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Teaching kids to pray doesn’t have to be formal instruction. Tangible ways to integrate prayer into our lives and raise kids who pray.
When I was in college, I was part of a youth ministry team. We taught classes, led activities, and were tasked with mentoring the young people in our community. Part of the training we received in mentoring encouraged us to spend time with the teens outside of class. Real discipling happens in the day to day. The “Hey, I’m going to the mall, would you like to join me?” and, “Let’s cook dinner together” moments.
That’s when real parenting happens too, you know.
After all, parenting is–at its heart– discipleship. God tells us what parenting our kids should look like in Deuteronomy 6 when He says,
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Family meetings, lectures, classes, going to church… all of those are good and beneficial things. But that’s not where our kids learn how to really follow God’s commandments…how to serve… how to pray.
If You Want to Teach Kids to Pray Show Them a Lifestyle of Prayer
What does that look like?
…with your toddlers
-when you wake them up say, “Thank you, God, for another day”
-at lunchtime ask, “Didn’t God make good apples for us? Thank you, Lord for delicious apples!”
-when they fall down comfort them and pray, “God, you made _____’s body, please help it to heal quickly and feel all better.”
-on an evening drive, admire the sunset with, “What a beautiful sunset God gave us tonight! Thank you, Father.”
…with your school-aged kids
-start the day asking, “God, thank you for giving us this day to serve you. Please help our words and actions be pleasing to you.”
-when you see an emergency vehicle with its lights and sirens pray, “Lord, please be with them as they go to help and serve. Give them wisdom and discernment and protect them.” (we used to take turns praying for emergency vehicles when we saw them)
-on that evening drive with the sunset, pray, “Wow! Father You are so creative! You could’ve made everything one color, but you didn’t. Thank you for being so kind to us!”
-when math homework is getting frustrating, ask, “God, you ordered everything in this world, including numbers. Please help ___________ to understand this, and me to be a help to him.”
…with your teen
-let them see you praying as you go through your day, as you deal with frustrations pray aloud, “Lord, you know what’s best here, please help me see it.”
-or, “Father, I know you know where my keys are…can you please help me find them?”
-every so often when you walk past them, lay a hand on their shoulder and say, “God, you made ________ so good, thanks for letting me be his mom. Please let him hear your voice today.”
-as they walk out the door with the car keys in hand, let them hear you say, “Father, please protect _______ as he’s driving and bring him home safely.”
You get the idea. Prayer doesn’t have to be an elaborate, lengthy affair. It can be, and it’s beneficial for them to participate with you in more focused prayer times as well. But more than a lengthy prayer time, I find myself praying what I call “Nehemiah” prayers throughout my day.
If you read the book of Nehemiah in the Bible, you’ll notice that throughout it, he offers up quick prayers to God in the moment.
- Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king..
- But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
- Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.
- Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
He prays longer, more involved prayers as well. But I’ve always appreciated that he called out to God for his wisdom, help, or favor as he needs it.
If we want to see our kids pray, to grow up to be adults who pray, we have to model a lifestyle of prayer to them. Part of that is them seeing us in constant communication with our Heavenly Father throughout the day.
How else can we instill a lifestyle of prayer in our kids?