Jesus had a special relationship with children. I love the verse that says, “Let the little children come to me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus valued and protected the vulnerable. He used the “faith of a child” as a model for us to follow—faith like a child means complete trust in God.
In the most basic sense, praying is talking to God. We want to instill this habit in our children. Prayer is an ongoing conversation between ourselves and God, and we want our children to learn how to participate in that as they grown in faith.
Start with simple prayers
In Sunday school, I can remember the teacher telling us to put our hands together and close our eyes because we were going to thank God for the snack. Encourage children to use simple words and phrases in prayers like saying “thank you” and ending with “amen.”
Young children understand concrete and tangible things much more easily than the abstract. For young children, focus on prayers for the people closest to them like their grandparents, parents, and siblings. For older children, you can encourage prayers for other people they interact with (teachers, classmates, their pastor). Talk with older children about things that concern them (1-3 things so they don’t feel overwhelmed), then pray with children about those concerns.
Keep prayers short so that children can focus. Remember that children have a very short attention span and you don’t want their minds to start wandering.
Help children make and keep a habit
Children need constant reminders to keep habits from cleaning their room to brushing their teeth to exercising. The same goes for spiritual habits like Bible reading and prayer. Help your children learn to pray by making prayer a regular part of your routine. Say a prayer with children in the car while you are driving to school and say a prayer before meals and before bedtime.
Children are always watching the adults around them so make sure your own prayer life is robust and healthy.
Let children know that they can pray when they feel afraid and God will give them peace. We don’t just want to build an empty habit of repeating words we want to encourage a healthy relationship with the Lord and children from an early age
Be prepared to answer questions that children have
What are some questions that children might have about prayer? “Why are we praying to somebody that we can’t see?” Answer those questions in a way that your children will understand. It’s natural for them to ask questions and feel confused. Give them guidance along the way.
Point out answers to prayer to children as they happen
Point out to children when their prayers have been answered so children can see that God hears us. For example, if a child prays for their sick friend and their friend gets better, point this out. The next time you pray, say “Thank you, Lord, for healing our friend.”
Let your children know that they are an answer to prayer! “We are so glad that God allowed us to be parents! You are a blessing!”
We want to instill good spiritual habits like prayer and Bible reading in our children so they can grow into men and women who serve the Lord. We can do this by beginning with simple prayers, helping children form the habit of prayer, and pointing out when prayers are answered. Prayer has the power to change lives!