My children range in age from 12 years to 12 months. One of the greatest joys as a Christian parent is leading and teaching our children about prayer. In every stage and age they are capable of engaging and understanding on different levels; but along the way, I’ve found these 5 truths to be foundational to helping our children understand prayer:
1. In Jesus’ name. We come to God through Jesus and on the basis of what He’s done for us. Because Jesus came to reconcile us back to the Father, we can now have confidence and faith that our prayers are heard by God. This is also why we pray in Jesus name. John 14:13-14
2. Anytime. Constantly remind your children that we can talk to God anytime. There are indeed special times for prayer (before dinner, before bed, in a quiet time or at a worship service) but we should not limit the time that we talk to God to those occasions. And on that note, no, we don’t have to always close our eyes when we pray! I tell my children, “It is helpful to close your eyes when you can because it helps us to concentrate and focus on the person we are talking to.”
3. Anything. Similarly, we can talk to God about anything. As with any relationship, sometimes the conversation is shallow in nature and sometimes it is deep. Our children will not simply jump into a deep relationship with God they need to work through the shallow to get to the deep. Trusting Him with little, seemingly insignificant things in their younger years, will lead to trusting Him with greater deeper things as they grow. Encourage them to talk with God about whatever may be on their mind, no matter how shallow or selfish it may seem.
4. God wants us to pray for others. Some of our most engaging times of prayer as a family came as we were praying for someone, or a group of people, in need. Recently, friends of ours were in a horrific car accident. We all prayed and cried to God for healing for our friends. The children were able to direct all their emotion, worry and fears to God in prayer. This continued for some time as their prayers for healing also turned into prayers of protection for our own family’s future. Additionally, a large part of our calling as Christians is to intercede on behalf of one another. Ephesians 6:18
5. God loves when we pester! I don’t, but God does. In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable of a persistent widow. The widow wouldn’t give up begging a certain judge for justice. Jesus says we should pray to God this same way. He illustrates this idea in Luke 11 as well. The story is about a nagging man who knocks on the door of his neighbor’s house all night until he finally gets up and gives him some bread. Lastly, my favorite example of the power our pestering prayers have is in Daniel. After weeks of prayer, Daniel received word from an angel that his prayers were indeed heard and his persistence had played a role in God’s kingdom overcoming darkness. While this idea may be over some children’s heads, just remind them that God loves when we pester Him. It’s sort of like showing Him how truly important it is to us. So steer clear of a “one and done” approach. God loves our pestering!