This morning, a dear friend texted me and asked this question:
Do you know of any good resources that might have written prayers for kids? I realized this morning that my son doesn’t pray very often and I want to teach him how.
My immediate answer was that I don’t know of any good resources like that (hello…maybe we’ll make some!), but I think the subject of raising praying kids, or just teaching kids to pray in general goes much deeper than the right resources. It, as with all things, starts with our hearts for God as parents, and what we believe about prayer.
Here are a few tips I thought of that can help plant the seed of prayer in our children’s hearts.
1. Model it.
I put this first because I really don’t know that any of my other tips will matter without it. A few years ago my family had the opportunity to go into the home of some friends to lay hands on one of the members and pray for an illness (according to James 5:13-16). We invited the entire family to join us in prayer as we surrounded the sick member. My husband prayed first, then I prayed, and then our children, who were pretty young at the time (less than 10 years old I believe) joined in and prayed for the health of our friend. The adults in the family prayed for their loved one, but when it was time for their children to pray it was obvious that they didn’t know how. Please don’t hear any judgment in my tone because it’s not there. I’m simply making an educated guess based on the circumstances I witnessed that there isn’t a lot of praying out loud done by the adults of that family. The children didn’t know what to say or how to say it, which tells me that modeling prayer hasn’t been a priority. I feel CERTAIN (100%) that all of the adults in this home pray. In fact, I know it. I know them to be a believing family who loves the Lord, and I know they believe in prayer and talk to God…they just haven’t expressed this part of the relationship with the Father in front of their kids.
And that’s exactly what we MUST do if we hope to have our children learn to love prayer.
I have heard so. many. moms. say that they don’t love to pray out loud. It’s too personal. They’re afraid of being judged, or stumbling over their words, and sounding stupid. But I say that, as with all things, practice makes progress. When we want to make something happen in our lives, we prioritize it, get better at it, do it even when we don’t feel like it, or when we feel we might fail. We have to start somewhere, so I’m just going to start this whole article by lovingly asking you to get over your fear of praying out loud. Your kids NEED you to model this sacred, holy conversation we get to have with the Creator of life. It will help them know Him better, and if we’re not teaching them to know Him this intimately, they’re missing out. Most of parenting is living out our active faith in front of our kids.
Resource: If this is a struggle for you, whether because this kind of faith wasn’t modeled for you by your parents, or for some other reason, I highly recommend reading, Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children by John Younts.
2. Create rhythms of prayer in your home.
Over breakfast, in the school drop-off line, before bed. I set my alarm for 4:12PM every day with our Million Praying Moms community and pray when it goes off. If my family is with me at 4:12, they pray, too. Whatever works for you. Think outside the box!
Resource: I love to click over to the Million Praying Moms prayers of the day on Instagram or Facebook each morning on the drive to school and teach them about the verse of the day and then pray for them as they get out of the car. If we miss it somehow, I try to remember to screenshot it and text that day’s prayer to my boys.
3. Most young kids won’t have a vibrant prayer life unless they have a special gift from God.
I’ve known one such child in my lifetime. One. It’s much more likely that the children you have under your roof will grow and mature into a vibrant prayer life in direct proportion to the growth of their faith than just have one when they’re young.
Resource: We love all of the studies designed to help your children grow in their faith from Not Consumed. Check them out here.
4. Expect seasons where they pray more and seasons where they pray less.
Just as there are rhythms of the day, there are rhythms of life. In the seasons of less, pray with them and for them so they don’t forget. This is a way you can carry them, like Jesus carries and holds on to us, in the times when their faith is weak.
Resource: Our growing Everyday Prayers topical prayer journal library is a great place to find specific, scripture-based prayers for your child’s (or your) specific needs. These are meant to be prayers that any member of your family can read and pray. You can look up the specific time of day you need and there’s a prayer for it! This might be a great way to help your child learn specific times and places where prayer is appropriate!
