Praying with Your Children
I really think there’s no right or wrong way to teach children to pray, but I know it’s always been helpful for me to hear how others do things, so I thought I’d share with you today how we incorporate prayer into discipling our kids.
First of all, let me say that I realize that praying out loud is not everyone’s cup of tea. When I was younger, I used to be so self conscious about praying in front of a group that I almost couldn’t do it without bursting into tears. As I began to become more mature in my faith, I realized that it’s not really important how articulate I sound or even how spiritual because God knows what I mean and it’s not my responsibility to impress others with my prayers. I hope that realization is as liberating to you as it is to me.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to, “Pray without ceasing.” And Matthew 6:6 instructs, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
We’re also given The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, so I think it’s safe to say even the disciples struggled with knowing the right words to say sometimes.
Our main goal in showing our children how to pray is to teach them how to communicate with their Heavenly Father. How not only to ask for what they need, but to listen to what God is telling their hearts as well.
Here are a few simple ways we model this:
- Mealtime prayers — Three opportunities each day that allow us to show gratitude for the food we’re eating. Any time Ryan says the mealtime prayer, he also thanks God for the sacrifice of His son for our sins and salvation. This makes for a nice moment to reflect on the implications of the gospel, even for just a few seconds. Finn likes to say the mealtime prayer sometimes, so we just ask who wants to pray. Lydia prefers to repeat after whoever is praying so there’s usually a tiny echo accompanying our mealtime prayers.
- Bedtime prayers — We want our children to drift off to sleep each night with a sense of security and peace, so before bed we all get down on our knees and pray:
Now I lay me, down to sleep
I Pray the Lord my soul to keep,
Guard and keep me through the night,
And wake me with the morning light. Amen.
We’ve done this since Finn was around 2 years old, so both kids have memorized this prayer. We’ve also explained to them how important it is to be respectful when we pray, so no mumbling or speeding through the prayer to be silly.
- Spur of the moment prayers — Any time one of the kids doesn’t feel well, is acting in a way they know they shouldn’t, or we hear of someone in need of prayer, we try to stop what we’re doing and pray in that moment. This can be something as simple as, “Dear God, we’re having a rough day. Please help us to be patient with one another and have the self control we need to make good decisions. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” The kids usually just sit and listen to me say it. I don’t make them join in unless they ask to, but boy, do I notice a difference in everyone’s attitudes and moods when we take a couple seconds to ask God to help us.
We feel so grateful for the many opportunities we have to pray with our children throughout the day, so I hope this post has been helpful. The most beautiful thing about praying with your children is that you’re showing them what a rich and meaningful relationship with Christ is all about. Communicating with our Creator and Savior is a wonderful privilege afforded to us all.
Thanks for stopping by to read the third installment of the “Shaping Little Hearts” series. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be talking about filtering conversations with your little ones through the gospel, the importance of hymns and praise, and specific ways we can be praying not just with our children, but FOR them.
Have a fantastic week!
The “Shaping Little Hearts” series first appeared on the Little Paper Crown blog.