for his kindness and mercy through the day just finished. Bedtime prayers offer the opportunity for the soul to be at peace, and are thus a great way to begin a restful night.

The survey we conducted last summer asked participants about including prayer at bedtime. Only 4% of those surveyed answered that their family does not pray together at bedtime. Of those that do pray together at bedtime, we asked where their family gathers for prayer. Our respondents answered in this way (and evidently the location varies by night for some families):
at our icon corner 53%

  • around the dining room table 3%
  • in the children’s bedrooms 53%
  • in the living/family room 3%

8% of respondents’ families pray elsewhere than the options we gave. For example:

  • We made a chapel in our house.
  • In our own bedrooms. [We have] older children.
  • Children’s icon corners
  • Varies between the chapel or our icon corner
  • Icon corner in the child’s bedroom
  • In front of the icons in the children’s room

Even more important than WHERE the family gathers to pray is the question of WHAT do they pray? Our respondents were very kind and shared their family’s traditions of prayer, often including the prayers themselves. Here are the prayers that they pray together at bedtime (in the order in which they were received). Perhaps you will find them helpful for your own family’s bedtime prayer routine:

  • Lord’s Prayer; Heavenly King comforter; Trisagion; Other hymns from liturgy or hymns for feasts (e.g. Troparion for Pascha and Theophany)’ “God please watch over [children’s names], give them sweet dreams and a good night of sleep so they may be good listeners, helpers and learners tomorrow. God please keep [insert names of deceased] close with you in heaven. Thank you for [children offer special thanks]. Please bless [children name special intentions]. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen” (or something similar)
  • Lord’s Prayer & Jesus Prayer
  • Lord’s Prayer, and a prayer of protection, and they each tell God the answer to the questions: something they are thankful for, something they are sorry for, and something/one they want to pray for.
  • “Now I lay me,” God Blesses, prayers from the prayer book.
  • Russian Orthodox prayer book
  • We say the Lord’s Prayer and we give thanks for each individual in our house, extended family and for our deceased family members and we give thanks for the day that we just finished and pray for a good day tomorrow.
  • We pray the prescribed evening prayers from the Orthodox Prayer Book, including the child’s evening prayer.
  • “Our Father” followed by “Into thy hands O Lord we commend our souls and our bodies. Do thou thyself bless us, have mercy upon us, and grant us life eternal. Amen.”
  • In the upstairs hallway icon corner: O Heavenly King, Trisagion, “Our Father,” the Marriage Prayer (from red Antiochian prayer book), prayer for children and godchildren (from that red prayer book), and end with seasonal (eg, during Paschal season, The Angel Cried, or during Lent, prostrations with Prayer of St. Ephraim) hymn to the Theotokos. Then as laying in bed beside toddler, saying the Jesus Prayer slowly, quietly and monotone until they fall asleep.
  • Trisaigion
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • The Jesus Prayer first and then whatever comes into our hearts.
  • Usually we sing “O Gladsome Light” as me and my son light the candles in the evening time. Depending on when we get to doing that we either go about the rest of our evening and then come back to do evening prayers or we go right into evening prayers after “O Gladsome Light” which consist of the Lord’s Prayer, “Come let us Worship,” Theotokion, “Remit Pardon Forgive O God…” (I don’t know if some of these are the actual names of the prayers but more like the first line of the prayer.) Sometimes we change it a little to say different prayers but basically it is very similar. If it is a feast day I substitute one of our daily prayers for the festal troparion. I have a bad habit of making prayers too long for my 6 yr old. I have to be careful of that!
  • We say a prayer before dinner. Both kids participate 3 & 5.
  • The Lord’s Prayer and the Trisagion sometimes
  • “Our Father”; “Song to the Mother of God”
  • From a children’s prayer book, but mostly nights from memory
  • The prayers before sleep from the prayer book put out by Jordanville. We say the whole thing with all the kids all ages (teens down to baby) it only takes 20 min.
  • We sing a hymn, usually a troparion. We do whichever one we are trying to memorize. Once the kids know it well we work on a new one. We do the Jesus prayer & Lord’s prayer or Trisagion & pray for our family & friends by name. Right now we are memorizing the Creed so we do that instead of the Lord’s prayer. Our kids are young so can’t do it all due to short attention spans.
  • We use the little red prayerbook by the Antiochian archdiocese – evening prayers
  • “O Lord our God, as Thou are Good and the Lover of mankind, forgive me wherein I have sinned this day in word, deed, and thought. Grant me peaceful and undisturbed sleep and send thy guardian angel to protect and keep me from all evil. For Thou art the guardian of our souls and unto Thee do we send up glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
  • Orthodox prayer book or menaion.
  • “O Angel you are truly mine, given to me by God Divine, to always be at my side and teach me what is right. I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong. Never go away from me. From all danger keep me free. Amen” “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John bless this bed that I lay on. Four corners round my bed. Four angels round my head. Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Keep me safe all through the night and wake me with the morning light. Amen”
