Begin early to establish prayer in your children about big and little things. Dr Charles Stanley said, “The reason we should teach little children to pray about the little insignificant things (but significant to them) very early in life, is so they learn that if they talk to God, He will answer their prayers.”
The more they see and hear you pray, the more it will become a part of their lives. As you point out answers to prayer, the more they will want to pray. Let your children hear you express to God your feelings (hurts, joy, love for God)
Be intentional in teaching them all about prayer.
Teach them what prayer is:
Prayer is simply talking to God about anything and everything just as they would with a friend. Jo Bevington in her book, I Can Pray, described prayer as ‘feeling, thinking, listening, and talking to a very special Friend’. Your children need to know that their special Friend is always with them (Matthew 28:20 “. . . I am with you always. . . “) Part of the joy of having Jesus with you everywhere you go is to realize you can talk to Him wherever you are, any time of day.
Teach them why we pray:
We pray because God tells us to (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and He is near to those who call to him (Psalm 145:18) God loves us and wants to talk with us just like we like to talk with our friends. Praying is spending time with our best Friend, our Creator, who wants to spend time with us – wow!!
Teach them how to pray:
When His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He gave them an example that we call the Lord’s Prayer or the Model Prayer (Matthew 6, Luke 11) We can lead our children to memorize it, but please help them understand it so it can be a prayer from the heart and not just a recitation.
There are 5 kinds of prayer covered in the Model Prayer:
Praise – Tell God “I love you”. Singing praises is prayer too!
Confession – “I’m sorry; please forgive me for . . .”
Thanksgiving – Give God thanks as you go about your day.
Intercession – Pray for others.
Petition – Ask God for help or for needs and desires.
Teach them when and where to pray:
Children can learn this from Jesus’ prayer life. He prayed in the morning (Mark 1:35); He prayed all night (Luke 6:12); when He was alone (Luke 5:16); when He was thankful (John 6:8-13); when He was sad (Luke 23:34); when He needed to make choices (Luke 6:12-13). He prayed in a garden, on a mountain, and on the cross. Lead your children to follow His example and pray anytime and anywhere. “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” (Psalm 55:17)
Teach them what happens when we pray.
God hears and will answer when we pray. (“When they call on me, I will answer;” Psalm 91:15) The answer may be yes, no, or not yet – but God will answer!!! Point out that sometimes their dad answers with a yes, sometimes with a no, and sometimes with a not yet because he loves them and knows what is best. So it is with our Heavenly Father. And we can trust that His answer is always best for us.
Give them prayer aides:
– With your older children, help them to start a prayer notebook divided into sections. Encourage them to write down praises; list things they are thankful for; name people to pray for; and list things to ask God to help them with or provide for them. Encourage them to mark the date when God answers.
– A tangible way to establish prayer in a younger child’s life is by beginning a prayer box. Put in it pictures of people and things to thank God for. Also include pictures that will be a reminder of things to pray about. Look together through magazines to find pictures or draw your own. Let them pull out several pictures a night to pray about. Mark these pictures with a ‘PTL’ or a sticker and the date when you see an answer and leave them in the box as a reminder to thank God for answering.
Create prayer reminders:
– Whenever your children use something that was a gift from someone, remind them to pray for the person who gave it.
– When you hear an ambulance, lead your children to pray for the person in the ambulance and for the people helping them.
– When you see a policeman or a soldier, say a prayer for their safety and thank God for their service.
– When you ride by someone’s house who is having a hard time or does not know Jesus, lead your children to pray for them.
– When watching a movie, pray for the people who are acting in it and for those who made it.
– When you go for a walk, thank God for things you see in His beautiful world. Sing praises about it!
Remember the most wholesome experience in prayer is for your children to hear you express naturally your own love and confidence to God. Your children will want to follow!!