Teaching your children to pray is a lot like teaching your children to love. If your child came to you one day asking how they could learn to love someone, what would you say? But truthfully, most kids will not ask that question because they won’t need to. They learn to love because they experience love.
Prayer is a love relationship with God. When your children learn to pray to God, they should be learning to love God and experience his love for them. That is why those bedtime prayers are so important, as well as prayer at other times of the day. We want our kids to love their heavenly Father like we want them to love us and others.
Here are a few things to consider when teaching your children to pray:
- Prayer is a conversation with God. Most conversations are spontaneous, not planned or programmed. The people we care about are the people we most want to talk to. We want to tell them our good news and we need to talk to them about our challenges. We tend to make conversation with acquaintances, but we really talk with those we love. Think about your prayer times with your kids. What do their prayers reveal about their love for God? Kids love to talk—do they love to talk to God?
- Talk about everything with God. Think of prayer as a dinnertime conversation. Everyone talks and the subjects range from school, work, friendships, schedules, problems, responsibilities, questions, and whether or not someone has eaten their vegetables and can therefore, have a cookie for dessert. Prayer is a dinnertime conversation with God and it should be just as broad and diverse a conversation. If that is the way your children pray, then they understand that God cares about every part of their lives.
- Give God a chance to speak as well. Kids are usually better at talking than they are at listening. That is often true of God’s kids as well. Your children will trust you to answer their questions thoughtfully and they should learn that God wants to do the same. When your children pray about something, help them to find a verse or two that has God’s answer. Keep a topical Bible handy or just google an answer from a website like www.openbible.info. The Bible is often God’s side of the conversation; that is why we call it “the word of God.” But God also speaks into our children’s thoughts and feelings. Teach them to submit what they think and feel to God’s word and they will learn that God speaks to them.
- The single most important lesson about prayer is that it is a necessity. No relationship survives without strong communication. Communication is never just about words. Marriage partners say a lot to one another with a hug—and the children learn a lot by watching that exchange. Parents can say a lot to their children with just a glance. All of us say what and who we care about, by our choices; and children notice what their parents care about. For example, can you name your parents’ favorite music? Television show? Bible verse? Church? You noticed what your parents cared about. Your kids will do the same thing. Embrace God throughout the day and your children will learn a lot from those hugs.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray saying, “Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Jesus went to the temple to pray at the designated hours. Jesus went to a solitary place, early in the day, to be alone with his dad. Jesus prayed for others. And Jesus cried out from the cross. Jesus prayed all the time and he was our living example of how, when and why we pray.
Your children will learn to pray by watching you, just like the disciples learned by watching Jesus. Teach them how to talk with their Abba Father and you will teach them how to love God. That love relationship will impact every other relationship in their lives. Teaching your kids how to pray is as important as teaching them how to walk, how to speak, and how to love others. That is why the Apostle Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We are supposed to “pray without ceasing” because we are to love without ceasing. Teach your kids to pray and you will teach them how to love God.