|Photo Credit: Samantha Celera via Flickr CC|
I was a teenager when I prayed my first prayer. In those early days as a brand new Christian I had no idea what prayer was supposed to look or sound like. I didn't know how to talk to God because I barely knew who He was. I struggled with a fear that I was somehow doing it wrong.
But over time, prayer became second nature. As I learned who God was, I was able to pour out my heart to him with greater ease. I began to praise him quietly throughout the day, and petition Him in moments of need or anxiety. My spiritual life has seen ups and downs since, but today I treasure the fact that I can come boldly before the God who made me.
I want my children to develop a meaningful prayer life. I want my children to know deep down inside that every moment of every day they can come before an Almighty God with the deepest cries of their heart. And that they can do so with confidence. Not confidence in who they are, but confidence in who God is. Confident that there is a loving God who cares deeply about the longings of their hearts.
I am not an expert on prayer, or child rearing. But I would like to share with you the things I've discovered while teaching my children to pray.
- Habit is Good. We say the same prayer as a family every night before the kids go to bed. At first I feared we were creating too much of a sense of ritual and not enough an awareness of relationship. But I've come to feel that developing Godly disciplines now, well they are young, is a great thing. My children wouldn't dream of going to bed without praying first. Many of us as adults could use that kind of discipline!
- Spontaneity is good too. It is also important to teach children that they can always come before the throne of God. Prayer isn't a bunch of magic words we say at bedtime and before meals, it is communion with a Holy God. We pray spontaneously with our kids when they are hurt or scared or worried. We pray when we learn that friends are sick, or sad, or in need. We pray to praise God for the good things in life, although we don't do this nearly as much as we should. And I am teaching my oldest to pray and repent when she has wronged one of her siblings.
- We need to model prayer for our children. It's so easy to compartmentalize the teaching of our children in prayer from our own prayer life. And obviously our kids don't need to see and hear every prayer we pray. But don't be afraid to let you kids see you on your knees in prayer. If you are praying with a group of adults, use discretion and reconsider whether you really need to shepherd the kids out of the room. They may not understand everything being said, but if they only experience things they already know, they won't learn and grow!
- We need to teach them about prayer. It isn't enough just to show them how to pray. We need to define the word for them too. It is so easy for me to overlook this step. And it's a hard step. When we start discussing the things of God with our kids they can start asking some really tough questions. (I am frequently stumped by my four year old!) We need to teach our kids not just how to pray, but why to pray. That God wants us to talk to Him, and listen to what he says in His word. That God hears us. And that God wants us to seek His will.
- We aren't just teaching them to pray, we are teaching them about who God is. Almighty God, the maker of the stars and the universe, cares about us. We can ask him to mend our boo-boo's and comfort us after a scary dream. By praying with our kids, we teach them that God isn't just a Sunday school character, he is a personal God that we can speak to.
- It's a process. There are a hundred moments in my life that I could tell you are when I really learned to pray: In moments of temptation, desperation, anxiety. As I stood in awe of the grand canyon. The day I became a mom. When the car wouldn't start. We spend our whole lives learning to pray. And Lord willing, our kids will too.
- More than anything else, we need to pray for them. We have a responsibility to teach our children good things and to encourage Godly disciplines, but it is God who will implant Himself in our children's lives and draw them ever closer to Him. So lets pray fervently for them!
Please join in the discussion and tell me how you teach your children to pray!