Kaleigh and Courtney sat at the dinner table with Mom and Dad. Dad was reading a Bible story about a young girl Jesus raised from the dead as Kaleigh and Courtney listened intently.
“That’s a great story, Dad,” Kaleigh remarked. “I could listen to it over and over.”
“I really like the stories about how Jesus helped people,” Courtney added. “I wish Jesus lived on Earth now.”
“Girls,” Dad said as he closed the Bible, “I know how much you like hearing Bible stories, and your Mom and I really like this time we have together as a family. So we’ll keep doing that. But we think it’s time for you both to start having your own personal Bible study and daily devotional time with God, just like Mom and I do. Here are some things that will help you.”
Families such as this one are paying attention to the spiritual development of their children. Mom and Dad know that in order to have a growing and fruitful Christian life, both children and adults must keep in close touch with God. They must learn to read the Bible, pray, and read devotional helps on a regular basis.
While teaching children at church is certainly very important, parents are the ones responsible for the spiritual training of their own children. Unfortunately, many parents feel that simply by taking their children to church, they are taking care of their children’s spiritual growth. God says in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” God clearly intends for parents to be the primary spiritual educators of their children. There is no better tool for helping a child develop spiritually than a parent who regularly prays, reads the Bible, and talks about God and Jesus.
Helping a child develop a growing relationship with God has many facets. First of all, a child should have his own Bible. If he does not have one yet, this would be a good time to give him one. If he has one, make sure the edition is appropriate for his age. Encourage the child to mark his favorite verses and passages in his Bible. This may well be the Bible he will use for most of his life.
Learning to pray is significant because that is how the child will communicate with God. Praying with the child at mealtime and at bedtime, as well as at church, is the best foundation to help her know how to pray and for what to pray. Parents can help children begin to pray in the following ways:
1. Parents can ask the child questions to help him think about what he wants to say.
- Would you like to ask God for something special?
- Is there someone you would like to pray for?
2. Parents can say a sentence and leave a blank for the child to fill in a word or two.
- Thank You, God, for (my parents, my house, my church, the food, my dog).
- Dear God, please bless (my sick friend, my family, my Grandma and Grandpa).
3. Children may say one-sentence prayers while an adult opens and closes the prayer.
- Thank You, God, for my church.
- Thank You, God, for my family.
4. Children can think a prayer as an adult leads the prayer aloud.
- Will you pray now for a friend? (Pause.)
- Will you ask God to help you be a good friend? (Pause.)
5. Children can pray prayers of their own.
While parents should help children understand appropriate prayer topics, they must also understand that children will pray about what is happening in their own lives. They may want to pray about schoolwork, about something happy, or about something that makes them feel afraid.
6. Consider providing a simple prayer journal for each child.
A three-hole folder with space to record requests and answers would be helpful. Print “I Can Pray” across the top of a sheet of paper. Punch three holes, make several copies, and place them in the folder.
Another facet of helping a child develop a devotional life is Bible reading. The younger the child, the simpler and shorter the Bible reading and devotional should be.
As children grow as Christians, they can begin a disciplined and organized personal prayer life. Help children develop a habit that throughout their lifetime will help them become the people God wants them to be.