“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6)
It is an awesome privilege we have, that the God of the universe sits in his heavenly throne like it’s an armchair and invites us as children to sit on his lap and talk to him. But a life of prayer doesn’t really come naturally, does it? We have to learn how to make prayer a part of daily life.
One of the best ways for a child to develop of a life of prayer is to be led by mom and dad. Did you know, though, that more than 85% of Christian teens do not experience regular prayer with their parents? Would you like to be part of the revolution to change that statistic? Here are five tips to help you lead your children in developing lives of prayer:
1. Model it
Kids want to be like their parents (yes, even your teenagers, no matter what they say). Your kids aren’t going to be very interested in doing something they don’t see you do. If they see you praying often, they are going to catch on that it’s time well spent. And the way you pray – being sure to include prayers of thanks and prayers for others – will help them develop those same kinds of humble and selfless prayers as well.
2. Make it part of the routine
Praying before meals and bedtimes is good. They are natural times to stop and speak to God. There are other times you can build it in as well: Before you drop the kids off at school, first thing when everyone gets home for the day, or before everyone leaves the house in the morning. This is especially useful if, for instance, one of your kids is worried about a test at school or a social situation that didn’t go well. You can help them learn to bring these things to God. The point is to look for those moments when you can all stop and speak to the Lord together.
3. Mix it up
There are reasons the Common Table Prayer and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep are popular. But they can become practically mindless when you say them day after day. So add in some variety to your mealtime and bedtime prayers. Find some other meal time prayers (there are a lot out there!) or use a psalm passage that talks about how God provides. For bed times, try some hymn verses, or Luther’s Evening Prayer.
4. Teach “unscripted” prayer
There are blessings to be found in reciting written prayers, but letting the words flow from your mind and heart is a way to make sure your prayers reflect your specific blessings, concerns, and needs. So practice it yourself, and then do it with your kids. In our house we call it our “Dear Jesus time,” where we each start a prayer with “Dear Jesus,” we thank God for something, and then we ask God for something. It’s really easy, but it lets everyone speak to God from the heart.
5. Use teachable moments for prayer
There are times you have to sit your child down for discipline or to explain something. Those can be emotional situations. That’s a perfect time to teach your child how to take that problem to God. You could ask, “Would you like to pray about it?” or “Can I pray about it for you?” Sometimes my children say, “No!” when I ask that, but I go ahead anyway, and they usually don’t fight me on it. I’ve found that the more often I do it, the more willing they are to go along with it.
The key is to keep it simple, especially with little ones. Prayer doesn’t have to be flowery language or pack some major theological punch. It is just about open communication to God, and teaching your children how that looks in the life of a Christian. So don’t make it a major deal. Just do it, keep it simple, and make it regular.