Our children are gifts from God and an awesome responsibility. We want the very best for them, and that includes a healthy and lively faith. One of the best ways to foster faith in our children is to teach them how to pray. But we don’t always know just how to do that.
Where do we start? How can we make prayer a natural part of their lives? Won’t they learn how to pray at church? Read on to find the answers to these questions and some great ideas of how to teach your children to grow closer to God, become stronger in their faith, and be able to face the challenges of life.
Where to start?
When first faced with the dilemma of teaching our children to pray, we are often hesitant because we don’t know where to start. We don’t want to make a mistake, or confuse our children so we put off even trying. Don’t despair, we have a model of how prayer ought to be in the Bible.
The disciples wanted to learn to pray, so they went to the source: Jesus. Jesus gave them this model prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one. (Luke 11:2-4)
Jesus gave a great framework on which anyone can pray a prayer. Begin a prayer by addressing God the Father, and acknowledge the Holiness of God.
Next, pray that the Kingdom of God come to earth and God’s will be done here. This can be followed by a request that God provide for our needs and forgive us, and that He help us to forgive others as well.
Finally, a request that God keep us from being tempted, and he would protect us from the devil, the enemy of the followers of God completes the prayer.
This tells us that a good prayer starts with praise of God. Next it can contain the hope that the world would come to know God and be changed so that it is like Heaven. Then, any needs can be brought before God. Finally a request for God to guide us and help us to live a holy life is an excellent way to finish up.
Try putting the Lord’s prayer into simple words your kids can understand, or use this version from The Message version of the Bible:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
You can find a lot of other prayers suitable for kids online, including prayers to say before meals or bedtime. Here are a few popular prayers for kids.
How can we make prayer a natural part of our children’s lives?
Prayer should not be a once a week thing, but a daily conversation with God. If children never see prayer happening, they will think it is an unusual thing saved for only great disasters or special occasions.
You can change that perception by making sure your children see you pray. Pray often and pray in front of them. Let them see that you pray for the needs of others, and invite them to join you.
As a family pray thanksgiving and blessings over your meals. When blessings come your way, make sure you give your thanks to God openly. And when trouble strikes, let your children see that God is your rock, as you bring your requests to Him.
By doing these things, you will make prayer a natural and normal part of everyday life. Your children will then know to turn to prayer when needs arise or when good things happen.
You may find that they will begin to remind you to pray when there is need. It is a wonderful feeling when your child starts to ask to pray before meals or for you to pray with them for a sick friend.
It is important not to force them to pray or ask them to pray in group settings unless you know they are ready for it. Nothing will put them off praying more than having uncomfortable experiences with it.
But won’t they learn to pray at church?
Isn’t that why they go to Sunday School, or Vacation Bible Camp? Why do parents need to teach them to pray?
Your example is the best gift you can give your children. If you pray, read your Bible and try to live a life that honours God, your children will notice. You have the greatest impact on your children. They look up to you, and follow your example. They are with you every day for many hours, and that has a much greater effect than an hour a week at church.
They will be taught to pray at church, but children need to be taught things multiple times before it becomes a lesson they will remember. School teachers know that children must be shown something as many as twelve times before they will remember it and be able to use that knowledge.
By teaching your child at home, you will be ensuring that when prayer is taught at church, your child will have already been exposed to it and ready to remember what is taught.
Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.”
Treasure your inheritance from God, your children are a blessing and a gift. God has given you the humbling and wonderful responsibility to teach your children about him. Show them that God is real and listens to our prayers, and they will become the faithful men and women of God that they were born to be.