When I was a child, I prayed the same prayer just about every time I sat down at the table to eat. It went something like this…”Father, thank you for this food I’m about to receive, allow it to nourish my body. Bless the hands that prepared it. In your son Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
In addition to that prayer, at night before my siblings and I went to bed we prayed a prayer that went like this “As I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul, to take.” My husband shared that he’d learned the same prayer for bedtime as well.
Was this your bedtime prayer too?
When I was a little older, I attended a Catholic school for a while and we learned the Lord’s prayer, in which we prayed verbatim. We did ritualistic confessions and memorized scripture to help correct negative behavior.
As I grew up, I found that I didn’t have a REAL relationship with my Lord and Savior. I’d simply been repeating what I’d been taught to say all of my life.
Does any of this sound familiar?
By the time my husband and I had children, we’d both, thankfully, learned better than to pray routine prayers to our loving and gracious Abba Father.
…And we wanted our children to grow up having a REAL relationship with their Savior as well.
I remember when my son was young and I was going through the actual motions of trying to teach him how to pray. I was intimidated by the process. I wondered which words would be best to use? Would he understand what we were doing? How could I teach him that prayer is not a standardized boxed-statement or list of requests?
Thankfully, I prayed about these concerns and was granted peace of mind and clarity in moving forward.
Here are some helpful tips to teach your child to pray wholeheartedly:
Begin When They Are Young
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. -Proverbs 22:6
Teaching your child to pray when they are young helps them feel comfortable having a conversation with a being that they can not physically see. I’ve known many of people that feel “uncomfortable” praying because they view it as “weird, talking to the air.”
In addition, teaching a child to pray when they are young helps them to establish a close relationship that will provide them with comfort and support as they grow. They will learn that they are not on their own. They will readily give thanks and display gratitude for things commonly taken for granted.
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” -Isaiah 54:13
When my son was a baby, I frequently gave thanks to God for placing him in my care. I said this prayer out loud. I think that it’s helpful to pray out loud for young children to hear.
When your child becomes a toddler and can verbalize their own prayers, you may find it helpful to pray for them and have them repeat after you. If you are praying in a conversational way, they will quickly learn that prayer is not a ritualistic string of sentences recited each time they pray.
I actually prayed like this for a year with my son before inviting him to pray on his own. When he did pray on his own that very first time, he prayed like he’d been praying for 20 years.
I was completely amazed!
He still prays robust, thoughtful and heartfelt prayers now that he’s eight years old and I’m so grateful that he has an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Teach Them To Love God
“You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” -Deuteronomy 6:5-7
Have you ever thought about why you love someone? Perhaps you thought about all the good qualities that person possess? Or maybe you considered how well they have treated you? These reasons help us to grow in reverence for someone and connect us emotionally.
These same techniques will help your child connect with their Savior.
Discuss the wonderful and amazing qualities and attributes of their Heavenly Father. If your child is old enough, have them find God’s characteristics in their bibles as they are reading scripture. It may be helpful if they created a list so that they can refer back to it at a later time.
Have your child actually say “I love you Father” when they are praying. This is especially helpful when they are toddlers and they are following your lead in prayer. Saying the words “I love you” is powerful.
Explain to your children how much God loves us. Have them memorize John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).
Teach Them To Pray Throughout The Day
I’m taking for granted that you’re probably already teaching your child to pray during mealtimes, bedtime and in the mornings. So I’m just going to touch on some other ways and times to incorporate prayer throughout the day.
Deuteronomy 6:7 from the above scriptures, instruct us to teach this command to our children all of the time as we go throughout our day. We can accomplish this by constantly being aware of our blessings throughout the day, and teaching our children to do the same.
We can talk with our children about things that are commonly taken for granted. Things like birds singing in the morning. Rainy days that provide nourishing life to all of God’s creatures. Having loving family and friends to walk through life with us. The ability to think and process information that helps us to solve problems. Beautiful arrays of color all around us that we see and enjoy every day…And the list could go on.
If your child is older, it may be helpful for them to know that they can pray silently and from the heart. Ask them to practice by closing their eyes and saying a silent prayer.
It may also be helpful for you to explain to your child that prayer does not have to be long and drawn out.
