Teaching Children to Pray for Others

Through the years, our family tried different approaches to prayer. However, with the never-ending prayer list in hand, it seemed impossible to interest our sons in joining us. Finally, after prayerfully doodling with various acrostic ideas, we came up with an easy-to-use prayer plan requiring no “official” prayer list. We decided to let the prayer topic(s) for each day begin with the first letter of that particular day of the week. This was easy for everyone to remember.

Here’s how we did it. Just before bedtime we gathered on one of the boys’ beds. All curled up and comfortable, we prayed for family members (an every-night prayer) and then prayed about the topic(s) for that particular day of the week. Sometimes just one person prayed, and other times we took turns.

The Holy Spirit became a part of our prayer time and guided the discussion, the time factor, and the interesting conversations in prayer. After a few short weeks, our personal lists for each topic were “written on our hearts.”

Monday – missionaries

Our family supported several missionary families and kept their pictures on our refrigerator door. We prayed for each family. Sometimes we focused on one missionary family for the night. We included in our prayers various missions organizations such as the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, the rescue mission, the Christian camp we attended every summer, and the local Christian radio station. Our family learned about all sorts of local missions as the Lord tuned our hearts to the needs of others.

Tuesday – teachers

The boys enjoyed praying for teachers. At the beginning, their prayers were self-serving as they prayed for easier and fewer tests, but spiritual growth became evident as they prayed for their teachers’ health and families. We prayed for Sunday school teachers, swimming instructors, and coaches. Moms and dads have teachers also, so we prayed for our Sunday School teachers, my quilting instructor, and so on. Our kids simply would not leave out anyone!

Wednesday – widows, wisdom, and witness

We started out with only the topic of wisdom, explaining to our boys that wisdom is needed for all of our choices at work, at school, and at home. Soon the children added widows to our list, reminding us of Mrs. Tuttle, the homebound lady we regularly visited. “We just have to pray for Mrs. Tuttle!” they said. So every Wednesday evening, we prayed for her and several other widows we knew. When my father died, the boys lovingly added their own grandmother to this special list. One night the subject of witnessing at school was mentioned, so we added witness to our Wednesday prayer list. This led to many good discussions about creative ways to be witnesses around our friends.

Thursday – those in authority

On Thursdays we prayed for people in authority – all the way to the White House! We also looked up our state senators and representatives and prayed for them. We prayed for the leaders of other countries in the news. We prayed for the school principal and our pastor. After discussing the subject of authority, the boys added their dad to their prayers. One night they insisted on praying for God, and it warmed my heart to hear their sweet prayers of concern for their Heavenly Father and His heavy load of daily responsibilities. These prayers developed into praise and worship for our sovereign and powerful Creator.

Friday – friends and family

Friday started out with friends, neighbors, and immediate family members. Soon prayers were lifted up for many cousins, aunts, and uncles. With so many friends and family members to pray for, we often divided up the names and prayed for some of them on Saturday.

Saturday – salvation

On Saturday nights we prayed for our friends who were lost. We talked about how to lead someone to Christ. Our youngest son, David, prayed faithfully for his best friend, Bobby, and invited him to camp. Bobby attended camp with David and accepted Jesus as his Savior the last night of camp. We were able to rejoice with David when he removed Bobby’s name from the Saturday list.

Sunday – sick, sorrowing, and suffering

Sunday’s prayer topic included people who were sick, sorrowing, or suffering. This gave us many opportunities to discuss difficult subjects such as divorce, drugs, suicide, and alcohol. It also reminded us to pray for hurting family members and friends. Another suggestion for Sunday prayer time is special requests.

Our day-of-the-week prayer prompts provided a simple outline for our family to follow. After the children grew up, this method of praying continued to be effective for all of us. I’ve shared these prayer prompts at various prayer retreats and in Sunday School. Several friends set up prayer notebooks using the prayer topics as dividers, personalizing them as needed. What started out as an easy prayer plan for our children turned out to be an important tool in my own prayer life as a parent. It also helped build a spiritual foundation of prayer in our children’s lives.

Dottie G. Bachtell is a wife and the mother of two grown sons. She is also a writer and a speaker, and an industrial chaplain with Marketplace Ministries.

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