Parents you are the primary teachers of spiritual things to your children. As Solomon says in Proverbs 22:6, we should: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. It is important that you not only tell them what should be done but that you also show them by doing what should be done regularly in your everyday life. Teaching your child to pray is the best thing, after leading him/her to Christ, that you can do for your child.
You should have daily family devotions to include your children from infancy. Let their first awareness of prayer be in a family setting. Beginning when they first start talking you teach them to pray according to their age group.
Children Just Learning To Talk
You can teach children who are just learning to talk a short one sentence prayer, e.g. “Jesus I love you”. As children age you increase the number of sentences and tell them what prayer is.
What is Prayer
Prayer is talking to God. When you talk to someone you talk and then listen while they speak. That is how it is with prayer. When you speak to God you give Him a chance to respond. You speak to God, not at Him. The same way you speak to another person. Use everyday words and your regular voice. You don’t need any special words or voice to speak to God. Tell Him what is happening in your life.
Teach them that God hears their prayers and they can know He does. By listening carefully they will hear that still small voice inside their heart. That is God speaking to them. Sometimes He will not respond immediately but they will see the answer to their prayer sometime after. They need to listen carefully because they will be distracted by everything around them and not hear God’s voice. He doesn’t shout and so they will have to give Him their full attention. When they speak to God they should make sure the place where they are is quiet and have nothing to distract them. That is why it is said that you have a ‘quiet time’ with God.
They may ask; “How do I know it is God’s voice and not my thoughts”. Tell them the same way they learnt your voice by spending time with you when they spend time speaking to God and learning His Words they will know His voice.
You may use the following format to teach children to pray:
It is called the ACTS method.
A is for Adore
C is for Confess
T is for Thank
S is for Supplicate (To ask)
Adore: To tell or show someone you like them
A child may pray: “I love You Lord. You are the best God there ever was.”
Confess: You tell God the things you did wrong and tell Him you are sorry you displeased Him.
A child may pray: “I took one of mommy’s rock cakes and I did not finish my homework before watching TV. I am sorry I displeased You. Please forgive me.”
Thank: You thank God for the many good things He has given you or allowed to happen to you.
A child may pray: “Thank You for mommy and daddy. Thank you for the camera grandma sent me. Thank you for helping me to understand that math problem the class didn’t understand. Thank you for watching over me.”
Supplicate: Tell God everything here. Tell Him about your life, family, friends, people you meet, church, school, the country, etc. You tell Him about your needs and those of others and what you would like Him to do about them.
A child may pray: “Lord You know I don’t like English, but I have to do it, so please help me to do better at it. Help mommy and daddy not to get tired or sick. Tai’s mother just came out of the hospital, please help her get well and don’t let Tai be so sad anymore. Amen.”
Remind children to listen to God when they pray. They may do it at the end of each section or at the end of the whole prayer. Also practice becomes perfect, so they should pray regularly.
As parents you should make space during your family devotions and bedtime ritual for children to pray.
Veronica V. Sutherland is an author, teacher, coach, speaker, minister, mother, and wife who is passionate about serving God through service to others. She ministers to busy Christian women by helping them to grow their faith through practising the spiritual disciplines to develop an intimate relationship with God.