  • The “Our Father”; The Jesus prayer; The Guardian angel prayer; A prayer to the Theotokos for guidance and intervention
  • Trisagion, Lord’s prayer, ask their patron saint to pray them, then venerate icons
  • At this point, the opening Trisagion Prayers from memory
  • Personal [prayers]
  • We are recent converts from Roman Catholicism and our bedtime prayers have remained the same- the guardian angel prayer and the prayer to St Michael the Archangel
  • the beginning of the formal evening prayers up to “Our Father” and to each Saint our child is named after. We extend evening prayers using the Orthodox Prayer Book as they get older.
  • We are ROCOR, so we often do a modified (shortened) version of the Night time prayers from the Jordanville Prayer Book. But we also greatly like and admire the prayers of the Western Rite Orthodox church, so I’d say about 1/3 of the time, we pray/sing either their Vespers or Compline service.
  • The evening prayers in the “Come to Me” prayer book
  • Basic prayers from Orthodox prayer book. Occasionally shorter, occasionally add hymns from vespers: “Blessed is the man,” “Bless the Lord O my soul,” “Let God arise,” “O gentle light,” etc
  • The prayers in the back of the Orthodox Study Bible
  • Trisagion, Evening Prayers, other prayers from red prayer book, special other prayers.
  • “Our Father” followed by saying what we are grateful for that day and what good deed we did for someone else
  • We pray the Trisagion and sing “More Honorable Than The Cherubim…”, then we pray for a list of sick and suffering, a list of the dead, and finish with “In Your hands, Lord Jesus Christ our God, we commit our souls and our bodies. Forgive us, have mercy on us, and grant us life eternal. Amen.” (During Paschaltide, we sign Christ is risen three times or more to open each prayer time.)
  • from the Orthodox children’s prayer book
  • Evening prayers from the Jordanville prayer book. We read the Trisagion and Psalms in the icon corner, then complete the rest of the prayers snuggling our daughter to sleep.
  • We pray the trisagion prayers and then “O Lord our God as thou art good and a lover of mankind, forgive me wherein I have sinned today in word, deed or thought….” and then we have a prayer list (names of family and those we are praying for) that the kids take turns reading, then each member of the family says their own little prayer.
  • We have switched between eastern and western rite evening prayers.
  • We pray the trisagion, and add intercessions.
  • Typical evening prayers outlined in our prayer book.
  • The Lord’s prayer, plus individual prayers with our 3 year old daughter.
  • The Aaronic blessing from the book of Numbers
  • Trisagion prayers is about all we do with a baby and a toddler!
  • The Jesus Prayer
  • “Our Father”; Jesus Prayer
  • Trisagion- chanted, plus evening troparia – sung. Then we adjourn to the kiddo’s room, read a story, hug and snuggle, sing a song, and say the prayer “Into Thy Hands, O Lord Jesus Christ, my God, do I commend my spirit…” Then Mama goes back to the icon corner and finishes her prayers — this part has helped me not put off my own prayers till I get too sleepy.
  • Oh Heavenly King, the Trisagion
  • “Oh Heavenly King” through “Our Father”, then each night a different person says a personal prayer from the heart, then we recite a verse from the Bible that we are memorizing together that is written on a board in our icon corner.
  • At the very least the Trisagion, and sometimes the evening prayers found in the little Antiochian Prayer Book
  • small compline or bedtime prayers or prayers in preparation for holy Communion. It is easiest to share a common translation, so we found the digital text to the St. Tikhon’s “Orthodox Daily Prayers” book and have updated some of the language. We added the prayers to our private website for our family’s homeschool and use our phones/tablets for the prayers so we’re all on the same page and the rest of the lights can be kept low.
  • Lord’s Prayer; Evening prayers from a prayer book
  • The “Our Father”; Jesus loves me; Sometimes work through, over the week, the third and sixth hours. The kids (7&5) enjoy following along and then they get to say the Lord have mercy’s.
  • “Our Father”… We also recite three things we are grateful for from our day. Finally, we make special prayer requests for people we know who are sick, in need, etc.
  • Evening prayers from the little red prayer book, with family intercessions
  • We pray the “Our Father,” followed by asking God to bless our friends and family. Sometimes additional prayers. Sometimes we sing a 7th century prayer, especially when scared of bad dreams: “Before the ending of the day Creator of the world, we pray that with Thy wonted favor, Thou wouldst be our Guard and Keeper now. From all ill dreams defend our eyes, from nightly fears and fantasies: tread under foot our ghostly foe, that no pollution we may know. O Father, that we ask be done through Jesus Christ Thine only Son, who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee, shall live and reign eternally. Amen.”

As you can see, there are a myriad of prayers to pray at bedtime. Some bedtime prayers are very brief, others long: it depends on the children and what they can handle. You may have noted that some respondents told about changes that they have made in the family’s bedtime prayers as their children grow older. Each family, under the guidance of their spiritual father, needs to decide which prayers to pray together before sleep. Whatever route we choose, let us pray to the Lord, especially at bedtime.

Lord, have mercy.

