Prayer is a unique opportunity that we are given to talk directly with God. How cool! The Creator of the universe, the one that spoke the stars into the sky and fish into the sea, wants to hear your words. Your God, the one who with a single word caused the sun to stand still, a storm to cease, and the sea to separate, wants to listen to your words.
Learning Prayer as a Family
As comforting and inspiring as this can be, we often feel inadequate in this invitation. We don’t know what we should say or shouldn’t say. We feel like we aren’t as articulate in our prayers as others can be. And sometimes, above all, we doubt the invitation. How can the God in charge of the whole universe have the time to listen to my small little problems?
When we as parents feel inadequate in prayer, it makes it harder to feel like we can teach or even guide our children in learning to pray too. The grace-filled news for you is this: God wants to talk with you. It doesn’t matter what you choose to say or not say. He loves to listen to you, even when you feel like you aren’t as articulate as your pastor on Sunday morning. He gives you the Holy Spirit to talk for you when you are at a loss for what to say, even when you doubt His promise of prayer. Why can you trust God’s promise of prayer? Jesus died and rose again. His resurrection confirms that everything He said, mentioned, or promised is true. Someone mighty enough to rise from the dead and undo death for all of humanity will keep His promise to lend an ear to your groaning.
Here are some ideas to help you and your children grow in confidence as you pray together:
1. Fill in the Blanks to Learn the Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer Jesus used to teach His disciples to pray. It is also typically included in weekly worship services. Learning this prayer helps your children learn to pray and gives them a way to participate in worship.
Start with short phrases, then have your children fill in the blank. Try leaving the last word of each phrase for them to fill in: Our Father who art in ________. Over time, you will be able to drop more words out for them to fill in or have them repeat entire phrases back to you.
In worship, the Lord’s Prayer is sometimes prayed too fast for little learners to keep up with. As you teach your children this prayer, pay attention to when the congregation will pray this prayer together in the service so you can help your children focus their attention on that time.
As the prayer is being prayed, make sure you are on their level, speaking or whispering to them the phrases they are familiar with. Leave out the words they are used to filling in. Over time, they will get better at saying the Lord’s Prayer at the same tempo as your congregation.
If you are a church worker reading this, consider setting aside some Sundays to slow the Lord’s Prayer or Creeds down intentionally or speak them in call and response phrases to help little learners participate more easily!
2. Model Prayer Out Loud
There is no length requirement for a prayer! Another way to help your child confidently pray is to ask your child to share one prayer request. While you are driving or sharing a meal, have each person in your family share one thing they want to pray for or about. Model prayer for them. Be sure to include their request: “Dear God, please help Sam feel better.” As your child gets used to hearing how you pray, ask them if they want a turn! If they don’t, that’s okay. There is no need to push them. Continue to pray out loud for their requests and encourage them to try when they’re ready!
3. Read Prayers Together
Reading prayers out loud with your child is a great way to talk with God too! There are countless books on prayer that have been written for people of all ages. Your church likely has a bulletin or hymnal for worship with prayers. Pick a time to read a prayer together!
4. Action Prayers
Adding actions to your prayers can help little learners remember words. Try looking up and learning the Lord’s Prayer in sign language. Search online for “camp meal prayers” to find prayers set to familiar tunes or rhymes! As your children become more comfortable with praying, encourage them to add their own actions to their prayers.
5. Prayer Calendar
Print off a calendar. On each day, draw a picture of a person or people your children know. They can look at a new picture on the calendar each day and say a prayer for that person. “Thank you, God, for __________.”
If your children resonate with this structure for daily prayer, consider having them contact the people on their calendar each month and ask about specific prayer requests that person may have.
Read through Portals of Prayer for Kids to encourage daily prayer and Scripture reading.