Having an intimate relationship with Jesus is how I try to live my life day in and day out. Part of that intimacy should include a healthy and fulfilling prayer life. I openly admit often thought, time in prayer is something I struggle with (and time in the Bible, but that’s for another day.) As a child I was never taught how to pray. My home was not one that went to church every Sunday or prayed together before every dinner. I don’t say that to put down our home, it’s simply the truth.
When our family began to expand, I really wanted to raise up little Christians who learned how to pray at an early age. Not just repeat the Lord’s Prayer or remember at holidays we sometimes said grace. I wanted to raise kids who knew what prayer was and how to use it to communicate and have a dialogue with their Lord.
Simply praying my kids will learn how to pray isn’t going to cut it however! (See what I did there?) We need to train our children up to follow the Lord but we also need to train them up within Christianity. This includes training them on how to pray.
Recently I’ve been asked by a few friends how we have been working on prayer with our kids. I wanted to share with you all some of the ways we are teaching out children how to pray.
One of the best ways to show our children how to have a relationship with the Lord is to live our lives in way that models it. By modeling a healthy prayer life you will show you’re children what communication with God should look like. Beyond that prayer life showing your children this, having a healthy prayer life will help YOU grow. As a parent there are so many uncertainties and praying over those will make you a better parent.
What are some ways to model it? Pray before meals, as a family. Spend time in prayer alone in places your children can see. When you are upset, choose to pray instead of yell. Pray with your kids before special events or long trips. Let them hear you tell friends and family you will pray for them.
As adults, sometimes we forget that prayer does not come naturally. Even as an older Christian, I tend to forget that it’s not something all kids grew up being called on to do in Sunday School. We need to remember to truly explain how to pray to our kids. If you’re a regular going church family, I like to base how we pray off the Lord’s Prayer. I’m unsure if I read it somewhere or my pastor preached on this topic (And he will tell me if it was him!). Somewhere along the way though I was told we aren’t only called to recite the Lord’s Prayer but also base our daily prayers off it.
What does that look like? I personally sat down and read through the Lord’s Prayer, picking out what I believed each section or line was telling me what to do. We encourage the kids to:
-Acknowledge the all powerful God we are speaking too and celebrate his power.
-Thank Him for what He has given us this day
-Ask Him for what we need.
-Ask forgiveness for our sins and help forgiving others.
-Beg Him to show us the way our feet should lead us.
-Praise Him again, celebrating who He is.
We also like to use the acronym “PAGING God!”. Paging stands for Praise, Accountability, Guidance, I (Syndrome), Needs, and God’s Glory.
We use this to sit back and praise all the amazing things God puts in our lives and does for us. This may be a specific “Thank you God for protecting us during a baseball game today.” It can also be as simple as “Thank you for today.” We celebrate who He is and the gifts He has given us today, yesterday, and for the months that have passed.
I am a firm believer that using words to identify areas you’re struggling in is a great tool. Your child may be struggling with a sin they commit, such as lying, or is on the receiving end, such as someone not being kind to them. We encourage our kids to pray for their personal accountability in their actions as well as their responses to others actions. I’m not going to jump on the pedestal and perform my entire spiel here (not yet anyway), but I do not believe Christians hold each other to the higher standard of living we are called to. Beginning that at an early age is important to me.
Within this, we also ask forgiveness for our wrong choices and mistakes. Giving your sin a name is a hard action but one that we need to learn as we grow.
This somewhat goes along with accountability but takes it a step further. After praying we are held to the standard of living Jesus calls us to live at, we must pray for His guidance in this. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have all the answers. I can’t expect my kids to either! Asking for the Holy Spirit to guide each and every one of our steps ensures we are listening to a power and knowledge far greater than ours. Our church also prays for guidance often and I love to model what the church does! We also like to take this back to praise and thank Him for how He has guided our way so far.
My prayer is it is evident that I strive to be selfless and giving to all that enter my life. I do this because I am called as a Christian to give the clothes off my back to the least of us. That’s what my greatest commission-love my neighbor.
I’m not one to get down on generations, so I speak in a broad “all of human kind” sense: We are selfish, fickle beings. I am. My kids are. It is something I wish to dim down inside our personalities. With the “I (Syndrome)” we choose someone else to pray for. There have been times where it’s an easy person-one of their siblings, our Sunday school teachers, a family member. There have been times I challenge them, and myself and husband-leaders of this country, the kid who made fun of them on the bus, people who are not kind. Praying for others is not only a gift to them, it is a gift to us, as we strive to be more Christ-like in our day to day lives.
Everyone has needs! Most often, by the time we get down to asking God what we need in our days, we have already covered the basic ones with accountability and guidance. However sometimes kids just want to ask God for something. My son often says “Let us have fun tomorrow.” It’s a simple prayer, but simple is important to kids. And if someone asks for something they’re not going to get (say a dog or car…because both have been prayed for at our dinnertime prayers…) it’s a great time to introduce the concept God isn’t Amazon. He won’t just send you what you want, in the time frame you want it in, because you ordered it up while bowing your head one night. The disappointment can be real but hey-even as adults, that’s something we struggle with, am I right?
Using a double G here, but this is something I am passionate about asking for in every prayer time. While we praise Him above, I want my children to know every single step they take and choice they make should be in the glory of God. In celebration of Jesus, who died for us on the cross and rose again. Pleasing to the Holy Spirit who is walking these steps with us. I want them to know WHO we are living for-it’s not the applause or the friends we have. It’s all for Him. So we ask that everything we do may please Him and bring Him glory.
(For your friendly little reference, this page!)
Now don’t look above and think “Lauren has it all together, I can never do that”. Y’all I’m a hot mess. I forget to model it outside of prayer time at dinner most the time. If you’ve been around for any amount of time you know personal Bible time is the downfall of my life. I’m forever making the goal to spend more time in the Word and failing. We even chose to skip family bible study night at our church because it was too much for me to handle.
That being said, my 3 year old son will also now fold his hands up before meals and yell “Mama WE NEEDA PRAY”. The kids wait expectantly for our grace. I’ve heard them pray themselves and it’s spectacular. I give all the Glory to God for that…but also, ROUTINE. We decided we would pray before dinner every night and by gone we have been doing just that. Sure, my 3 year olds prayers are “Thank you God for Everything-SAY AMEN”. But he does them. And that’s what matters the most to me.
So sweet friends, whether you’re trying to introduce more prayer to older children or want it as part of your life as your babies grow, here are my best tips. From a totally not perfect, but trying her darnedest Christian friend! Remember-God wants time with you and your babies. He doesn’t care if it’s perfect or composed. He hears even your smallest “Lord I need you,” whispered from your breaking point after a long hard day.
Do you pray with your kids? Or is that something you hope to do someday?