Here are links related to bedtime prayers, including links to some of the prayer books mentioned by the survey participants in their comments about what prayers they pray:

***

The Russian prayer book mentioned by our survey participants is available as an app on Google Play (https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Dr_John_Ellsworth_Hutchison_Hall_Daily_Prayers_for?id=5Insc_AzAkYC) or in print (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0615666205/ref=rdr_ext_tmb)

***

The “Jordanville” prayer book mentioned by our survey participants offers its prayers online as well as in print. Find the prayers before bed here: http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/prayerbook/main.htm

***

The Antiochian prayer book that our survey participants referred to is available online here: http://www.antiochian.org/orthodox-prayers (Find the evening prayer service here: http://www.antiochian.org/orthodox-prayers/evening-prayers.) But the printed book is such a nice size for children to handle, and it fits in a pocket or purse, so you may want to purchase it already printed: http://store.ancientfaith.com/a-pocket-prayer-book-for-orthodox-christians-vinyl-cover/

***

Here is a link to one Orthodox children’s prayer book: http://store.ancientfaith.com/childrens-orthodox-prayer-book/

***

Here is a (free!) printable Orthodox children’s prayer book: http://www.themccallums.org/michelle/2014/02/03/orthodox-prayer-book-for-children-2/

***

Find Orthodox bedtime prayers for all ages here: http://www.orthodoxcheyenne.org/daily-prayers-for-orthodox-christians/prayers-before-sleep

***

This printable booklet of prayers includes a section of evening prayers: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/for-families/family-activities/docs/tpg-dailyprayers.pdf

***

Families with older children (who have been praying Orthodox bedtime prayers and are well acquainted with them) may find it beneficial to occasionally read and talk about the prayers that other Christian children pray. It can be helpful to our children to know what some of their friends are praying at bedtime. Talking about these prayers offers parents the opportunity to strengthen our children’s faith as we share the prayer, then affirm similarities and help our children understand the differences. Here are some of them: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-popular-bedtime-prayers/

***

Want some help kickstarting an evening prayer routine? Check out this blog post: http://www.theorthodoxmama.com/evening-prayers-creating-a-routine-of-prayer-in-your-home/

bedtime-songs-illustration

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Singing Together at Bedtime

As we continue our series on bedtime traditions, it is time to take a look at the practice of singing which some families include as part of their nightly bedtime ritual. Some families find bedtime to be a good time to sing together as a family, while others do not for various reasons. Our survey asked participants if they sing together at bedtime. Here is what we learned:
28% of our survey participants said that they sing together, and that they do so every night.
34% said that they do not sing together at bedtime.
38% sing together some nights, but not every night.

We then asked the participants who sing together as a family what they sing. They responded:
25% We sing our children’s favorite songs.
3% We sing the troparion of the day.
21% We sing the festal hymn of the most recent feast.
2% We sing the hymns to the saint of the day.
34% We do not sing together at bedtime.
(Apparently the other 15% sing other songs which were not listed as survey options.)

Some survey respondents sent us specifics of what they sing. Here is what they said:

  • hymns from the liturgy to help them learn (and pray of course)
  • St Raphael’s troparion
  • We sing different songs from the Great Liturgy. As my daughter learns a new song in the liturgy, we talk about it and practice singing it.
  • “O Heavenly King”,“Our Father”, and finish prayers with the “Hymn to the Theotokos”
  • Trisagion, various hymns
  • Usually we sing some of the prayers during evening prayers such as “O Gladsome Light” or “More Honorable than the Cherubim”.
  • Whatever hymns we are learning at the time & the Jesus Prayer
  • Whatever comes to mind from church or Camp Nazareth campfires
  • We often sing the Vespers or compline prayers of Western Rite Orthodoxy
  • Chant hymns from vespers
  • “Oh Gladsome Light”
  • Hymns from Divine Liturgy
  • nursery rhymes
  • Christian classic hymns
  • Usually soothing, slow hymns. “Jesus Remember Me”, “the Great Doxology”, “the Beatitudes”
  • “Hymn to the Theotokos”, “Our Father”
  • other favorite hymns
  • We always sing “All Praise to Thee, My God This Night” — to the tune of the Tallis Canon.
  • Occasionally our child asks for another “church song” and we always sing a Theotokion.
  • “Oh Heavenly King”
  • The apolytikia of our patron saints
  • Gigi Shadid music
  • “Christ is Risen”, “Lord I Call”, antiphons
  • We sometimes sing a song from Compline or I sing a bedtime song if requested.

As we prepared for this blog post, we discovered that research shows that there are many reasons why we should sing with children. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (perhaps some of us feel less-than-confident with our singing ability) many of us do not sing often or at all with our children. We may wonder if bedtime is really a good time for singing to/with children. If it is, what should we sing? Here are some links to information that we discovered about the importance of singing with children; suggested ways to improve our own singing confidence; reasons why bedtime is a good time to sing; and where to find great kids’ music (both secular and Orthodox) to sing to (and with!) our children at bedtime. So, read up, and let’s get singing!

Why is important to sing with kids?

There are at least ten things babies learn when we sing to them: https://families.naeyc.org/article/10-ways-babies-learn-when-we-sing

Music stimulates endorphins and creates security for children while helping them learn language: http://oureverydaylife.com/benefits-singing-children-16177.html

Singing helps children learn to play with (and love) language so that reading and understanding is easier for them later: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=927

Live interactive music helps children’s speech develop: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/may/08/singing-children-development-language-skills

What if I think I sing poorly and am ashamed to sing?

