“Dear Jesus, um…..”
If your child’s prayers seem to often begin that way, you’re not alone! Although my kids can quickly rattle off the latest Minecraft building ideas and go on for
hours several minutes about the plot of a funny movie, praying to God doesn’t always come as easily.
Perhaps it’s the fear of saying the wrong thing or sounding silly in their requests or even some honest-to-goodness spiritual warfare, but getting our children to pray can be a tough sell.
Over the past few years, we’ve worked with our children (now 9, 6, 3 and a 17-month-old who folds her hands and giggles) on strengthening their prayer lives using several creative methods.
Here are our five best tips for teaching kids how to pray that you can use right now!
1. Remind them that there is no wrong way to pray.
Biblically speaking, we are called upon to pray to God the Father through Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life! Aside from that, we don’t need to pressure our kids to pray with certain words or phrases. Let them know that God always wants to hear from us, and that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what to say. It is good, though, to give them helps that will allow them to understand who God is and how they can talk to Him through prayer.
Teach the A.C.T.S. Principle
A.C.T.S. stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. It’s a way to guide our prayer lives through a scriptural example. Adoration is are praising God for who He is. During confession, we bring our sins before Him in repentance for our wrongdoing. Thanksgiving is, of course, giving thanks for our blessings and recognizing the way God has worked through our lives. Supplication is a time for asking God, through Christ, for different things that weigh on our hearts, submitting our requests to His will.
Use Prayer Prompts or Prayer Cards to Get Them Started
My husband and I found that when our kids were getting stuck on knowing what to pray for, it was helpful to have some tangible prompts to give them ideas on where to start. I created a prayer box (follow these simple instructions for making your own prayer box) that contained cards listing different people and spiritual qualities/disciplines that we could pray for during devotional time. If your child is old enough to have prayer time on their own, here are some great printable prayer prompt cards that we are using with our 9-year-old son and 6-year old daughter right now to help them talk to God.
Use the Popcorn Prayer Principle
This activity will likely work best with children six and older, but you can certainly have your younger ones join in on the “popcorn praying”! Starting with mom or dad, say a phrase or offer a short praise to God, then allowing the next person to “expand” on what you just prayed by adding their own words or adoration. For example, I might say, “Praise God for His provision” and my son might follow up by saying, “for the house we have to live in”, with the next child giving thanks for our family and the next asking God to protect our family, and so on. It takes a few tries but it’s really a creative and fun way to pray with a group!
Pray Directly From the Bible
One of the simplest and most effective ways to teach your kids to pray is to show them various Bible passages that are written in poetic form. These are perfect for prayer! The Psalms work very well for this method, as do some parts of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and some passages in the New Testament (see John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-20). Take a look through some of the other books of the Bible such as Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and the Pauline letters) to find passages that can be prayed word for word and encourage your children to do the same
Hopefully these helpful suggestions will be an encouragement to your family and give you some new ideas on how to teach your children to pray, even when it seems hard at first!
It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night. Psalm 92:1-2