When it comes to teaching our kids or grandkids how to pray, we might not always know where to start, or even feel comfortable doing this ourselves. What do we say? Do we close our eyes and fold our hands? Or do we just have a conversation in the midst of our day? Do we pray with other people or by ourselves? Well, I believe the answer is yes to all.
God invites us to talk with Him through prayer. I don't think He is as concerned about the various customs and methods surrounding prayer as much as us sharing with Him what's going on it our lives. He wants a relationship with us, no matter what our age. And that is so important to express to children early on in their faith development.
So now that we know prayer is important, where do we start? Jesus Himself gave us a great model to follow in the Bible with the Lord's Prayer. We can put our hesitations aside with Jesus guiding us through. The beautiful thing about the Lord's Prayer is that it is simple but also profound. It is structured in such a way to teach us to first honor the Lord, to thank Him for who He is. Then once we have acknowledged that, we bring our requests to the Lord—providing for our needs and helping us steer clear from temptation. With thankful hearts, we once again honor the Lord by remembering that He is all-powerful and that we want to follow Him in all we do. As we learn the Lord's Prayer, we also learn how to pray, how to put God before our requests and also remembering that God provides for all of our needs.
We know that young children are rather literal (concrete thinkers), and they feel successful when they achieve specific goals. With the Lord's Prayer, they have something very specific to follow and get to repeat it over and over again. This repetition really helps them commit what they've learned to memory.
The Lord's Prayer is often said around the dinner table, allowing parents and grandparents with a natural way to invite children to participate in this tradition at home. Many churches still say the Lord's Prayer together during the service—maybe not every week but at least a few times during the year. So by knowing the Lord's Prayer, children are also invited to participate in community worship as well.
What has worked best in my family of five is weaving prayer into our daily routines. We try to have meals together as much as possible. Before we eat, we take turns praying.
One person prays for us all on that day, and on Sundays, we always pray the Lord's Prayer together as a family. My husband and I have also encouraged our children to pray at night before bed. We started with "Now I lay me down to sleep," but then added on blessings to our friends and family members.
When the kids were old enough, we invited them to simply talk to the Lord about the day. We also have a tradition of praying in the car before leaving on a big trip. We ask for the Lord's presence with us and that He will give us safe travels and protection.
One other thing we do is pray whenever we see an ambulance or life alert helicopter. We live near a hospital, so this is a regular occurrence as we drive around town doing errands. I love how my kids initiate it now when they see these visual reminders to pray for others.
I have learned so much about faith through the eyes of my children, as well as other children. Jesus talks about how strong the faith of a child is and that we all should seek that depth of faith (Is. 11:6; Matt. 19:4). I know in my heart that God hears every prayer. It is up to Him how He chooses to respond to prayers. He might not answer the way we expect Him to, but we can rest in knowing that He knows our heart and He hears us and is with us every step of the way through life's journey. He wants what is best for us (Jer. 29:11), and we can trust in that.
Catherine DeVries has written 20 books for children, including the best-selling The Adventure Bible Storybook and Let's Learn about the Lord's Prayer, the first in the HeartSmart series which focuses on learning Scripture through story and song. As associate publisher of Children's Resources at David C Cook, she leads product development for The Action Bible collection.
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