Find basic tips for strengthening your singing skills here: http://www.wikihow.com/Sing-With-Confidence

This article lists detailed ways to improve your singing skills: https://spinditty.com/learning/6-Tips-to-Better-Singing

Find a few free singing lessons here: http://feliciaricci.com/i-hate-my-singing-voice-help/

Is it important to sing with children at bedtime?

This article lists some of the benefits of lullabies, as well as encouragement for parents who are hesitant singers: http://www.education.com/reference/article/importance-lullabies/

Read about the importance of singing lullabies at bedtime in this article: http://www.parentguide.ca/2015/09/the-importance-of-lullabies-2/

Find an official paper from the International Journal of Business and Social Science on this topic here: http://ijbssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_7_April_2012/35.pdf

Here are a few secular bedtime song suggestions:

This post offers specific bedtime song suggestions, complete with lyrics and links to performances of the songs, in case you are not familiar with them: http://www.everydayfamily.com/slideshow/15-perfect-songs-sing-little-one-sleep/

This article offers a list of lullabies to sing to your children, and recommends a musician that can help you learn even more: http://modernmomlife.com/bedtime-songs-for-kids/

Where can I find Orthodox Christian music to sing with my kids?

Find information about how to help your children learn about Orthodox Christian music here: http://www.antiochian.org/music/liturgical-music-children

This blog post is old, but offers some Orthodox recording artists and/or titles that may be helpful: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2008/07/orthodox-music-for-kids.html

Khouria Gigi Shadid has been making Orthodox Children’s music for many years. Find her music for sale here: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/GigiBabaShadid

14925435_10209784664085092_1920185016016380331_n

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Sharing Stories of the Saints

In past blog posts, we have offered ideas of picture books to share, chapter books to read together, and Bible stories to ponder as our children prepare to go to sleep. Bedtime is also a time when we can share stories from the lives of the saints. By sharing the stories of people who have fought the good fight to the end, we introduce our children to real-life “superheroes” whose life they can ponder as they fall asleep, then emulate when they awake. The saints’ life on earth was amazing, sometimes even miraculous, because of their love for God. We must share their stories with our children! Our children will not hear these stories or know what God can do in/through someone unless we teach them about the saints.

Of course, many saints endured terrible trials and tortures. We do not want to frighten our children at bedtime, so we must be mindful of each child and what they can handle, and thereby carefully choose the saints whose life stories we share. Stories of the saints’ martyrdom may not be appropriate for us to share with our very young children at bedtime. But our children need to know that sometimes people choose to follow God even if it threatens their life. So, stories of martyred saints should be shared (with careful wording), with older children, keeping in mind what our children can handle. It is our job as parents to introduce our children to the saints in a way that conveys their devotion to God and His work in their lives. Let us do diligently, but with sensitivity to each child in our family.

We know that we should be sharing the lives of the saints with our children and that we need to carefully choose/word the stories that we share. So, how do we find saints’ stories to read or tell to our children? Our survey about bedtime rituals asked the participants if and how they select saint stories to share with their children at bedtime. Here are their answers:

  • We follow a daily calendar of the saints that includes a short reading about one. (29%)
  • We listen to a podcast about the saint of the day. (4%)
  • We do not read about the lives of the saints. (42%)

The survey respondents who do share stories from the lives of the saints with their children offered the following resources/ways that they select which stories to share:

  • “My kids pull a book out of the shelf where we keep the children’s books about the faith.”
  • “We read about saints from time to time but not consistently.”
  • “books of saints for children”
  • “I have a lot of children’s books on the Saints and I read from those.”
  • “We choose any from our collection of lives of the saints.”
  • “child chosen or daily recommendation”
  • “Our kids have their favourites and we introduce new saints once in awhile with a new book about them.”
  • “We read that day’s entry from Prologue of Ohrid, including all the saints of the day, homily, reflection, contemplation, and hymn of praise.”
  • “I have a few books for children about saints, which I read to them from a few times a week.”
  • “Sometimes I research and read about a particular saint relevant to our family life. I find the troparian and repeat it three times.”
  • “We read from a book called “Prologue of Ohrid,”
  • “We talk about lives of the saints, but we have a baby.”
  • “We read the prologue.”
  • “saints we have picture books or icons of”
  • “some daily, some random”
  • “whatever book is closest to hand”
  • “We read the prologue or child books about the saints.”
  • “When we do, it is the Saint of the day, looked up online.”
  • “Randomly [selected saint stories] from our children’s library”

What other resources have you found helpful when you share the stories of the saints with your children? Please comment below and share them with the community!

Holy saints, please intercede for our salvation and for the salvation of our children!

Here are some resources that we have found helpful:

Ancient Faith Ministries’ podcast “Saint of the Day” (http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday ) offers a short reading each day featuring the life of one of the saints commemorated on that day, as well as an extensive archive of stories of others saints commemorated each day.

