Teaching a child to pray is one of the most valuable gifts you can give them. It helps them develop their relationship with the Lord and helps them grow as a Christian. Prayer is a very personal thing and should be taken very seriously. Teaching a child to do it should done with gentleness and grace.
Consider the Age of the Child
Children need to show a desire as well as a willing heart. A child asking to learn to pray should be one of the first prerequisites to teaching a child to pray. Forcing an intimate relationship with God is a mistake, as it will only push them further away. When our little one entered our home and began seeing us pray together as a family, he became very interested and wanted to participate. So even at a young age, he contributes, learns and shares in the joy of praying together.
Let Them Talk
Remember there is no one “one right way” to talk to God. Don’t try to teach children a certain way to talk to God. It is appropriate to teach them to bow their head and close their eyes. But allowing them to talk from their hearts is an important part of prayer. If they want to pray about a pet or a toy it’s acceptably to let them so they begin to feel comfortable starting a conversation with God. If you are continually correcting or navigating their prayers for them, it will become an unpleasant experience for them.
Talk About How God Hears Prayers
Just as it is important to talk about how we can pray about anything, it’s also important to teach them how God hears all of our prayers. The fact that God is always there and willing to listen to their prayers is a hard concept to understands so sometimes they need proof. The best way to give children proof is to point out answered prayers. It might be something simple like when someone recovers from a short illness that they prayed for.
We’ve written prayer requests on 3 X 5 cards and passed them around for everyone to pick and pray for. This is a tangible way to see the request and also, when we see God moving, we can note it on the card – celebrating together. When a prayer is answered fully, we write that down and place it in the answered prayer stack! I love how that stack gets bigger.
There might also be larger things when someone who was facing a financial crisis and is restored. It’s important that adults point out answered prayers and help the child thank God for the answered prayers.
Make it a practice as your child learns to pray to pray anytime. It doesn’t just have to be at designated times. While you will still pray before meals and bedtime, there are times throughout the day that the child can pray spontaneously. For example, if you hear an ambulance go down the street, your child and you can stop and say a prayer for the neighbor who may be ill and require immediate medical assistance.
You can also stop after a good belly laugh and praise God for the great time you are having as a family. There are many times throughout the day where your child can pray. This will help them as they develop a habit of praying to know it’s acceptable to pray at any time.
Lead By Example
Allow your child to see you praying – especially when it is not a ‘designated’ time to pray. This will help them see how spontaneous prayer is powerful and second nature to their way of life.
How have you encouraged your child’s prayer life?