We can do many things to help our children make prayer an integral part of their lives.
- Set an example. When you pray with a small child, pray simply so that he can pray as you do. Use short sentences and simple words such as, “Thank You for Jesus,” “Bless my teacher,” and “Help Grandma get well.”
When praying with older children or teens, lead them by example in what you pray for and how you give thanks. They will follow an example of prayer more easily than they will be able to apply teaching about prayer.
- Never criticize your children’s prayers. They are not praying to you, but to God—their loving, heavenly Father. Allow your children to express themselves freely to God. If they are criticized, they may regard prayer from a negative perspective. As they grow older they will abandon any attempt to pray, feeling that either you or God will not find their prayers acceptable.
- Never insist that your children pray aloud. You may find an exception to this rule, but it would indeed be rare. Children, and especially teenagers, may go through periods when they are hesitant about praying in front of others. Offer them the opportunity, but don’t insist.
- Use conversational prayer. Let each member of the family pray a sentence, then stop and allow someone else to pray. This method allows every member to participate. Parents can lead children from one area to another by introducing new topics and allowing the children to follow with items of their own.
- Vary positions as you pray. The Bible speaks of kneeling, standing, sitting, lying down, and walking as possible positions for prayer. Variety helps children understand that no matter where they are, they can pray. One day after your devotional time go outside and walk, praying conversationally as you go. Or kneel together. Or sit on the floor in a circle, holding hands.
- Use lists and pictures. Maintain a family prayer list. In a notebook, write down items to be thankful for and requests for the family and other people. When you hear of a response or answer from God, jot that in the notebook next to the request. Your children will see firm evidence that God answers prayer. Keep a photo album of people for whom you pray. Younger children need a point of reference for their prayers.
- Teach your children to pray BIG to increase their faith. When they pray for things that seem impossible from their point of view and find that God answers, their faith is given a tremendous boost.
Teach them to pray about every detail of life and to wait for answers from God. Teach them to pray for those things for which Scripture instructs us to pray.
When we teach our children to pray and regularly lead them in prayer, we build a spiritual foundation that will last and support them for a lifetime.
Discipleship Journal, Issue 53 (September/October 1989). 1989, 1989.
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