How do I lead my child to pray?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

From the first mention of prayer in chapter four of Genesis to the very last verse in the Bible, prayers are recorded for the benefit of all Christians.  In addition to teaching us about prayer, the Bible communicates the importance of passing along spiritual truths and disciplines.  Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us, “These commandments that I give you 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, and when you lie down and when you get up.”    Part of maintaining a loving relationship with God includes approaching him constantly within prayer.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18   directs us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Parents should instruct and encourage their children to make prayer a part of their daily walk with the Lord.

Things to think about:

What is prayer?Prayer is the act of calling on the Lord. In Psalm 17:6, David says, “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” Prayer can be vocal, internal, or even something too deep for words. Prayer can be used to intercede on behalf of others, make a request, praise God, or even listen to God. Regardless of one’s method or reason, God understands each prayer the same. He knows our words, thoughts, and deepest desires.Who can pray?Throughout scripture all kinds of people approach the Lord in prayer. Prayers are recorded from common men, women, children, prophets, and Jesus himself. One is not required to be pure and blameless to pray. God hears the prayers of all those who call on his name.When and Where can I pray?In Ephesians 6:18, Jesus tells all Christians, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Prayer is appropriate at any time, place, or moment. It is not confined to a short list of emotions or occasions. We should pray when we are in need of wisdom, freedom from temptation, or forgiveness, but should also approach God in times of joy, thankfulness, and praise. God wants to hear from troubled hearts and thankful hearts alike.Why should I pray?God calls Christians into a relationship with himself. God speaks through scripture and through the Holy Spirit, but in order to foster a relationship, one must speak back. Prayer is the chance to both listen to and respond to God. James 4:8 says, “come near to God and he will come near to you.” It is the bridge between knowing about God and knowing God. The more time one spends drawing near to God in prayer, the more he or she will come to know and understand God’s heart, character, and will.

How God answers prayerWhen we pray, it is important to trust that God has the best answers to our prayers. He will not always give us the things that we want or answer in the way that we want him to, but he always gives us an answer. Sometimes we ask for things thinking that it is what’s best for us but God sees the big picture and may have something better planned that we do not yet see. God’s answers to our prayers can be yes, no, or wait.

What do I do now?

Lead by ExamplePrayer is a learned behavior that is best taught by modeling. Chances are, you learned to pray by reading prayers in the Bible or hearing others pray. Pray aloud with your child so they hear what it sounds like to pray. Pray in all different circumstances, and at all different times, so your child will begin to understand what kinds of situations lend themselves to prayer. If you see an opportunity arise in which prayer is appropriate, prompt your child to pray. Eventually, your child will begin to recognize these opportunities on their own.When your child is full of joy or happy about something that happened, stop and thank God for that. If your child is scared at night, pray with your child and ask God to give them peace. Begin the practice of praying in the car on your way to school; ask God to help them with their day and bless them. Praying over meals is another great time together to thank God for his provision.Provide Opportunities for your child to prayThere are many routines throughout the day in which prayer fits naturally. Meal times and bedtime are two examples in which prayers are often given. In these moments, encourage your child to lead the prayers. Ask them to bless the food at dinner, pray for loved ones at night, or to bless the morning on the way to school. Helping your child develop the habit of prayer at certain times will give them practice and confidence. It will also begin to give your child an understanding of prayer as a daily discipline.Share Your StoriesIn reference to answered prayer, Deuteronomy 4:9 advises parents “not to forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Tell your child how God has answered prayers for you personally. Do not be shy in detailing age appropriate circumstances, past and present, in which you prayed for wisdom, repentance, or action and God answered. If you haven’t had a consistent prayer life, or haven’t kept note of God’s answers, start now. Begin to keep record of how God has provided for you and your family, and how he has answered prayers immediately, over time, and through generations.

Want to go deeper?

How Do I Teach My Child to Pray?Discusses the basics: where to start and challenges parents may face.

How Should We Teach Kids to Pray?

Several children’s ministry professionals weigh in on the subject, giving both biblical and practical advice.

Tips for Praying with ChildrenThe article offers out-of-the-box ideas to make prayer enjoyable, understandable, and meaningful for children.