They can pray something as simple as “Thank you, Father, for helping me”
Once your child begins to understand that their relationship with God is like having a best friend with them all of the time. They will realize that they can talk with Him any time during the day, even if it’s a quick and simple statement of gratitude.
Make Prayer More Meaningful
Children have a talent for using creativity to express how they feel and how they view the world. Encourage your child to use their imaginative gift to help them connect with God in a meaningful, and even tangible way.
- Keeping a prayer journal (coloring or illustrating) is one way for your child to track their prayers and who they’d like to pray for. They can record how they see God moving in their lives. Children can utilize many different mediums to accomplish this goal.
- Dioramas/models. They can use clay/play-doh, dolls, legos, or any other materials to create 3d models of how they see their relationship growing. You may want to take photos of their models to document their journey.
- Photography/Film. Speaking of photography, they can create photo essays of their journey if they happen to be little shutterbugs. Or if they are anything like my daughter, they can make short films or documentaries about their journey with the Lord. My daughter uses my iPhone and the iMovie app to make some pretty amazing stuff, you’d be surprised by what children can come up with.
Praying For Others
In addition to documenting their personal journey with the Lord, help them to make praying for others a part of their conversation.
How rewarding it is to see God working in the life of someone that you are praying for. Your children will experience the joy of witnessing their prayers at work.
Keeping a list of people that they would like to pray for and a brief statement of what they are praying for will give them a point of reference to review.
A great scripture for your child to memorize is John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” It’s important that they understand that this scripture is a conditional statement. They have to do something, as well as HAVE something, in order to receive something.
Praying About Events
It’s pretty difficult for us as adults to fathom many of the unimaginable stories that we hear in the news and in social media. This is even more difficult for children to reconcile.
Many children are fascinated by severe weather occurrences. However, they are fearful when they witness the devastation that is left behind. They may feel powerless or frightened wondering what they would do in a similar situation.
Letting children know that they can pray for people affected by certain events and that they can pray for something good to come of the tragedies that inevitably impact our lives, is powerful.
Praying For Help
Children make mistakes, as we all do. However, because they can be somewhat ego-centric, children also have a tendency to internalize bad choices as character flaws.
Teaching our children that we are all born sinners and that only by God’s grace are we redeemed, will help free them from these internalizations.
Encourage them to pray for God’s guidance and help when making everyday decisions in their lives. When they understand that knowing God’s word will help them make better decisions, they will again feel empowered and grow closer to God.
Praying For Forgiveness
Praying for forgiveness is a foundational principle of prayer life.
We all struggle with sin and therefore are in need of God’s merciful forgiveness. This concept is sometimes difficult for children to understand. They may think “well, I’ve been good all day” even though they weren’t willing to share with a friend earlier in the day. Perhaps they were defiant against their parent or a school teacher, or haughty and prideful.
Helping them to understand what God’s word say’s about behavior and what love looks like can help them identify where they may need to ask for forgiveness during prayer time. Gently asking some relevant questions such as:
- Were you loving toward’s all of your friends today?
- Have you happily done what you were asked today?
- Were you honest today?
- What did you do when you were (angry, sad, disappointed) today?
- How were you helpful today?
These questions can help your little review their behaviors and intentions throughout the day and identify any areas where forgiveness is needed.
Wrapping It Up
I love that we have the opportunity as parents to guide and direct our children to know and love God. It is such an honor and privilege to know that He has entrusted us with this monumentally important responsibility.
We can encourage our children to have a relationship with God that is real and tangible through conversations weaved into their everyday lives. They can grow in their intimacy through practical exercises such as recording their experience through creative outlets. We can guide them in their prayer life by empowering them to pray for others, community and global events, help in their own decision making, and for forgiveness for themselves as well as forgiving others.
What a good God we serve that He has given us the gift of prayer through His son Jesus Christ, we have a direct line to be heard. A cherished gift that our children can learn to value as well.
It is my deepest hope that this information has blessed you in some way. If you know of anyone that can be inspired or encouraged by this message, would you please share it?
I’d love to know if you have any other tips for helping parents guide their children in an authentic relationship with God.
Blessings, and Happy Homemaking!