Strange to say, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about teaching my children to pray. I guess I’ve just assumed they would learn by listening to me pray with them.
That’s true to some extent, but since Jesus deliberately taught prayer lessons to his disciples, I think it’s worth thinking about how exactly I can teach my own children to pray.
What I’m doing now:
- After we read the Bible together, I ask them to pray for something that we read about. Sometimes I give them a prompt “Help me to ________.” This is because I want them to see the connection between reading God’s Word and responding in prayer. (Read Psalm 119, and see how many times King David makes this connection!)
- I will suggest things to pray for in their own personal lives. When a child has a burden, I’ll ask if they have talked with God about it. Whether they say yes or no matters not; I’m just planting the idea in their heads.
- When God has blessed in a specific, tangible way, I will point it out. “This is a good thing to say thank you to God for.” If it’s my blessing, I pray outloud. For some reason, blessing discussions happen in the car a lot!
- Talk about the difference between kid prayers and grown-up prayers. When I was a child, I was worried because I could never pray for an hour or more like I read about in Christian biographies. I was good with words, but I didn’t have words to pray. It wasn’t until I grew up that I learned two things: 1) most of my adult words for prayer come as I read the Bible and 2) kids pray shorter prayers because they are kids. It’s just normal, physical development. Maybe my kids are tired of me mentioning my misunderstandings, but I want to help them understand God loves short prayers just fine!
- Encourage them to write down their prayers. “King David wrote down his prayers,” I told my daughter this week. She looked at me in surprise. Of course he did.
- I regularly ask them how I can pray for them, and then I pray out loud for them. I started donut dates a few months ago (once a week, one child gets to go get a donut before school), and I’ve discovered they are pretty open when they know the question is coming, and when I ask it in private.
Most of these “suggestions” happen pretty infrequently, about once or twice a month I would say. Writing it down, trying them all at once would seems pretty pushy to me, and I think it would be if I made these comments too often.
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. Luke 11:1
Notice that the grownups wanted to be taught to pray. Notice John taught his students to pray! Notice that Jesus answered the disciples’ request!
If you grew up in a Christian home, how did you learn to pray?