Last year, I was asked to lead a session at our church’s womens retreat about teaching children to pray. I was really challenged as I prepared to teach. This can be a daunting subject. It can easily be avoided… oh, they are too young. Oh, they won’t understand. Oh, they’ll learn when they are older.
But like anything, setting a good foundation early is important.
The biggest way, in my opinion, to teacher our children to pray is to lead by example.
Pray together as a family. Pray for your children and with your children. When something goes wrong, pray! When something goes right, pray! When something is confusing, pray! Pray with your children at meal times, bed time, school time. Just pray.
Prayer doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, Jesus encourages us to NOT be like the pharisees who used a lot of fancy words and phrases. He encourages us, rather, to be sincere and from the heart. Our children don’t need us to be great orators. They just need us to be real. Prayer is simply talk to God. We talk to each other all the time. We can train our children that, because of the work that Jesus did on the cross, we can approach God with whatever is on our minds and hearts.
I do think there are a few key things to teach our children about prayer:
1. Prayer is talking to God (we’ve covered that)
2. God answers prayer… but it may not always be with a “yes.” Be sure to point out to your children when God has answered prayer. My son was four when we moved to Florida for my husband to go to seminary. Just before we left, he desperately wanted to go to the Georgia Aquarium. I told him that he would have to pray about it because we did not have the money for tickets. He did. He prayed and sure enough, we were blessed with a significant amount of money. The giver encouraged us to do something special as a family. We point back to that with my son often to remind him that God cares about what we care about…. that God heard his prayer.
3. God is not Santa Clause. God does not reward good behavior with treats and saying yes to prayers. God’s favor in our life is not based on our behavior. God’s favor in our life is based on His love for us. We should not only go to God with our desire for “stuff”. Prayer is also about confession, thanksgiving, praying for others.
4. Confession. Teach your children that it is okay and encouraged to go to God and tell him when we have messed up. We can ask him for forgiveness and know that he will forgive.
5. A heart of thankfulness. This one is hard for me and for my children. We live in such a society of bigger and better. There is always something bigger and better than what we have. I am always asking my children to be content and thankful for who they are and what they have. Another way I have sought to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in my children is this: when they wake up in the night with bad dreams, I tell them to think about things they are thankful for and thank God for those things. This helps to get their minds off the bad dreams and onto what God is doing in their lives.
For older children, it might be helpful for them to keep a prayer journal. They can keep a record of their prayer life and look back over it to see how God is indeed present in our lives.
I’ve included three different printable prayer journal pages. Click on the link BELOW the image to download the printable version:
Click to download ->> Prayer Journal Purple Flowers
Click to download ——->>Blue Letters Prayer Journal
Click to download—->>Green Letters Prayer Journal
How do you teach prayer to your children? Comment below and share your ideas!
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