A sweet friend, and fellow blogger, asked me to do a post on prayer. Specifically, teaching kids to pray. I've never really thought about this before, as prayer is something we incorporate into our daily lives. And honestly, I can't remember an exact moment when I sat down with them and talked to them about praying. Somehow it just evolved. But, I can offer some suggestions on how and when my kids pray. And maybe even, how we got to that point.
I'll start with this Bible verse because I love it and try to live by it, daily.
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
Being a parent is a huge responsibility. I have so much to teach my children, and really, will have them for about 18-19 years before sending them away to college with their own set of values and morals. There are many things I say and do that I'm not proud of at all. Isn't that the life of parenting? So, I have to work extra hard to instill the rights from the wrongs and emphasize good from bad. I believe it all starts with prayer.
1. We pray as a family. Typically this is at the dinner table, and we take turns saying part of the prayer. What I love about this time, is that our kids get excited about praying. As early as 18 months, or when they are able to talk in sentences, we include them and let them offer input.
2. Any and all prayer requests are okay! I don't get wrapped up in using correct terminology, being formal, or having deep prayer. As children, they need to learn to pray for what is on their mind. If it's a new lego, a princess dress, someone's hurt knee or sunshine, it's all good. And we praise them for those prayers! Feeling comfortable with prayer is part of developing those habits. I think it's important to stress to children that God is not Santa and He doesn't necessarily bring you what you are praying for. But, He does hear you. And we have to trust in His perfect timing. Sometimes that involves patience.
3. Teach them to pray for a variety of things: people, thankfulness, forgiveness, yourself and even praising God. Children tend to get stuck in routine with prayer. I find that at the dinner table, they will start with "Dear God, thank you for this food.....". When we encourage them to add more, change things up, or open and close differently, they become more comfortable with prayer. Like I said before, I don't want to be too picky with them, because I don't want them to ever feel ashamed about prayer, but simple encouragement like, "let's not forget about thanking God for ....." can help them expand their thoughts.
4. Talk about prayer throughout the day. Often my children will ask questions about someone who is sick or hurting. If the time is appropriate, we will pray for them together. Or, I will encourage them to pray alone. Even if we are driving in the car, I'll use their questions as an opportunity for prayer. I want them to know that they don't have to pray with their eyes closed and their hands folded. Prayer should be happening everywhere!
5. Enroll them in some sort of Sunday School or church Awana program. I can't tell you what a blessing this has been for my kids! Not only has it aided in memorization of verses (my kids each know at least 50 Bible verses!), they learn Biblical stories and are surrounded by leaders and kids who love Jesus! Both my boys can recite every book of the Bible (old and new testament) and their knowledge of scripture is beyond amazing. So much better than mine was, at their age!
6. Help them to recognize those times when their prayers have been answered! Being faithful, and patient does have it's rewards and when a child knows that they've had a prayer answered, no matter how big or small, it's important to celebrate! This was especially evident to our family after both of our miscarriages. Our kids only knew about my first loss because I was nearing the end of my first trimester and we had told our kids about the baby. We prayed and cried and tried to answer our children's questions about the baby. It was a very hard time in our lives. However, when we finally got pregnant again, we rejoiced in answered prayer. We thanked God daily (and still do!) and involved our kids in that rejoicing. Almost three years later and we still talk with our kids about God's perfect timing in that situation and how, even through the heartache, we were able to find the light.
7. Use creativity! Painting or drawing prayer can be another way for a child to express their thoughts. Sometimes it's hard for them to verbalize these things, especially when they are little, but when asked to paint or color, they are amazing. Pinterest has some of the most incredible ideas for these type of activities. Utilize whatever resources you need!
8. And finally, pray for your child! My daily prayer is that my children will grow up loving Jesus and using prayer to find comfort and express thankfulness, daily. `
What do you do to encourage prayer in your child's life?