Praying is not an optional activity for a Christian. It is food and drink to our spirit. Praying allows us to communicate with our Creator, ruler of heaven and earth.
Teaching kids to pray by word and example is important, just like teaching them to walk and talk. As believers, parents must do this.
Bedtime Prayers With Kids
I remember night time prayers with my parents. We always said a short prayer (below). I’m sure it was because it was convenient and quick. After all, everyone wanted to get to bed, or at least get the children to bed!
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Why that didn’t terrify us as kids I have no idea! I don’t think anyone thought much about it. These day, putting the thought of dying into a child’s mind, while they are sleeping no less, would be wildly inappropriate. No wonder we thought monsters lived under the bed!
Thankfully, adaptations to the original prayer are now like this:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
Angels watch me through the night,
And wake me with the morning light.
As a child, I wish I had been taught this verse instead of the first!
My parents set a good example by praying on a regular basis with groups at prayer meetings and going to services Wednesday nights. On Sunday’s they went twice.
I regularly saw my father on his knees, praying in the bedroom.
I knew when I had children that our nightly prayer time needed to be special. And it was. It was a chance to connect with them and talk about the day.
Each night I would spend a good chunk of time praying for all the things we were thankful for and all the typical childhood concerns. But the most important element of praying with the kids was directing them towards their heavenly Father and listening to His guidance and purpose for their futures.
Not their mom’s will for them, or their dad’s or teachers, but God’s (also read the 5 Finger Prayer For Kids).
What Age Is Best To Teach Kids To Pray
Teaching a child to pray before the age of 2 probably won’t happen, but you can pray to them and for them before they begin speaking. As their words take shape, prayers will already be a normal occurrence for them and they may take to it with ease.
As soon as a child can speak, they should be encouraged to share in conversations with God before meals, before bedtime, and any moment when the time is appropriate. They can pray for a friend, for forgiveness, and for their ailing grandparent.
We all should pray without ceasing and that means anytime we need to talk to God.
How To Teach Children To Pray
Teaching children to pray by example is the best method, but it is also important for them to understand the reasons why we pray. Below, I’ve broken the process into easy-to-follow steps which should make it easy for teaching kids to pray.
Step 1: Discuss
First begin with a discussion about the day, about friends, about events that happened – good and bad. Share what happened to each of you and why it mattered.
When discussing the day, group events into a) blessings, b) challenges, or c) requests.
Step 2: Provide an Example
Parents can take the lead in this by talking about a problem that they might have (age appropriate and not too serious of course) and then pray about it first. Simple prayers usually touch on similar components:
- Thank you
- Challenges and requests
- Closing – ALWAYS pray for God’s will be done
Step 3: Let Your Child Imitate
Your prayer, will give your child an example and ideas on how to pray. Their prayer will likely be derivative of yours, and that’s expected, but they will have to pray in their own words about their own day.
Kids are very observant and it’s amazing what can be discussed when everyone feels safe. For example, a father might have received too much change at the store and gave it back. If your child noticed, it makes for a good prayer point. Additional prayer points include:
- Being honest
- Doing the right thing
>> Also read: How To Teach The Trinity To Kids
Step 4: Review the Prayer
Ask your child how they feel about the prayer and if they missed anything. If they requested many things (which is often the case) make sure they also gave ample thanks in their prayer.
If I child isn’t satisfied with their prayer, allow them a chance to say another one.
Step 5: Keep a Prayer Journal (optional)
Keeping a prayer journal for your child is a great way to remember prayers and take notes. Notes can be a list of things to pray for, but you can also include opportunities to improve your child’s prayer and build onto them.
Write down a few of the areas that need improvement and you can focus on those in future prayers.
Keeping a journal is also fun for children to look back on when they are older.
Once children begin communicating better, bedtime prayers can become more meaningful to the child and parent.
Other Options For Teaching Prayers
A search on the internet will bring up many other catchy methods to give children a structure for their prayers. These include the “five fingers” method to the “God Can” method (from Child Evangelism Fellowship).
Picture books abound with great art and lovely phrases to elevate prayers to poetry. Rhyming prayer poetry is the most common as in “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” before bedtime
At dinner this one is popular;
“Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing.
Thank you God for everything.”
Prayer Picture and Board Books for Toddlers
1. Baby’s First Book Of Prayers – Melody Carlson
2. Prayers For Children – Eloise Wilkin
3. Snuggle Time Prayers – Glenys Nellis
>>view these books on Amazon
These are for small children and are different than the many devotional books for older kids. These picture and board books offer rhyming prayers that will help the child remember them.
Devotional prayer books are for older children. They often include a scripture verse or story, an application section and finally a prayer specific to that application.
Here are a 3 that are recommended;
1. The Purpose Driven Life Devotional For Kids – Rick Warren
2. 52 Weeks With Jesus For Kids: A Devotional – James Merrit
3. The Superheroes Devotional For Kids: 60 Inspirational Readings (ages 8-12) – Ed Strauss
>> view these books on Amazon
Teaching children to pray is not so much a chore or method as it is a blessing. Jesus said “for such is the kingdom of heaven”.
They are ready willing and able to talk to their heavenly father and when they observe mom and dad praying it becomes the most natural activity in the world.
In your child’s early years, you will have to be close to take care of them. During this time, pray for them and to them so they learn the process. Although they can’t speak when they are very young, they will be listening to every word you speak.
The prayer teaching process can be broken down into 5 parts. They are straightforward and easy to follow.
First, discuss the day and any challenges or blessings they faced. Second, set an example with your own prayer so they can hear how to pray. Third, allow them to imitate your prayer and adapt it into their own. Fourth, review the prayer to tie up loose ends. Lastly, keep a journal for you and your child (it will be something to look back on in the future.
Don’t forget to use other resources as well. There are plenty of books and other prayer strategies to teach your child. Find a method that works best for your family.