Teaching children to pray is a key focus at our church. I was explaining to the new children why we take one Sunday a month from their regular lessons to focus on prayer. “We want you to know God, not just know about Him, and hear God, not just hear about Him,” I explained.
Eight-year-old Andrew, who’s been in Prayer Class for several years, piped up to help get the idea across. “It’s like me and President Bush. I’ve seen him on TV lots of times, especially since 9/11. I’ve read about him in the newspaper and heard my parents talking about him. But I’ve never had a conversation with President Bush, so I don’t really know him, do I?”
Andrew was exactly right. If we want kids to know God and not just know about Him, we need to always be teaching children to pray. Plus, we need to pray with them. Children could do all kinds of Sunday school worksheets and hear stories about God. But it’s when they talk and listen to God that they begin to know His heart.
Prayer is simply being with God and having a conversation. Children need to know early in their lives that they can talk to God just like they talk to Mommy, Daddy, or a best friend. They need to understand that God is there and attentive to what they have to say. Instead of putting them on hold or playing a recorded message, God is always willing to listen. That’s true whether they’re on the playground, at a friend’s house, in the car, or at church.
Ideas for Teaching Children to Pray
When you’re teaching children to pray, options abound. Here are a few great examples:
Heart to Heart
Share with your child a time that you prayed and received the answer in a surprising or dramatic way.
On the Spot
The next time your child shares a problem or worry, instead of saying, “I will pray for you,” do it right then. Even if it’s a short prayer, you’ll be demonstrating an important principle. God wants us to cast all our concerns on Him and pray about everything.
Through the Newspaper
Hand out sections of the newspaper. Then ask each child to come up with one concern to pray about.
Modeling: How to Learn Prayer
One of the first ways children learn the importance of prayer is hearing their moms and dads pray. Since Josh was born, his dad would pray for him each night at bedtime, asking for God’s protection and love to fill his heart. When Josh turned 2, his parents added a short nightly reading from his Bible.
Shortly afterward, Josh began to join in by looking around his room and naming everything he could see to thank God for. Blankets, puppy, Mommy, Daddy, new shoes, toys, the nightlight, eyes, ears, nose. The boy thanked God for the most interesting items!
But Josh wasn’t the only one growing spiritually. Hearing her son’s simple prayers, Josh’s mom, Sandy, could not remember the last time she thanked God for her sight, hearing, shoes, clothes, and all the other blessings in her life.
Get Out of Prayer Ruts
One way to banish the “nothing to pray for” or “prayer is boring” complaint is to get out of the ruts of prayer by using prayer targets and making prayer active. For example: