A broken air conditioner and the scorching heat of the New Mexican summer sun left us no choice but to roll down the windows of our old truck, letting the wind whip through. From the center bench, poised like a king on the throne of his blue car seat, my four-year-old son sang the words of our favorite country song at the top of his lungs.
God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.
Even in the whipping wind, I was impressed with my hunting partner’s vocals. I won’t ever forget the joy. Our mission (so I thought) was to chase Javelina in the wilderness of southern New Mexico, me with bow and arrow and he as my lookout in the kid-carrying backpack. But looking back, what the Father was bringing on that trip was much more than meat for the freezer. Years later, I’m just beginning to see how sacred those hours of car time were for connection with my son and his soul’s formation.
A decade later, I can see the transforming possibility of seizing the daily car time Cherie and I still have now with 13-year-old Joshua and 10-year-old Abigail. Over the past few years, I’ve learned a bit more of what makes car time particularly rich. The field of neuroscience demonstrates that humans are wired with neurons that mirror the mental and emotional processes of other humans. These mirror neurons “read” the emotional experiences of others expressed through body language and emotional cues. Then the neurons in the observer sync with the other’s emotional state to create a shared mental process across an invisible space. Simply put, when one human attunes to another, he is able to feel, know, and experience some of what the other is experiencing as if it were his own experience. (1)
I see now that our hours and hours of car time are an opportunity to take advantage of the function of mirror neurons. As my kids and I attune to each other, we are forming each other’s emotional experiences. Deeper than words, this proximity allows us to place pins of orientation on the map of our kids’ interior worlds, heart-pins that could prove to be one of our greatest contributions to their direct experience of God and his Kingdom.
Over the years, the substance of our car time has changed: the VeggieTales songs and our own rendition of “People Are Crazy” have given way to sometimes playful, sometimes deep conversation. Our car time has also birthed an emerging daily prayer, a prayer co-created over time with the Spirit to be accessible and formational for each of our hearts.
Perhaps this prayer is best named as a sort of centering liturgy. What began as the Carpool Prayer has formed into The Daybreak Prayer. The first year, our 1.0 version was simply leading the kids out loud through putting on the armor of God. After almost a decade of formation, we’re on the 7.0 version. This prayer continues to work in us and we through it. With every emerging version, we feel invited deeper and deeper into God’s Kingdom.
As I listen to my children pray each morning, I am trusting that these realities are being threaded into them. I hope this prayer produces fertile soil and provides seed that will, in time, establish deep roots in both of them, roots that can weather seasons of plenty and also seasons of lack because they have been grounded in the Goodness of God and the reliability of God’s Kingdom.
We approach our Daily Prayer with four clear portions. Parts one and two, I (or Cherie) pray out loud, leading the family.
Part 1: Consecration
We begin our time with consecrating our kingdom—all that God has entrusted to our care. Each day we flow with this uniquely as we’re led; here is an example of what this portion looks like:
Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, we center our gaze upon your great Heart and Love. We declare your goodness and generosity. We consecrate our kingdom to your Kingdom. We consent to you and your leadership and give you say over everything you have entrusted to our care. We give you our body, soul, heart, mind, will, and imagination. We give you our family, our home, our vehicles, our finances, and all of our relationships. We give you our schools and our work. We give you all our friendships and life and walk and calling. Everything we have and everything we are, we consecrate to you.
