Teaching children to pray is a vital part of passing on our faith. Hebrews 4:16 Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×reminds us that Christians can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” It’s important that our children learn that they can also go to God, our loving Father, who is there to help and strengthen them. He wants them to build a relationship with Him through prayer as well as Bible study.
Children learn in many ways. One of the most effective teaching tools is by example. It is important that our children understand that we, as Christian parents, talk to God in prayer on a regular basis.
The formal examples they see of asking a blessing at mealtime, of anointing and prayer for illness and of prayers at Church services provide important lessons about our relationship with God. But children also need to see that parents spend time with God in personal prayer on a daily basis and that we should go to God first when faced with a difficult trial or an important decision.
The instructions that Jesus Christ provided in the Lord’s Prayer (actually His outline for prayer), found in Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:9-13 9 After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×and Luke 11:1-4 Luke 11:1-4 1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
American King James Version×, are useful in teaching our children how to pray. Friday evening on the Sabbath, before bedtime or shortly after dinner, is an ideal time for the entire family to kneel down and use this outline of prayer as a teaching tool. Following is a practical way of doing this.
Using blank cards, write on each card a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer followed by a simple explanation of what to pray about. For example, write on the first card the phrase “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,” followed by the statement, “Praise and thank God.”
On the next card write, “Your kingdom come,” followed by the statement, “Pray about why the world needs the coming Kingdom of God and the changes it will bring.”
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” can be written on three separate cards followed by the statements, “Pray for the work of the Church,” “Pray for others (family, the sick, needy, etc.)” and “Pray for God’s direction in our own decisions.”
On another card write, “Give us this day our daily bread” with the statement “Pray for things we need.”
On the next card write, “Forgive us our debts (our sins), as we forgive our debtors (those who sin against us)” followed by, “Things we are sorry for.”
On the next card write, “Do not lead us into temptation (or sore trial), but deliver us from the evil one” followed by, “Ask God for protection.”
On the last card write, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” followed by “Praise and thank God again.”
The entire family should kneel down together and each one will draw one of the cards. The statement on the card is what each one will pray about that evening and what the children will be asked to pray about during the week.
For example, those who draw the cards that say “Praise and thank God” will think about things to praise God for and about things for which they are thankful to have or to understand and will pray out loud about those things.
Dad should begin the session by praying out loud about what is on his card. Mom follows and then each child according to whatever order is established. Dad and Mom’s prayer may last a few minutes, and each child’s prayer will probably be shorter.
The prayers of very young children will be simple and probably very brief. As children get older, their prayers will reflect more mature thinking and will lengthen in time. If a child has difficulty in thinking of something to pray about, Dad or Mom may want to suggest a few items and at times may need to coach little ones throughout their brief prayers.
Dad can then bring the entire session to a close with another brief prayer asking God’s blessing on the family and His protection through the night, ending with “Amen” (making sure children understand that this expresses sincerity and trust in God and not “Goodbye,” as God never leaves us).
Parents can begin using this technique with very young children and will find that they are usually willing participants. They do not seem to have the sense of awkwardness about praying out loud with others present that teens or adults often have.
Depending on the nature of the relationships within a family, teens and even young adults living at home may be willing to continue to participate in this family tradition if begun when the children are young. Drawing the cards is no longer necessary after a certain age, and each family member can simply pray about what is on his mind.
This method can teach children how to pray about all of the elements in Christ’s instructions since, over time, they will hear their parents praying about each one. The time spent together praying out loud also has a powerful bonding effect that can draw family members close to one another as the family draws close to God. As the adage goes, “The family that prays together stays together.” GN