Time for some honesty. I have started this blog post four times. Each time about half way in I found myself stuck – unable to write more and unsure of what the Holy Spirit wants me to type.
“Why is this so difficult?” I pleaded to God. “I am just writing on prayer.” And then it hit me. Just as I want writing about prayer to be an easy task, I also want teaching my children how to pray to be a simple process.
As parents we often desire a foolproof formula in raising children. If we do “A” and “B” we are promised a “C” outcome. We attempt three or four different Pinterest-pinned, sure-fire methods but yet halfway in the endeavors fall short. Then what?
I will be the first to admit that I am the last person who should be sharing ideas on prayer. The further I grow in my Christian walk, the more questions about it I have. So instead of providing you with a list of absolutes, I am simply going to share some things my husband and I have learned along the way with our four children.
5 Tips for Helping Kids Learn to Pray
1. It’s Never Too Early to Begin
There is nothing more precious than a 14-month-old folding his hands and bowing his head to listen to an adult pray. Or, when a toddler repeating after her momma prays, “Thank you for the food.” I’ve copied many a prayer in my children’s scrapbooks as they beg God to help them “not be like Goliath” when they grow up or when they say “God, you are my hero.” Some would say that they are too young to understand, but I feel it is never too early to begin laying a foundation of communication with God, making it a natural part of their daily lives.
2. Model Honest Prayers
I love listening to my children pray. You never know what they will say! While we often ask our children to pray before meals, my husband noted the importance of our children hearing us pray. Just as Jesus modeled prayer for his disciples in Luke 11, we too must take time to model prayer for our children.We can further encourage them by having them pray after us, thereby giving them something to copy.
3. Pray Continually
I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to, “Pray without ceasing.” Hang out at our house for long and you will hear our four-year-old shout out, “Praise Jesus.” Or, my seven-year-old will ask God to help him with a temptation. Or, momma will send up a plea, “Jesus, I need you!” as I am struggling for wisdom or patience. I love these short, one-sentence prayers of praise or request. Again, by modeling these, we are teaching our children to pray continually.
4. Make Prayer the Go-To Reaction
I love Philippians 4:6. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Notice how Paul is instructing us to not even step into the circle of anxiety. Immediately, we are to go to God in prayer. It is important to help our children learn to do the same. Of course as parents we want to comfort them but we also want to teach them to go to the true source of comfort. We hope for it to be so ingrained that by the time the teenage years come, our children automatically take their concerns to God.
5. Prioritize Prayer
If we desire our children to spend quality time conversing with God, we have to make it a priority in our own lives. For the first six or seven years of motherhood, I tried to excuse myself out of daily Bible time and focused prayer. There’s not enough energy or time, I reasoned. God brought me to a place where I realized that I desperately needed this time.
In reading over this list, I can’t help but apply prayer to my parenting theme verse from Deuteronomy 6:7.
Impress (prayer) on your children. (Pray with your children) when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
I can’t promise that if you do each of these steps that your child will have a deep prayer life. But as I listen to our four children pray, I am blown away by the honest and unfiltered conversation they have with God. Maybe instead of me teaching my children, my children are actually teaching me.
Heidi Franz is a stay-at-home, Jesus-seekin’ momma of four who loves to connect with and encourage other women. She is the creator of the popular online Preschool Bible Curriculum website ABC Jesus Loves Me and blogs at Our Out-of-Sync Life.