5 Ways to Teach Children to Pray
1. Pray with them often, and don't forget!
My first year of college, I lived at home. I have three younger brothers, and at that time they were in high school, junior high, and elementary school. Classes started at a different time in the morning for each school, so my mom would stand and pray with each of us at the door as we were heading out. Even the dog knew the drill, an she would sit quietly at our feet until we said "amen" and then she would bark her own hearty amen.
My mom said 4 prayers over the course of the morning, because praying with her children was a priority to her. She also said many other prayers with us, as The Maestro and I also do with our own children.
There are multiple opportunities to pray with your kids each day: Family prayer in the morning and at night, over meals, before family council, and when our children need extra help or comfort. Take advantage of those opportunities!
2. Remind them to pray.
When your child comes to you with a problem, ask them if they have prayed about it. Whether they lost something, are worried about an upcoming test at school, or are having issues with a friend, I want my children to learn to turn to the Lord. I want them to learn to include Him in every detail of their lives. And so I give them an easy little nudge. Just that simple question—"Have you prayed about it?"—is enough to remind them that prayer is an option.
3. Let them see you praying.
All parents know that example is the most powerful teacher. Even if our children don't see us pray regularly, just knowing that we DO pray is a great way to help them to learn to do it as well. One of my friends recently told me how she was in the middle of raising tiny kids and there was chaos all around her all the time. She said that sometimes she just needed to pray, so she would drop down on her knees in the middle of all that craziness and start praying. The effect on her children was immediate—they would quiet down, and often join her. What a wonderful example!
I often think about the story of my lost wreath. I love that Bria knew I had said a prayer when it showed up because she knows I pray. I didn't have to tell her I had prayed about it—she already knew!
4. Talk about your own answers to prayer often.
Since we can't show our children that we are praying every single time we do, it is important to share with them our prayer stories. Stories are almost as powerful a teacher as example is, and real stories from my own life are something my girls love to listen to.
So I tell them about the times I had powerful answers to prayer. I tell them about the times I didn't have answers to prayer. I tell them about the times when the answers weren't what I had hoped they would be. I tell them, and they listen. And I hope that they are learning the power prayer can hold in their own lives.
Likewise, be sure to point out the way their own prayers are answered as you notice that happen in their lives.
5. Make sure they understand prayer is not magic.
When you are telling your stories, make sure they understand that God does not answer every prayer--at least not they way we want it. Teach them that other people have their own agency (free will), and that if they don't want to do something, God can't force them to do it.
Sometimes God wants something different for you than you think you want for yourself. Sometimes he is testing and trying us. Sometimes the answer is to wait, and waiting is hard.
Whatever the request, God is not some magical genie who will grant us our three wishes. Instead, he is a loving heavenly parent who wants what is best for us. And, just as you sometimes know what is best for your children better than they do, he always knows what is best for us.
I hope my children are learning these things from me. Sometimes I get powerful glimpses of their faith in prayer and that makes me so happy—they are getting it!
The key is to keep teaching them.
This post is part of my 31 Days to a Happier Home series.
To see all the posts in this series, click here: 31 Days to a Happier Home
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