Leading Preteens to Pray

Preteens are bombarded with activities that compete for their time.  Online games, Wii, homework, baseball, friends, and a list of about hundred other things compete for their attention.  My almost ten year old has a tough time just sitting in the car without having something to engage in: my iPhone (I let him play games on it sometimes) or his brother’s Nintendo DS are his two favorites.  The average preteen would agree that prayer is important but most likely doesn’t fit much of it in his/her daily to-do list, especially when so many other things are screaming for his attention.

So how do you lead preteens to pray in today’s fast-paced world?  Here are a few things to emphasize:

First, prayer is something you get to do, not have to do.
Preteens often think prayer is a religious activity that isn’t very fun or interesting.  Praying is often viewed like a chore: taking out the garbage or doing the dishes.  It isn’t fun or exciting but necessary.  Emphasize that prayer can be one of the most exciting activities of their lives!  After all, they can experience God do amazing things in and through them when praying.  Paint the picture that prayer can be even more exciting than texting friends or playing baseball.

Second, prayer deepens your relationship with God.
We all crave a deep personal relationship with God.  It’s what we’re searching for deep down.  Preteens feel this need as well.  They are old enough to recognize and make choices to take step towards God.  They, like the rest of us, try to fill it with other things like: popularity, looking good, getting stuff, etc.  But these things are empty and never truly fill the need.  But when their prayer life is strong, their friendship with God deepens.  Preteens are in transition from childhood to adolescence.  They’re not kids anymore nor are they teenagers.  They’re preteens.  Preteens want to own their faith in Jesus independently of their parents.  Helping them to see that prayer deepens their friendship with God is one way to help them own their faith in Jesus.

Third, prayer is the activity that changes the outcome of events.
Preteens face tough issues: broken homes, bullies, stress at school, an overloaded schedule, and more.  They need to know that God has the power to change all those things!  His power is released when they pray.  Preteens forget this truth and need to be reminded often.  God always answers prayers.  Preteens need to be told this because they might think that their prayers go unheard.  They might pray one time and then give up because nothing happened.  Remind preteens that God always answers prayers.  His answer might be no or not now, which can sometimes be a tough pill to swallow.  What happens when we pray for something (like parents not getting a divorce) and God doesn’t intervene?  Does God want them to get a divorce?  Does God not care about me when the bully keeps picking on me even after I pray?  Tough questions, aren’t they?  Allow preteens to talk about this topic.  Letting them explore their doubts and questions is often more important than giving them an answer.  Hearing and discussing this in the context of a small group of peers can be quite helpful.

Third, God often speaks to you when you pray.
Preteens wouldn’t go to a doctor with a problem and not listen to what he has to say, would they?  It’s a two-way conversation.  You tell him the problem; he gives you a solution. Prayer is also two-way communication.  God can speak to you while praying.  Sometimes, it is the answer to your problem, and sometimes, it is something completely different.  That’s a great illustration to use when talking about prayer with preteens.  They need to know that God is still alive and active.  He wants to engage with them in everyday life.  And prayer is one way God speaks.  So encourage preteens to recognize and listen to God’s voice.

In today’s busy world, preteens can lose sight of engaging God in prayer.  Use these tips when talking about prayer.  And don’t forget to PRAY for them and lead by example.

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Nick Diliberto
Over twelve years ago Nick Diliberto lauched a preteen ministry with a handful of volunteers and about 25 kids. Over the years it grew to over 100 kids and has impacted hundreds of young people's lives. Nick is the driving force behind PreteenMinistry.net, Children's Director at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, workshop speaker and author of an ongoing preteen column in Children's Ministry Magazine.