Teaching Young Kids to Pray

WHAT are developmentally appropriate ways to teach prayer?

We teach preschoolers and children to pray by modeling and intentional instruction. Sometimes modeling is done without intentional instruction, but often they are linked together. When a professor of missions at Southwestern Seminary grew up in a very poor family, he was asked by his mother to go to the nearby store and purchase food. When given the list and some money, he asked his mother if he could have money for shoes because he did not have any to wear. She replied by saying, “Let’s pray.” They knelt together by a chair, and she asked God for money to buy him shoes. When he got to the store, the man who helped him asked him why he was not wearing any shoes, and he replied, “Because there’s no money for shoes.” The man filled the grocery list and also gave him a note for his mother along with money for shoes. That afternoon they went to purchase the shoes, and when asked by friends where the shoes had come from, the young boy proudly answered, “From the Lord!”  Years have passed, and this professor still remembers the need for shoes, the prayer of his mother and the provision of the Lord.

We teach preschoolers and children to pray by making prayer a part of each teaching opportunity at church. On Sunday mornings, I teach a wonderful class of kindergartners. At the close of each large group time, I ask the children if they would like to pray aloud. Sometimes I begin the time of prayer with simple explanations about prayer, why we pray, what kinds of prayers we pray and how God loves to hear and answer our prayers.

We can teach preschoolers and children to pray by using our Southern Baptist missions education material, which provides inspiring stories about missionaries and the work they are doing around the world. We need to use prayer calendars, maps, pictures, etc., to help the children we teach see the people around the world who need our specific prayers. The International Mission Board and North American Mission Board websites can give you specific prayer needs of missionaries.

We can teach older children to pray by using developmentally appropriate learning activities like the following: 

  • Keep a personal prayer journal with prayer requests and answered prayer.
  • Read and collect a list of Bible verses and Bible stories about prayer.
  • Make prayer chains and other prayer reminders to keep at home. 
  • Go on prayer walks in the neighborhoods and around the church.
  • Hear the testimonies of other Christians who have prayed specific prayers that were answered by God.

As we teach preschoolers and children, we must keep the big picture in our minds and hearts. What the Lord said to the prophet Jeremiah is also true today. “‘For I know the plans I have for you’—[this is] the LORD’s declaration—‘plans for [your] welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart’” (Jer. 29:11-13). Research and experience tell us that what we teach and model for preschoolers and children will last a life time.

In order to prepare our children to live for Christ in the world today, we need to equip them with the wisdom and power to be found in prayer. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Jesus is not only a friend to our children but He wants to be their constant companion as they travel the road to adulthood … and learn to pray!