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Teaching Our Children to Pray

Prayer is hard, or is it just me? Your mind wanders, you shake it off and come back to your prayer list. You forget who you were just praying for. Or maybe you were done and in between family members when...Oops...As Maria says in "The Sound of Music", "God bless what's his name." Oh, and then you probably should confess some sin, right? What missteps happened yesterday? You swore a lot; you said things you didn't mean--or did you? And back to the sin list. Does this sound familiar?

Then you have kids, and well, how do you teach them to pray when your own prayer life feels like "a hot mess"? I have no real answers for you or magic formulas.  What I do know is that prayer forms us, shapes us--our theology, our ideology; it shapes our ability to sit in silence, to contemplate, to get in touch with our depravity. It shapes us into humble people who come daily to the place of "God, I NEED YOU."

As prayer forms us, it forms our kids. We model everything for them--and they are little sponges, soaking up every response, every tone, every habit (which is very scary, if you ask me!). You can do all the "normal" prayer related things with your kids--pray at meals, pray for a friend who is sick, pray away the monsters at bedtime. Those moments matter, make no mistake. Those habits are important, and anchoring times of the day with prayer can be so formative.

I challenge you to also think maybe a little more "outside the box" when it comes to prayer with your kids. I remember as a child, being worried about an ambulance we saw driving by. My mom suggested we pray for the person they were going to help, and we continued to do that for years. It is something I have started doing with my girls--praying out-loud for the people the first responders are helping.  These simple prayers can make a big difference, but prayer does not always have to be simplified for our children to understand.

I sometimes pray liturgical prayers at breakfast while the girls are eating--the Confessional Prayer or the Apostle's Creed. My 3 year old started a conversation today because of my praying The Apostle's Creed.  It was perhaps more confusing than enlightening, but none-the-less, opens the door for continued discussion and sharing. "Confessing" to your kids can be very powerful. When I mess up or hurt feelings or yell, I tell the girls I should not have responded that way, that I am sorry, will they forgive me? And you know what? Sometimes, my girls will even come say they are sorry on their own--a true parental win. But in all seriousness, that modeling component has so much power.

I will end with this story:
One night after dinner, my husband Joshua was saying how he had a headache. He was in pain, holding his head. Unprompted, my three year old says, "Let's pray for Daddy." She went over and laid hands on him. I was genuinely surprised because I am not the best at praying at the first twinge of pain. All three girls went over, and laid hands and prayed for healing.

Don't underestimate the good, the Truth your kids pick up on. They are watching, they are learning--all from you. As parents, we all agree to teach our kids to be kind, to think about other people, to share. Let's also teach them to pray. Jesus is listening.

1 Comment

Amanda - February 2nd, 2021 at 11:44am

Thank you for this encouragement today. It was timely for where my heart has been. Being home alone with my kids for so long, there feels like less to talk about, fewer opportunities to teach or talk about important things. I needed to be reminded of how impactful modeling prayer and faith can be all on its own.



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