Our AODCE Pinterest page offers the following ever-growing board that includes links to saint stories and/or ideas of ways to help children: https://www.pinterest.com/aodce/saints/

These (free!) printable activity books will help your family learn about saints (and the animals that served them; those commemorated in the Litiya prayers; those that can help in times of trouble; and those from North America) through stories and related activities: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books

Paterikon For Kids offers beautifully illustrated, child-sized tiny books by various authors, including saint stories and stories from the Bible.  Available individually or the entire set (at a significant discount). Also available in 12 other languages. http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Paterikon-for-Kids-Set-1-20/English-Paterikon-for-Kids-1-20-Set/flypage-ask.tpl.html  

Little Falcons is an Orthodox Christian children’s magazine published quarterly. Each issue has a theme and includes articles, activities, and stories based on that theme. It also includes at least one story from the life of a saint, often written as a play so that several readers can share the story together. http://www.littlefalcons.net

New Martyr Magazine is a new quarterly Orthodox Christian children’s magazine. Each issue includes illustrations by children, stories, puzzles, photographs that help children learn more about the faith, and a story about a saint.  http://newmartyrpublishing.com  

2017 Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints Calendar: This spiral-bound calendar offers the references for daily scripture readings, a brief story of one of the saints of the day, a list of all the day’s saints, and a quote from a church father. http://www.livesofthesaintscalendar.com  

This blog post offers many links to online resources for stories from the lives of the saints: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/02/lives-of-saints.html

14947696_10209788666305145_8163658441119066395_n

On the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21 or Dec. 4)

On Nov. 21 (or Dec. 4) we celebrate the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. This feast celebrates the day when the Theotokos, still a child, went to the Temple. The background story to this event is pretty important:

Joachim and Anna were devout Jews who loved God very much. They lived on only a third of their income, tithing and giving away the rest. Yet they had no child. They promised God that they would give their child back to Him, if He would grant them one, and He blessed them with the gift of their daughter Mary.

When Mary was three years old, and finally weaned, Joachim and Anna did not forget their promise to God. They gathered young ladies with candles to walk with them, and all together walked to the Temple so that they could present Mary to God and give her back to Him. Many family and friends came along, as well, all carrying lit candles.

When they arrived at the Temple, Joachim and Anna lifted Mary up onto the first of the 15 steps that led up into the temple. As soon as she was on that step, she ran all the way up the rest of them. The High Priest at the time was Zachariah (who later became the father of St. John the Forerunner). Zachariah greeted Mary at the top of the steps, took her by the hand, and led her into the Temple. The Holy Spirit directed him as he led her not just into the Temple, but into the “Holy of Holies,” the most sacred part of the Temple (which was so holy that only the High Priest could go in there; and he could only go in once a year after much preparation and prayer!)!

The Most-holy Virgin lived in the Temple for many years. The angels fed her in the Holy of Holies. As long as they lived, Joachim and Anna came regularly to the Temple to visit their daughter. When they departed this life, she stayed on in the Temple until she was betrothed to Joseph.

The holiness that she acquired while in the Temple, along with her own piety and desire to follow God, prepared the Most-holy Virgin to become the new Temple, in which God Himself dwelt. Her willingness to come to the Temple with such joy is a notable part of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.

Most Holy Theotokos, intercede for our salvation!

Here are some resources and ideas for learning about the feast together as a family:
***

Find the story of the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, along with its related hymns and an explanation of the details in the icon here: http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/vmpresentation/index_html
***

Listen to Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory’s explanation of the importance of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple in this podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oOpQ9N24Z0

***

This 5-minute video encourages each person watching it to prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ just as the Theotokos was prepared to receive Him when she entered and lived in the temple.The video shows icon after icon, as the narrator explains the Entrance of the Theotokos to the temple and its implications for us. Older children will benefit from watching it with you: https://youtu.be/VhuF_9JSz6s

***

This blog post suggests two books that can be used to teach young children about the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. It also contains links to a printable lineart icon of the feast, as well as a craft idea that the family can do together.  http://www.charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.com/2009/11/entrance-of-theotokos-into-temple.html
***

The Theotokos entered into the temple to prepare herself to become the living temple of God. We, too, are to become the living temple of God. After sharing the story of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple, talk together about what she did and how we can do the same to prepare ourselves to receive Christ. (For example: 1. Her parents gave her to God. Has that happened in your family? How? 2. She went to the temple with her family. Do you do so as well? How often? 3. She ran into the temple because she was happy to be there. Are we happy when we go to church? etc.) (If you need inspiration before leading this family discussion, you may want to read this: http://www.saintspiridon.org/?p=658.)

***

This blog post offers a glimpse into one family’s celebration of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple. We especially liked the idea of creating a timeline of icons of the Feast Days, and having the children create a brief description (or even a sketch, if they are not yet writing) to post on that timeline: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2015/02/16/feast-days-entrance-of-the-theotokos-into-the-temple/

***

Print this foldable centerpiece about the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple on a piece of cardstock. As a family, work together to decorate and assemble it. Set it as the centerpiece of your dining room table, add it to your icon corner, or set it somewhere else where you will see it often and remember the feast. http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/cacb8660b29bdc97f8e8283ff567634e.pdf

14591876_10209649086575739_5422263929799631980_n

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Reading from the Scriptures Part 3: New Testament Stories

As we have discussed in previous blogs, bedtime is an excellent time to share Bible stories with our children. The stories, challenges, and encouragement found in the New Testament offer many examples from the Lord Himself and from His Disciples of how to live a life devoted to God. These stories are therefore an excellent source of bedtime stories and can easily be incorporated into the family bedtime routine.

