We had a minor tragedy in our home recently. Raquel and Fudge, gerbils who had lived long past a normal life expectancy for small rodents, passed away without warning.
My nine-year-old son and eleven-year-old daughter were devastated when they found the lifeless clumps of fur in their cage. My husband dutifully dug a proper grave for the gerbils along our fence.
That night, as I tucked the kids into bed, the conversation turned to death and grief and guilt.
“Mama, do you think we should’ve taken better care of the gerbils? Do you think they had a happy life? Why does everything have to die?”
I sat on the edge of my son’s bed as tears rolled down his cheeks. We chatted about how God is concerned about the things that hurt us, and how we can talk to Him about anything any time we need.
I could see the sadness weighing on his shoulders. “Would you like me to pray for you right now?” I asked.
He sniffed and said, “Yes, Mama.” After I said Amen, my son wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight. “Thank you, Mama.”
His simple thank you melted my heart, and made me realize, I should do this more often. I should make prayer with my kids more of a habit, and not just when they’re sad or sick.
While they are in our home, we have the incredible privilege of teaching our children not only how to pray, but how to make it a natural part of our everyday lives, not just something we do in a crisis.
Yet in the midst of the hustle of the everyday, prayer can get squeezed out of our routine if we aren’t intentional about seizing moments throughout the day. Or maybe we feel inadequate and don’t even know how to being teaching prayer to our kids.
Here are a few ideas I’ve used over the years to help make prayer a more natural part of our everyday lives.
When my kids were toddlers and through the early elementary years, they loved to do popcorn prayer. I would start with a short sentence, and each kid would take turns filling in the blank, popping in whatever came to mind.
“God You are…amazing, big, wonderful, strong.”
“God, thank you for…our family, my friends, our home, my teacher.”
“God, please help…Grandpa to feel better, my friend to love Jesus, my cold to get better.”
It was simple, and yet powerful. This simple exercise taught the kids in basic form how to express praise, thanksgiving, and petition to God.
Scripture contains beautiful prayers of blessing and love. I have one friend who recites a verse of blessing over her kids each day before they get on the bus.
Whether it’s something you read at breakfast, recite in the car together, or just something you whisper in their ear as they head out the door, you can plant these Scriptures in their minds as you pray.
You can pick a specific Scripture for each child or maybe choose a new passage each year for your family.
Here are some of my favorites:
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:10-13)
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-20)
Use Prayer Prompts.
Whether it’s praying together over dinner, or taking a quiet moment as they head to bed to reflect on the day, thank God for how He worked or confess where we failed. Prayer can be a great way to close an otherwise chaotic day.
Try asking one of these questions, then pray together using their answers to guide your conversation with God.
10 Prayer Prompts:
- What did you see in nature that you loved today?
- What was the best thing that happened today?
- How did you see God’s love for you today?
- What is something you wished you hadn’t done today?
- How can we pray for your teacher this week?
- Do you have any friends going through a hard time?
- What are you having a hard time with right now?
- How can we pray for each other/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins?
- Is there anything you are worried about or afraid of?
- Who can we pray for that we don’t get along with that well?
As you are an active participant in the prayer time, your children begin to see how God works in your life too.
Take every opportunity to pray with your kids. When they come to you with a concern, stop and pray immediately over it. When there is conflict or a need to for discipline, stop and ask God together for help to forgive.
We don’t have to wait for a certain time or location to pray with our kids. God urged His people to talk about Him and His commands in the everyday life:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Ask God to show you how you can make prayer a natural part of your life and that a desire to talk to Him every day would grow in your children.