Part 2: Enforcing Kingdom Authority
The Kingdom of God operates on authority. In maturing as warriors, we learn to walk in the authority of Jesus, resisting evil and exercising God’s power to enforce the Kingdom of Love and Life in the particulars of the domain entrusted to our care. Again, this prayer is unique each day, but here is an example of what this portion looks like:
Father, thank you that through the death of Jesus, you have disarmed the power, authority, and rule of evil. Through his resurrection and ascension, you have established your authority over all creation. Jesus, our brother and King, thank you for granting to us all the authority granted to you by our Father. (2) We choose to take our place in your authority. We enforce your Kingdom in our kingdom. We enforce your rule. Through Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended, we enforce God’s authority in our kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus, we agree with your intentions, and we give you full say over everything you’ve entrusted to us. We intentionally open the gates of our kingdom to your Kingdom. (3)
Part 3: Our Liturgy
After we follow God’s lead in consecrating our kingdom and enforcing God’s Kingdom authority in our kingdom, we thoughtfully pray this prayer, together and out loud:
Father, thank you that our story begins with you and ends in the restoration of all things. (4)
We choose to trust that you love us with the same love you have for Jesus. (5) Therefore we will not to give way to fear. (6)
We agree with who you are. We agree with what you are doing. We agree with how you are doing it. (7)
We ask for a revelation of your affection today. (8)
We ask that you would make the impossible possible. (9)
We put on the armor of God: (10)
The shoes of the Gospel
The belt of truth
The breastplate of righteousness
The helmet of salvation
The sword of the Spirit
The shield of faith.
We choose to wield these weapons at all times in the Spirit.
We accept your acceptance of us. (11)
We choose to live in the present moment. (12)
We ask for a wise and discerning heart. (13)
We unite our heart with your heart. (14)
We choose to listen to your voice. (15)
We ask you to father us and mother us today. (16)
We ask that in all things in us and through us, your Kingdom would come and your will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven. (17)
We declare the truth that whatever I have and wherever I am, I can make it through the One who makes me who I am. (18)
Part 4: Listening
Now that we have consciously united our souls with God’s presence, life, and love, we conclude each time of prayer with listening.
God, how else would You have us pray today? What do You want to speak to us today? (19)
This choice of investing in a daily family prayer has become one of the foundations of our faith. Its evolution over time is a testament to the always-fresh experience of venturing ever deeper into God’s Kingdom. The repetitive portion roots us beyond the day’s drama and deeper than the day’s circumstances. The fluid portion keeps us rooted in a moment-by-moment life in the Spirit, who is always leading us personally and uniquely. This combination seats our souls in the life of God, transcending the present moment and cultivating a posture of both curiosity and confidence deep within our souls.
My prayer is that, in the days and decades ahead, these pins on the heart-maps of our children will be there for them when they most need God and his Kingdom. My hope is that while this time of prayer authentically models life in God’s Kingdom, it will also open for our kids their own direct access to and connection with the life and power of God.
The season of driving our kids to school will be over before we know it. In a few short years, our son will be driving himself and his sister to school. Yet we are praying that the seeds of the with-God life are being planted in them and in us both for this age and for the age to come.
I invite you give the Daybreak Prayer a go for a season.
Part One – Consecrating
Part Two – Enforcing
Part Three – The Daybreak Prayer
Part Four – Listening
I’ve recorded Part Three above as a stand-alone prayer. You may find it helpful to press play and pray along with this audio until it is written on your hearts and becomes your own. Hopefully it will be helpful to you as we stand together, with our families, daily contending as one for the Gospel of life.
For the Kingdom,
Footnote: Download a PDF of The Daybreak Prayer if you’d like to have it in hand to pray it and enjoy being unplugged from digital devices.
(1) My initial exposure to this concept of mirror neurons was through The Social Animal by David Brooks. This soul-filled, creative narrative is an amazing access point to neurobiology and how it shapes our days and our decades. Pages 39 and 40 present the heartbeat of his case.
(2) Matt. 28:18
(3) Ps. 24:7
(4) 2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:5
(5) John 17:23
(6) Ps. 27:14
(7) Ex. 3:13
(8) Eph. 3:19
(9) Matt. 19:26
(10) Eph. 6:13-18
(11) Eph. 1:6
(12) Matt. 6:34
(13) 1 Kings 3:9
(14) John 17:21
(15) John 10:3
(16) Rom. 8:15-17, Isa. 66:12-13
(17) Matt. 6:10
(18) Phil. 4:13
(19) John 8:47
Note: Other powerful prayers can be found through the Wild at Heart app. John, thank you for modeling the power and possibility of a Daily Prayer over the last two decades. This daily liturgy has served as an anchor for my soul through both calm and stormy seas.