As with the Old Testament stories we suggested before, New Testament stories can be either read or told to younger children. Older children may prefer to help with the reading. This reading can come straight out of the Scriptures, if desired, or from a story book. Whatever the means, it is vital that we help our children to learn the stories in the Holy Scriptures. Sharing Bible stories (as well as non-story Scriptures) at bedtime is one way that we can make that happen!

Here are a few suggestions of New Testament stories that may be helpful to children at bedtime:

Stories full of the joy that comes from God:

Elizabeth is Expecting a Baby (Luke 1:5-25)

Mary Says “Yes” to God (Luke 1:26-38)

Elizabeth and Mary Happily Thank God Together (Luke 1:39-56)

His Name Is John (Luke 1:57-80)

Jesus is Born (Luke 2:1-21)

Simeon and Anna Meet Jesus (Luke 2:22-38)

Jesus Welcomes the Children (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-18)

Jesus Brings His Friend Lazarus Back to Life (John 11:1-44)

People Welcome Jesus to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)

Jesus is Alive! (Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10)

Jesus Surprises His Disciples (Matt. 28:9-10; Mark 16:9-13; Luke 24:13-43; John 20:11-21:25)

Stories that show that God is strong:

Jesus and the Man Who Could Not Walk (Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)

Jesus Heals Jairus’ Daughter (Matt. 9:18-19, 23-26; Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56)

Jesus Helps a Centurion (Matt 8:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56)

Jesus Raises the Widow’s Only Son to Life (Luke 7:11-17)

Jesus Stops a Storm (Matt. 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25)

Jesus Walks on the Water (Matt 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:15-21)

Some Disciples See that Jesus is God (Matt 17:1-9; Mk 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:22-27)

Ten Sick Men are Healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-18)

Jesus Heals a Beggar Who is Blind (Mark 10:46-52)

Saul Meets Jesus (Acts 9:1-18)

Dorcas is Raised to Life (Acts 9:36-42)

Stories that demonstrate how God protects His people:

Joseph Obeys God and Saves Baby Jesus (Matt. 2:13-22)

Jesus Tells Stories About How God Wants to Save Everyone:

     One Missing Sheep (Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7)

     The Woman and the Coin (Luke 15:8-10)

     The Son Who Did What He Wanted (Luke 15:11-32)

     What Happened to the Farmer’s Seeds (Matt 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-9, 13-20; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15)

     A Good Shepherd (John 10:1-6)

Saul’s Basket Escape (Acts 9:19-25)

Peter Walks out of Jail (Acts 12:1-19)

Paul and Silas Hang Out with Their Jailor (Acts 16:20-40)

Stories that show how God provides:

Jesus Helps a Bride and Groom (John 2:1-11)

So Many Fish! (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11)

Jesus Tells About a Kind Stranger (Luke 10:25-37)

Five Loaves and Two Fish (Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14)

The Holy Spirit Comes to Help the Church (Acts 2:1-41)

Scriptures (not stories) that teach us how to better follow God:

Jesus Preaches on a Mountain:

     Love Everyone, Even Your Enemies (Matt 5:38-48)

     How to Pray (Matt 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-4)

     How to Live (Matt 6:16-34)

     More on How to Live (Matt 7:1-23)

     Two Ways to Build (Matt 7:24-28)

Encouraging Letters from the Apostles:

     The Best Gift (1 Corinth 12:1-31)

     Do Good to Everyone (Gal. 6:1-10)

     Live in God’s Love (1 John 4:7-21)

These are only a few of the New Testament stories and Scripture passages that can be shared with our children. They are not all-inclusive, but they are a place to start! The most important thing is that we find ways to help our children connect with the Holy Scriptures.


Here are additional resources that can help us learn from the Scriptures together at bedtime:
***
If you missed these links from our Old Testament Bible Stories post, these Orthodox resources can assist us as we teach our children stories from the New Testament:

The Orthodox Study Bible. This translation of the Scriptures offers footnotes filled with insights from Orthodox scholars. If you do not yet have a copy in your home, you can find it here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-study-bible/

The Children’s Bible Reader. This Bible storybook was published by the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece. It has been translated to English, and offers many stories from the Bible that are illustrated in a style similar to iconography. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Childrens-Illustrated-American-Society/dp/1585168270

The Children’s Bible Reader is also available online here: http://cbr.goarch.org/

***

These Bible storybooks are not Orthodox-published but can help an Orthodox Christian family to learn stories from the Bible (both Old and New Testaments):

The Jesus Calling Bible Storybook tells stories from the Bible in simple language that children can understand. The illustrations are gentle and colorful. Each story includes a related Bible verse for the reader to ponder. It also offers a short meditation that can help the reader to think of how Christ can help them just as God helped the person in the story. (Note: because this book is not Orthodox-written, a few of these meditations may need to be omitted, reworded, or discussed after reading to clarify our Orthodox belief on the matter. If you use this book, we advise that you read ahead so that you can be prepared. But as a whole the book is lovely, which is why we are mentioning it.) http://www.thomasnelson.com/jesus-calling-bible-storybook

Before I Dream Bible Storybook tells 60 Bible stories in simple language. Each story is a verbal feast for the senses, drawing in the listener to fully engage in the story. The author did this on purpose, to fully engage children’s thoughts in the Scriptures before bedtime. Although this book is no longer available from its publisher (Tyndale), https://www.amazon.com/Before-Bedtime-Storybook-Henley-Playsongs/dp/1414300921  offers links to new and used versions of the book.