5. When they get a bit older, ask them to lead in prayer.
I often defer to my boys to pray over things when my husband isn’t with us. My goal is to slowly coax them into leadership and help them feel as comfortable as possible praying out loud. I actually started this when they were very little. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting them with something bigger than them before they can truly understand it. I always wanted to bring them into my relationship with God as much as possible, again, as a way to model my experience and give them a taste of it for their own. It doesn’t mean they inherit my salvation—we must each have our eyes opened to our need for God individually—but if deep dependence upon God is something they see every day, in theory, it’ll be easier to understand that worldview.
6. When there’s a need, stop and pray about it immediately..out loud.
As I thought about these tips it occurred to me that my own prayer life deepened naturally when I began to need something from God. This happened when I was in my later teenage years, and the need drove me both to God in prayer and to His Word for answers. When asked, I always tell people that I made a public profession of faith when I was 9, but didn’t really start walking closely with the Lord until I was 20. That doesn’t mean I didn’t know I needed God to help me overcome in certain areas before then. Our children, if they’ve been taught God exists, see evidence of Him in the world, and have internalized the faith in any way, should naturally begin praying when they need something from Him and feel that need deeply enough that they know they need help. That’s why it’s a good idea to make prayer the first thing you do as a family when there’s a need. The need could be very big or very small…remember, to young children, even the smallest of needs seems huge because they can’t control their emotions or tell the difference. Over the years, we’ve prayed for lost toys, lost keys, lost clothing items (we lose things a lot), friends, family, travel safety, baseball games (good bats, sure hands, and strikes thrown…we get very specific!), kind hearts, bullies, attitudes…and the list goes on. The idea is to help them equate having a need with going to God, so that it becomes almost automatic. This kind of training sets them up to look to Him for the answers in life.
We’ve tried hard as a family to make prayer our natural response to most everything, but it started with my very first point above, which included getting over any fear of messing up. The very safest place to learn to pray out loud is with a group of little ones because they don’t know any better! And if you have tweens or teens, honesty is the best policy. Confess to them you’re learning along with them, and be vulnerable enough to ask them to give you grace as you do. You’d be surprised what honesty and vulnerability will get you with this age group!
This is a picture of my oldest son’s travel baseball team. He’s the one right in the front center with the yellow bottom on his cleats. Every tournament, and before each game, he leads this group of boys out onto the field and then leads them in prayer. A few weekends ago our family took a long weekend at the beach, and to do so he had to miss a tournament. Earlyish Saturday morning he received a phone call from one of his teammates. Surprised, he answered quickly, knowing they were about to start playing (we were standing by, ready to cheer them on via GameChanger) and was blown away (ok, I was blown away) when they asked him to pray for them before the game started. They did it twice over the weekend. Right before the game, they all huddled together on the field, called my guy, and had him pray over them on speaker before they started. The coaches had nothing to do with it. It’s one of his standard leadership roles when he’s there and his teammates wanted him to pray for them even when he wasn’t.
This kiddo isn’t perfect. In many ways he’s a typical 15 year old. He has a lot more ground to travel on the journey toward growing into a mature man of God, but he’s growing into a man I really like. His story isn’t finished, but frankly, when he’s done praying I don’t really care what kind of day he has on the ball field. All I care about is the fruit of the work we’ve put into raising him to be a man of prayer.
Resource: Everyday Prayers for All Ages and Stages includes some amazing, scripture-based prayers for the everyday moments of your day. If you don’t know where to start making prayer a normal rhythm, I recommend starting here!
I hope these tips are helpful as you think about any changes you might want to make that will help your kids learn to value the praying life. I’d love for you to consider bookmarking this article and coming back often because I’ll share more as I learn more! Also, if you have tipsor resources I haven’t mentioned here that you’ve seen work in your home, please share them in the comments so we can all benefit!
Books on Prayer:
Podcasts on Prayer