One of the great privileges of being a Christian parent is sharing your faith with your child. One of the most important parts about sharing my faith with my kids is sharing with them the blessing of prayer and how the God of the universe desires to hear our hearts and work in every aspect of our lives.
It can be tricky though, teaching kids to pray. Mainly I think because I am not an expert myself (you too?). But the greatest thing about the God we serve is that we don’t have to be an expert to come to Him or to model His love and His ways to others. And so here are just a handful of ideas on teaching our children how to pray.
1. Model the correct way to pray
What I mean by modeling is simply this: pray out loud around your kids. It’s that simple. If you choose to pray with your kids each night before bed, maybe go first. Model for them what types of things you say to the Lord, what sort of requests you bring to His throne, the praises you give Him, and the forgiveness you ask for. Teach them to pray by doing it in front of them so they can, essentially, copy what you do. Don’t be afraid of being perfect or messing things up – God simply wants us to come to Him as we are.
If you aren’t sure exactly how to pray out loud, here are some great resources to get you started:
2. Don’t push or pressure them
I don’t know about you, but if someone pressures me into doing something, even if it is good and even if it was something I intended to do in the first place, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to do it, just because it wasn’t out of my own free will. I want to be free to make my own choices. I think you’ll find that your kids are the same way and that this idea, however sinful and stubborn, is still true with prayer.
When it comes time to pray before bed or before a meal, I never force my children to pray. I ask them if they’d like to pray and they most often say yes. But every now and again when the answer is no, I respect that choice. I never want them to come to resent me or prayer or the Lord because they were forced to pray at times when something inside of them just wanted to be quiet. I have those moments myself and I want to respect those moments when they come up in the lives of my kids as well. I want them to want to pray, not do it because I demand it of them.
3. Mention prayer requests and pray for them
Before bedtime prayers, I kneel in front of my son’s bed as he lays tucked inside his Spiderman fleece blanket and ask him if he has anything special he wants to pray for.
If I’m being perfectly honest, most of these requests involve praying for the scrapes and bruises acquired over the last several days, oftentimes ones that have already healed. But, no matter, I still ask and we still pray. Because even praying for these seemingly small things shows my children that nothing is too benign to bring before the Father.
Praying for specific requests also enables my kids to see the times when God answers their specific prayers. Even for the above-mentioned paper cuts and skinned knees. Because this gives me a chance to say, “Hey! Look at your knee, it looks normal! God is amazing and made your body to heal so well over just a short amount of time. Isn’t that great?!” Pointing out these answers to specific requests just further illustrates to my children how much God really does love us and want to be involve in our lives.
4. Encourage spontaneous prayer
Having predictable times of prayer (before bed or before meals, etc.) is important for building good habits. But there is something really special when your kids learn to be more spontaneous in their prayers.
There have been times when my son comes home feeling a little sad with how the day played out. Maybe he moved his clip down at school for talking too much or they friend he usually sits with at lunch wasn’t there that day. But we’ll stop and pray, right then and there, for the next day to be better, and I will assure him of God’s promise that each day is a new day.
The same is true if we see an ambulance or hear of a disaster on the news or receive a text about a friend in a tough situation; we stop and we pray. Not every time, mind you, but it is such a good habit for children to learn to stop and pray about anything at anytime. Paul encourages us as believers to pray without ceasing and these spontaneous prayers are such a good way to model outwardly what we should already be doing inwardly.
With all the ways we try and teach our kids how to live for the Lord – attending church, reaching out to others, reading scripture – let us not neglect the simple act of prayer and help them see what a true privilege it is that our great God wants to hear our hearts.