One of my longtime favorite places to pray has been in the car. Those rare and stolen moments of solitude as a mother are somehow the safest and quietest place for me to talk to God. When my daughter started Mother’s Day Out as a 2-year-old, I decided to try something new and began a habit of praying aloud in the car on our way to school.

It started for two reasons:

One, I’m not very comfortable praying out loud in front of others and I figured that my daughter might be a safe audience to practice on. The prayers our family shares each evening before bed are sacred, but stepping into the daylight to speak to my Lord felt appropriately daring and necessary.

Two, I hoped that if I was willing to be vulnerable in this way that my daughter would grow up feeling more confident in her own prayer life.

So, two days a week, at some point on our 20-minute drive, I would turn down the radio and ask my daughter if I could pray for her.

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There were days that she would say no, to which I would respectfully respond with, “That’s OK, I’ll just pray quietly today.” I would lift my own silent prayer and we would go about our day.

Most times she would say yes and listen as I prayed to God. After my genuine desire to give my joys and concerns to God, I very much hoped to show my daughter that I care about her and the people in our lives.

As a woman with a longtime feeling that there was a certain recipe for proper prayer, I also hoped to demonstrate that prayer sometimes looks like simply talking to God. Polished or messy. Playful or sorrowful. Short or lengthy. Wherever you are, God is there, and however you’re feeling, God can handle it.

On those days, praying out loud in front of my daughter while driving down the highway, I freestyled prayers like this one and lifted them to my God.

“Dear God, I am thankful that we all got a good night’s sleep and are healthy today. I’m thankful for the food in our bellies and the clothes that we are wearing. Thank you for how hard Daddy works to take care of us and I pray that he has a great day at work today. I pray for my daughter to have a great day at school and that You would help her to be kind and respectful to her teachers and friends. Please be with me today and help us all to share your love with others. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.”

As I wrapped up that prayer one morning, I heard the sweetest words from the back seat.

“Wait. I thank you for Daddy and my baby doll and my blanket. I thankful for Mommy. I pray that Grandpa feels better soon.”

I let the moment linger as I soaked up the words that my daughter dared to pray, and then she said, “Amen.”

“Amen,” I joined in.

We’ve continued this habit of praying out loud together in the car before school or special events. Now two years into the practice, sometimes I say the prayer alone, sometimes my daughter has things to contribute, and once or twice she’s asked to pray by herself. Sometimes the prayers are sweet and songlike. Sometimes the prayers feel more like form letters where we’ve filled in the blanks. Sometimes the prayers are short and to the point. Sometimes they are pleas for patience or forgiveness. Sometimes they are for those most dear in our lives. Sometimes they are for the black car driving too fast or the man standing on the corner or the fun thing we are looking forward to or our dogs at home.

Always, the prayers are worth my time and intention to lift up the things on my heart, to share those moments with my daughter, to show her that prayer comes in many forms, and to call on a God that is ALWAYS there for us.

That is why, as a new school year continues and our morning routine shifts into gear, I will still turn down the radio on our morning commute and ask, “Daughter, can I pray for you today?”

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Mandy McCarty Harris

Mandy McCarty Harris lives happily in Northwest Arkansas with her husband, toddler daughter, two old dogs, and seven backyard chickens. She loves camping, hiking, gardening, reading, and writing about it all. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and at HappyLikeThis.com