God’s Word For Me Bible Storybook offers 104 stories from the Scriptures in child-friendly language accompanied by pleasant illustrations. Each story ends with an opportunity for application: a verse to ponder or a suggested activity related to the story. http://www.thomasnelson.com/god-s-word-for-me#

***
Here are links to suggested Scriptures for bedtime meditation:

Here are some verses (from both Old and New Testaments) that can be helpful to think about at bedtime: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/20-great-bible-verses-to-read-before-bed/

And these inspirational verses can be helpful to both children and adults at bedtime: http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/inspirational-bible-verses/

old-testament-bedtime-illustration

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Reading from the Scriptures Part 2: Old Testament Stories

As we prepare our children for bed, what a blessing it can be to share with them stories from the Holy Scriptures. Including reading from the Scriptures in our family’s bedtime routine offers each member of the family the gift of learning more about God and His work among us while also opening our minds to Truth. Scripture reading at any time of the day, but especially in the evening when we have time to reflect and think about what we’ve just heard or read as we fall asleep, offers great things for Christians of any age to ponder. So, if we read Scripture passages together at bedtime, our children can lie in bed and truly think about “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

There are so many stories, teachings, and truths in the Scriptures that it may be difficult to know where to begin. Families with very young children will benefit from investing in some Bible storybooks that offer illustrated stories from the scriptures, written in a way that is appropriate for children to understand, and read those together. Families with older children can read the stories straight from the Bible. This offers multiple opportunities: beyond the stories themselves, reading straight from the scriptures helps the children to see where these stories come from, and can also be used as an occasion to help the children to learn how to look things up in the Bible for themselves. Some families commit to reading the whole Bible together by reading a small section at a time. This takes a long time, but it gives them the chance to experience the Scriptures together and discuss each section after the reading.

In the event that you need an idea of a place to start, here are suggestions of Old Testament stories, listed in categories that may be helpful to children at bedtime:

Stories full of the joy that comes from God:
God Calls His Creation Good (Gen. 1:1- 2:3)
Adam and Eve Live in Paradise With God (Gen. 2:7- 2:24)
God Makes a Promise to Noah (Gen. 8:1- 9:17)
God’s Promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1- 12:8; 15:1- 6; 17:1- 9; 17:15- 22; 18:1- 15; 21:1- 6)
Hannah’s Prayers are Answered (1 King. 1:1- 2:10)
A Servant Girl Saves Her Master (4 King. 5:1- 15)
A Young King Brings His People Back to God (2 Chron. 34:1- 35:21)

Stories that show that God is strong:
God Saves His People from Slavery (Ex. 6:28- 12:42; 13:17- 14:31)
The Walls of Jericho Fall (Josh. 1:6- 3:17; 6:1- 19)
David vs. Goliath (I King. 17:1- 29)
Elijah and the Prophets of Baal (3 King. 18:1- 30)

Stories that demonstrate how God protects His people:
Young Prince Joash is Saved and Becomes King of Israel (4 King. 11:1- 14; 17; 19- 12: 9) Esther Saves Her People (Esther 2:5- 8:12)
Ruth Finds a New Family (Ruth 1:1- 4:17)
The Three Hebrew Youths are Saved from the Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3:1-97)
Daniel Obeys God and an Angel Protects Him from Lions (Daniel 6: 1-29)

Stories that show how God provides:
Joseph Rescues His Family (Gen. 37:1-36; 39:1- 45:8)
Baby Moses is Safe (Ex. 1:7- 2:10)
The Hungry Hebrew People Have Food and Water in the Desert (Ex. 15:22- 17:7)
Elijah and the Ravens (3 King. 17:1- 6)
Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath (3 King. 17:8- 24)
God Works Miracles Through Elisha (4 King. 4:1- 7; 8-37; 38-44)

There are so many scriptures that can be shared with our children at bedtime. These are only a few of them. We recommend that you select the stories you want your children to know, and start there!

Here are a few resources that may be helpful as you read from the Scriptures together at bedtime:
***

The Orthodox Study Bible. This translation of the Scriptures offers footnotes filled with insights from Orthodox scholars. If you do not have a copy in your home yet, find it here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-study-bible/

***

The Children’s Bible Reader. This Bible storybook was published by the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece. It has been translated to English, and offers many stories from the Bible that are illustrated in a style similar to iconography. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Childrens-Illustrated-American-Society/dp/1585168270

***

Bible Stories for the Very Young. This Bible storybook offers vibrantly colored pictures that perfectly illustrate the simply-told stories. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Bible-Stories-Young-Sally-Grindley/dp/0747535523/

***

Words to Dream On. This beautifully-illustrated Bible storybook offers many simply-told Bible stories. Each story has a short related thought and one-line prayer that reflects on the story. (Author’s note: This is the bedtime Bible story book for kids that I like best of all the ones I found while working on this project. It is lovely.) Find it here: http://www.thomasnelson.com/words-to-dream-on

***

365 Read-Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories offers one Bible story each day for an entire year. The stories are very short, written simply, and printed in large type that is easy for young readers to read for themselves. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Bedtime-Bible-Story-Book-Read-aloud/dp/1557482640

