Spiritual disciplines are inward and outward practices, rooted in Scripture and tradition, that draw us closer to God. They are disciplines, practices that require work and repetition, that we grow more comfortable with and better at the more we do them. And they are a critical part of the Christian life, helping us to mature in godliness.
1 Timothy 4:7b-8 ESV tells us this:
“Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
But spiritual practices aren’t just for grown-ups! Kids can develop their spiritual muscles as well, practicing these helpful exercises alongside their parents or on their own. Childhood provides ample opportunities to develop other lifelong habits (like exercise, eating well, table manners, chores, etc), and many of the same concepts parents use to encourage their kids to develop those habits can be applied to teaching them spiritual practices!
Over the next few months, we’ll learn about 5 spiritual practices that you can help your kids cultivate. Today, we’ll start with prayer.
The Spiritual Practice of Prayer
Why We Pray
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.
God created prayer as a way for His people to speak to Him, to share with Him, and to hear from Him. Talking to the God who created us and loves us is a beautiful gift! And it is a gift God gave us because of how much He loves us.
Practice It: Explain to your kids that prayer is talking to God. Ask your kids who they like to talk to and why. Then connect the “whys” to how we can talk to God through prayer. For example, if your child says they like to talk to you because you are a good listener, share that God is the best listener, and He loves listening to His people.
How to Pray with Kids
When teaching our kids to pray, we can follow a formula. As they grow, they can find more and more ways to express their own thoughts and feelings to God through prayer. But when they start out, begin with a salutation “Dear God,” and end with “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
But what goes in between?
One of the most tried-and-true methods of constructing a prayer follows the acronym ACTS:
1. Adoration: Praise God! Give Him glory for creating the world, for loving you, for the beauty around you.
2. Confession: Take a moment to confess your sin to God. He promises to forgive our sin when we confess it to Him.
3. Thanksgiving: What do you want to thank God for? Spend a few minutes listing things you are grateful for.
4. Supplication: This is where we ask God for our needs, or the needs of others. One beautiful way to structure this type of prayer is by starting with your personal need, then moving out to your family, community (school, church, neighborhood), then your city or country, then around the world.
Practice It: Write out ACTS on a piece of paper or a wipe-off board. As you pray, go through each letter of the acronym with your kids and pray out loud together. For older kids, get them their own small prayer journal (such as a composition notebook), and have them go through the ACTS practice every day.
Praying Alone + Praying Together
One beautiful aspect of spiritual practices is that they can be both individual and corporate, practiced alone, or in a larger body of believers (a family, a local church, or even the whole global church). Prayer is an example of both individual and corporate practices, and you can teach your kids the value of both types of prayer.
Encourage your kids to participate in corporate prayer, by inviting them to pray with your family. Take turns around the table praying, so that every person gets comfortable praying out loud and listening while others pray.
Practice It: Draw names from a bowl in the middle of the table to choose who leads the dinnertime prayer! Or take turns going around and let a different person pray each night. You can even assign specific family members to pray at the dinner table certain days of the week then encourage them by saying, “It’s your day to pray!” when it’s their turn.
One of the best ways to encourage your kids to pray alone is actually by inviting them to witness your private prayer time. No, you don’t have to pray out loud in front of them! But if you journal your prayers, or use a prayer app, show it to your kids. Let them know that prayer is an important part of your life, so they can see the richness of a life of prayer.
Practice It: Make prayer visible in your home. Write your prayers down on sticky notes and put them on your mirror. Let your kids catch you praying through God’s Word. Feel like praying in the car, or while you’re making dinner? Try praying out loud so your kids can hear. Modeling a life of individual prayer is a wonderful way to inspire a life of prayer in your kids.
The spiritual practice of prayer offers us a chance to draw close to God’s heart and commune with Him. By inviting your kids into prayer, teaching them how to pray, and helping them practice prayer, they will have the opportunity to know God better and develop their own rich relationship with Him. And above all, remember to pray for your kids as you pray with them. Ask God to draw near to them as they pray. Pray that they would fall more in love with God every day, that they would love prayer, and that they would enjoy a rich relationship with God for their whole life.
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For more help in making this the year your family goes deeper in prayer and to teach your kids the purpose and power of prayer, check out our latest Minno Life Guide: Prayer.
Our latest Minno Life Guide, Prayer: The Practice of Talking to God offers practical help for teaching kids the sacred act of communing with their heavenly Father. This guide will open the door for your family to grow in the practice of prayer— starting with small, daily habits that lead to deep roots of dependence and communion. This mini ebook is full of simple ideas and biblical truth to guide grownups on how to lead kids to develop an honest and vibrant prayer life.
- Learn how to talk about prayer and practice prayer as a family.
- Discover what the Bible teaches about prayer.
- Engage in conversations about prayer with the simple prompts in each section of the guide.
- Use the included Family Prayer Resources to establish your own family prayer habits.
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Teach your kids about prayer with Micah and his friends in the Micah’s Super Vlog episode, The Prayer Song.
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