One of the most profound gifts that we can give our children is to teach them to pray. It is such an honor that the God of the entire universe wants to have a RELATIONSHIP with us. And this relationship can only happen through prayer, communing with God. Prayer is not meant to be a ritual poem that we recite to check a box as an act of duty, but a precious gift to actually COMMUNE with God Himself! We can share our feelings with Him, ask Him for help, thank Him for blessings, praise Him for His goodness, and quietly listen for Him to speak to us.
I believe one of the best ways we can encourage our children to have a relationship with Jesus is to teach them to pray. And the best way to teach them to pray is to pray with our children.
1. Thankful Prayers: “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)
The Bible instructs us over and over again to thank God for everything. Just type ‘thank” into your Bible app’s search bar, and you will see what I mean! Yet as Christians, we SO often forget the simple act of thankfulness to God! We pray and pray for something, and we may be happy in the moment when we see God answer, but then we quickly forget and move on to the next request. The Bible instructs us to remember what the Lord has done for us and to recount these great things to our children! “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4 Here are a few ideas to pray with our children prayers of thanks:
Keep a log of answered prayers. Keeping a log of answered prayers allows us to be reminded of what God has done and thank Jesus for answering our prayers!
Go on thankful prayer walks or car rides. Take turns thanking God for things, whether it’s the beauty of nature, provisions, or loved ones in your lives. This can be a great way to cultivate a thankful heart in our children.
Thank God before each meal. There are multiple examples in the Bible of Jesus thanking God for the food at meal time. “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.” John 6:11 (NIV) He is giving us an example to be thankful for the food on our plate. It is easy to take it for granted and not appreciate where it came from, but giving thanks helps us to remember that every good and perfect gift, even our dinner, ultimately is a gift from God!
2. Structured Prayers: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
Jesus clearly scheduled times he set aside to talk to His Father. We too can model this for our children. Setting aside specific times to pray with our children shows them that we prioritize prayer and that it needs to be a regular part of our day. Here are a few examples:
Pray for God’s help before starting your day. This could be at breakfast, on the way to school, or before starting home school. I have always started the day with my children by requesting help from the Lord with our character. I pray, “Please help us to have obedient hearts, that we will obey quickly and cheerfully, help us to be kind to each other, and help us have self-control and not whine or yell.” These are three areas I have worked on with my kids when they were young, and by praying together for help, my children have learned that they are not to “try to be good” in their own strength, but depend on Jesus to live godly lives of character. My hope is that this will set an example for them to pray for God’s strength to live for Him in their own personal time with God.
Pray with your children before bed. Another time we consistently pray with our kids is at night. My husband says prayers with them individually. It is a sweet, intimate time, and the last thing they remember before nodding off to sleep. Many children have anxious thoughts as they fall asleep, and this way you can pray peace over them and ask the Lord to quiet their hearts and minds.
3. In the Moment Prayers: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
While structured prayers are good, I also like to set an example to pray throughout the day as different things come up. Children need to know that God is ALWAYS there to help anytime and anywhere. Here are some ideas of in the moment prayers to pray with our children:
Pray for healing. When my daughter was little, she suffered from frequent stomach aches. I really tried to get in the habit of stopping and praying each time she was calling out in pain. Very frequently, more than coincidentally, her pain would be gone within seconds, and we would thank God that He healed her stomach ache. It was great to allow God the opportunity to heal and allow her to see that God moves when we pray.
Pray for refinement. Praying for a change in our hearts has been another frequent, in the moment, prayer request in our home. Whenever one of us (I include myself in this one) would get impatient or angry and clearly needed to get right with God, we would stop and pray. I taught my kids to go to God and tell Him they were sorry and ask HIM to forgive them, clean their heart, and help them to follow in His ways. When they were young, I would do this with them. This so often stopped the negative behavior and allowed them to learn to deal with their hearts, not just their outward behavior.
4. Persevering Prayers: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1 (NIV)
It is easy to become tired of praying the same prayer over and over again with no results. Sometimes we determine it’s just not God’s timing, so we become quiet and forget to pray. One day, as my husband and I were feeling like this about a particular request, my daughter told us about a dream she had. In it we were at a waterpark, and the water stopped, so we couldn’t go on anymore rides and were all disappointed. We went to the man who controlled the waterpark, and He told us we needed to pray. He said the water would not flow unless we prayed. Once we prayed, the water turned back on, and we could enjoy the water park again! My husband and I just looked at each other in amazement, and God used that dream to encourage both of us to persevere in prayer. It is not that God NEEDS our prayers to make His Spirit flow, but He wants us to be a part of His amazing plan in this intimate way.
Make a prayer list. Recently we made a family prayer list of requests that we are believing God to answer in His perfect timing and way. Some of them are definitely GOD SIZED prayers, and it will truly be a miracle when we see God move. When we see God answer requests, we get to check them off and they become thankful prayers. One day, we prayed really hard that God would show Preston where he left his bear and blanket that had been missing for a few months, and within days God answered and revealed to our daughter where they were. It was such a time of rejoicing when we got to check the box and thank God for showing us where the bear and blanket were hiding, and what a faith builder for our kids! We do teach our children that God does not always answer our prayers in the way we want Him to or in our timing, but as we align our hearts with His and trust that He knows what is best, we can still pray in faith. We can rest assured that even if we have to face unwanted trials, He is still a good God and will see us through, shaping our character more in the process.
How do you like to pray with your kids? Would love to get your feedback, so make sure and leave a comment.