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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Teaching Children to Pray: A Summer Series #4



A few questions regarding teaching children how to pray might be:

 At what age is my child able to pray?
Which prayer should my child learn first?
Is it important for my child to pray, or can I just pray for him/her?

One of the facts about prayer that I’ve learned of this year is that we can never do too much of it. I’d heard about this before from preachers over the pulpit, but there’s a difference when you read the Bible for yourself, and you allow God’s voice to wash over your soul a living, breathing revelation that comes directly from Him.


That’s what it has been like for me this year as I’ve been reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. I’ve seen scriptures that I’ve read before, or have heard preached before, but am seeing them with a new, more personal light these days.


In coming across Luke 18:1 again the fact that men should ALWAYS pray just hit me differently. It hit me more literally I suppose.


It’s a great scripture to drive home the fact that if “man” should pray always, we should bring our children up in a habit of prayer. We taught our children their  first prayer as early as they could form coherent sentences.


We taught them a simple prayer when they were around 2 or 3 years old. It went something like this:


Heavenly Father we thank you for giving us health and strength. Thank you for loving me and for being good, I love you Jesus with all my heart. In Jesus’ name Amen.


I remember one night when Chelsea (our youngest) was barely talking age she began to say this simple prayer all because she’d been hearing her big sister pray it night after night. This is the power of repetition at its best.  And this is what I believe to be one of the best benefits of raising children in a habit of prayer. 


Teaching children to pray early on will go a long way to helping them grow in a personal relationship with God. I imagine that trying to teach a teenager that they should pray would be a lot more difficult than teaching the same principle to a 3 or 4 or 5 year old. However, if you find yourself in this situation, there is nothing too hard for God to accomplish in the lives of our children.


Teaching children to pray will also teach them that God is not far off from them, but that He is close and can be communicated with. This is important as there will be times in life when God may not feel close, but if they’ve been brought up to pray every day, then it won’t matter what circumstances “feel” like, they will still be in a habit of praying and communicating with God.


After a few years of praying the simple little prayer that we’d taught them, we moved to the Lord’s Prayer. I remember my mother teaching me the Lord’s Prayer when I was around 5 years old, and that is about the age that I taught my girls the Lord’s Prayer. Madison was 6, and Chelsea 4.


First, we copied the prayer down word for word from Luke 11, and posted it on their wall. Afterwards, we read through it. I explained to them that when the followers of Jesus wanted to know how to pray, this is what Jesus taught them. I even went through each line of the prayer and explained to them what each line essentially meant. I probably talk too much to my kids, but I kept it loud and colorful and they seemed engaged. Then at night for about two weeks, I knelt at their bedside along with them repeating the prayer. 


After that they were flying solo!


God was so amazingly thoughtful of the powerful effect of teaching. When he brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt He commanded them to write down the things He’d done for them so that they never forget it. He told them to pass them down to the generations after them, and then He gave them an interesting commandment. He told them to write these things in a song, so that when they departed from Him (and He knew that they would) that song would remind them of those things that He’d done. Deuteronomy 31:19


I believe the same to be effective with our children today. Let’s teach them how to pray at a very young age, so that as they grow up in this increasingly God-less culture they will remember how to talk and that they can talk to God. After all, the Lord Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven has to be received with a child-like heart, so what better time to teach them. Matthew 18

Now after almost a year of this, we are beginning to teach the girls how to pray whatever is in their heart to God. The youngest (5) is taking off and soaring in this area of prayer. She amazes us when she prays at dinnertime. The oldest, while not as quick or at ease enough to rattle off a prayer from her heart as the youngest child, has on very few occasions, prayed the most insightful and meaningful prayers I've ever heard a child pray. So in short, the benefits of teaching our children to pray early are so innumerable, so effective, so rewarding for both them and you and those for whom they will pray that I can't imagine wasting these valuable uncomplicated years of their lives to simply wait 'til they're old enough to understand it all.

Now is the time that their little hearts are free from the clutter of life that will inevitably happen as they grow. Let's not waste it...their understanding of prayer will grow with them, and will be there to combat some of the lies that they will encounter in this present culture.

This post is part of my Raising Godly Children in a Seemingly Ungodly World series. Older post in this series are:

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