***

For upper-elementary-aged children:
Find 84 Bible stories from the Old Testament that can be read online or printed here: http://kids.christiansunite.com/biblestories_old_testament.shtml

Find 125 readings* (for upper elementary aged students) from the Old Testament in the online Bible “storybook” found here: http://biblehub.com/childrens/ *note: the wording in some of these stories can be a bit difficult to navigate, so you may want to read or retell them using language your children can best understand

***

In addition to reading Bible stories/the Scriptures together, you may want to help your children work on memorizing verses or simply bless your children with Scripture verses as they fall asleep. Here are a few suggestions of ways to do so:
This family offers Psalms as prayers to ponder as their children go to sleep: http://www.intoxicatedonlife.com/2013/07/18/psalms-to-use-for-bedtime-prayers/

And here are some comforting Old Testament verses that you can offer to your children for them to think about as they fall asleep: http://christianity.about.com/od/prayersverses/a/Comforting-Bible-Verses.htm

***

bible-storybook-illustration

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Reading From the Scriptures Part 1: Introduction and a Few Resources

In prior posts, we have discussed the importance of establishing a bedtime routine. Gathering together as a family, calming down together, and reading together are all things we can do as part of a nightly routine that benefits our children. For the next few posts, we will take a look at reading stories from Scripture. This post will share the survey results along with a few possible resources. In forthcoming posts we will suggest stories to share with your children from both the Old and New Testaments.

Once again, we thank the participants who filled out our summer survey. Of those who took time to complete our survey, 70% answered the “how do you select which Scriptures to read?” question, implying that they include reading scriptures in their routine.

Here is how they answered:


22 %  – We follow the daily Bible readings prescribed by the Church.
45% – We read from a Bible storybook.
10% – We are reading our way through the whole Bible, one section at a time.

The rest offered these answers:

  • “Our kids go to a Christian School and we may start with what they’ve read that day to discuss our perspective as Orthodox Christians on the topic.”
  • “We may read the children’s Bible if she shows interest.”
  • “Either a Bible storybook or from the daily readings. Sometimes both.”
  •  “Kids may request certain stories, or I choose, or we try and find something close to the church calendar.”
  •  “Our kids choose daily stories, we read them stories that go with the Feast Day.”
  •  “We follow the readings, though not perfectly, and we read additionally from various story books or according to relevant feasts or lessons.”
  •  “Sometimes we follow daily readings, sometimes we are inspired by the upcoming feast, sometimes we just work our way through Bible storybook.”
  •  “The daily Bible verses and a Psalm or a chapter from Proverbs.”
  • “Home school lessons.”

And these respondents’ families include Scripture reading in their routine, just not at bedtime:

  • “We don’t read scripture at bedtime. We do that after lunch.”
  • “We read through a Bible storybook in the mornings.”
  • “We read from a Bible story book on Sunday afternoons.”

As you can see, there are many ways to select which Scriptures/Bible stories to share with your children. Here are a few related resources that may be helpful to your family. Note: not all of them are Orthodox, but they are helpful enough that we decided to  included them. What Scriptures and/or Bible storybooks does your family read together? Please share them in the comments below!

***

“Bible stories can be paraphrased in simple language and told enthusiastically to your youngsters. If possible, try to follow the church calendar of daily readings for your selection of a Bible story on a given night. With younger children, the focus can simply be on the Sunday Gospel and Epistle reading. As a means of introduction, as well as reinforcement, the reading can be discussed daily on the week prior to that Sunday reading.” https://oca.org/the-hub/the-church-on-current-issues/nourishing-children-in-christ1

***
This Orthodox Bible storybook, The Children’s Bible Reader, is written at a 3rd grade level, but children of other ages can definitely enjoy reading it or hearing it read to them. http://www.svspress.com/childrens-bible-reader-illustrated-old-new-testaments/

***
The Children’s Bible Reader an Orthodox Children’s Bible storybook, is also online! Read (or listen to) the stories here: http://cbr.goarch.org/

***
In case you are not aware of it, we offer a weekly podcast featuring Sunday’s Gospel, told in simpler words for younger children, and read for older children. Listen to the podcast, called “Let Us Attend,” here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend. There are also printable handouts at five different levels available to share with your children: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/letusattend

***

The Read and Share Bedtime Bible and Devotional offers 200 simply-written stories from the Bible, as well as 50 devotional readings that can help families focus on God before going to sleep. Geared to young children, it can also be enjoyed by slightly older ones. https://www.amazon.com/Read-Share-Bedtime-Bible-Devotional/dp/1400320836/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476889361&sr=1-1&keywords=9781400320837

***

Words to Dream On: This Bible storybook has selected Bible stories that focus on “God’s love, care, protection, trustworthiness, and power.” It offers 50 different Bible stories, each with a short Bible verse for the family to ponder, as well as a prayer related to the story. http://www.thomasnelson.com/words-to-dream-on#

***

365 Bible Stories for Young Hearts offers one story for each day of the year. This book is an easy way for families to read their way through the Bible (well, through many of its stories) in one year. https://www.amazon.com/365-Bible-Stories-Young-Hearts/dp/158134807X

***