I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t pray. From “Now I lay me down to sleep” and “God is great, God is good” when I was a child, to long-winded prayer journals when I was a teenager, to the staccato please/why/thank yous of my twenties, to now circling back and teaching my own kids the same prayers I learned as a child, while diving into praying liturgies and ancient texts in my thirties, prayer has always been part of my life.
Which doesn’t mean I understand it, or I always like it, or I remember who the focus of prayer should always be (God, not me). As I teach my girls about prayer, I want them to see it as a gift from God, a chance to commune with our Creator, but also acknowledge it for the messy, imperfect journey that it is.
Here are a few (of many) things you can teach your children about prayer as they embark on their own prayer lives. Remind them (and yourself) that prayer isn’t a perfect science, but it is a gift. Each of the conversation ideas below includes a verse, a short reflection, and questions to discuss as a family.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Prayer:
4 Conversations to Guide Their Prayer Life
1. God listens to our prayers.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14 NIV
God created prayer as a way for His people to speak to Him, to share with Him, and to hear from Him. The Bible promises us over and over again that God hears our prayers. In Jeremiah 29, God speaks to the Israelites who are exiled because of their disobedience, and God still promises that if they pray, He will listen. That doesn’t always mean that our prayers are answered in the way we want, but because we know who God is and how much He loves us, we can trust His response.
When you talk to a friend, can you tell when they are listening and when they aren’t? How does it make you feel when someone listens to you? God is always listening to you when you talk to Him in prayer. When you are afraid, or sad, or happy, or confused, God is always there to listen to you.
2. Prayer orients our hearts to God.
May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2 NIV
Do you know what it means to be “oriented”? Let’s open the maps app on our phone, and click the compass. See how it moves? It is “orienting” your location based on the magnetic fields on the earth, to let you know if you are moving north or south. Prayer does the same thing with our hearts: it orients us to (or points us toward) our Heavenly Father. When we spend time with Him in prayer, we are closer to Him and become more oriented toward how He wants us to live our life.
Do you feel closer to God when you pray? What are some other ways we can orient or point our heart toward God?
3. Prayer can be communal.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 1:14 NIV
This story from Acts 1 happens right after Jesus ascended into heaven, and His disciples were left on earth. They were probably pretty scared and confused, but do you know what they did? They came together and prayed. When we pray together, we grow closer as a community as we present our requests to God. Praying together is known as “corporate prayer,” and the Bible is full of examples of it from Genesis to Revelation. Revelation 19 describes how all of God’s people will pray together for eternity, praising God and thanking Him!
Can you remember a time when you prayed with other people for something? What was that experience like? Do you like praying out loud with other people? What are some things we can pray together for as a family right now?
4. Prayer is part of our whole lives.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18 NIV
Praying isn’t just about asking God for things! While the Bible tells us over and over that we can present all of our requests to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6–7; Psalm 5:3; James 5:14–15), Scripture also gives many examples of other types of prayer. We can praise God, thank Him, lament and be sad before Him, and ask Him “why?” You can also just talk to God, telling Him about your day and letting Him reveal the ways He was at work in your life. Prayer is a beautiful exercise in spending time with God, and it is something we can do everyday for the rest of our lives.
When we pray together next, let’s start by thanking God for some of our favorite things and people. What would you like to thank God for? Have you ever wanted to ask God a question? What would you ask Him?
Spend some time praying together. Try to find time daily—at the dinner table or bedtime—to join together in prayer. Prayer is one of the most incredible parts of faith, because it allows us to spend time with God, who loves us more than we could ever know. As you begin to teach your kids about prayer, start by praying for them: that God would reveal Himself to them through prayer, and that He would strengthen their faith through the daily practice of prayer.