Teaching Your Kids to Pray
Prayer is such a wonderful privilege--we have direct, 24/7 access to the God who created us and loves us.
But prayer isn’t just for grown-ups. Jesus wants little children to come to him (Matthew 19:14) and to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Prayer is a powerful way to harness kids’ love of words. Between the ages of 2 and 5, a child’s vocabulary explodes from about 50 words to thousands. And who better to talk to than God?
Yet even Jesus’ disciples needed help learning how to pray (Luke 11:1).
Keep these things in mind as you're teaching kids to pray and connect with God:
Prayer is an attitude. Praying constantly means we’re always aware that God is here. We can sense God’s presence with us no matter our circumstances. We can pray about anything and everything, including other people and their needs.
Prayer is a routine. Regular times with God help shape our prayer attitude. Help children establish “check in” times with God, not out of obligation but out of love.
Prayer is a first response. When troubles and tough decisions loom, we can turn to God before trying anything else. Prayer should be our first resort, not our last.
Prayer is listening to God. Prayer is a dialogue that involves letting God speak to us through everyday life. Because prayer is two-way communication, we also should practice listening to God.
Prayer is modeled. The best way to challenge your children to pray is by letting them see and hear you praying often. Regularly share with them how you see God at work through your prayers.
Age Level Insights
Children’s perceptions of communicating with God change as they grow:
Ages 2 to 3: Young children understand that Jesus is their friend. Say (or sing!) simple prayers that relate to children’s lives.
Ages 4 to 6: Children this age become very aware of the world around them. Let kids know that God cares about everything that happens to them and other people.
Ages 7 to 9: These children feel a need for God’s help and can verbally express thoughts. Help them look up Bible verses about prayer.
Ages 10 to 12: Preteens realize God is more personal. Let them understand that no prayers are insignificant to their heavenly Father.
Start a discussion about the importance of talking and listening to God by asking children these questions:
1. Why do you think God wants us to pray to him? How often and how should we pray?
2. Does God hear and answer all your prayers? How do you know?
3. What does it mean to listen to God’s voice? In what ways does God speak to us today?
4. What things should we pray about together as a family? How can we add more prayer time to our daily lives?
Try this at home
Use these prayer-related activities to help children become more comfortable with praying to God and hearing his answers.
• On Target—Using markers, have children draw a target with six circles. Then have them use pencils to fill in people and places to pray for. In the outer circle, they can write a country. In the next circle, they can write a family in their neighborhood. The rest of the circles can represent a friend, teacher, or family member. In the center, have children write something they’d like to pray for themselves. After a week, erase those requests and fill in new ones.
• Rewind and Fast Forward—Practice a prayer routine by having kids think back to the beginning of their day. Say: “Pantomime in fast motion all the things you did to get ready this morning. When I say ‘freeze,’ stand still and think about what was on your mind then.” Repeat the game, asking kids to act out what they’ll do to get ready for bed tonight. Say: “This time when I call ‘freeze,’ pray about something that happened today.” Encourage family members to talk to God about their day every morning and night.
• Still Waters—Have family members spread out and silently read Psalm 23. (Assist younger children.) Say: “Choose one verse to talk to God about. Then ask God a question and wait silently for him to speak. He may speak just one word or give you an image in your mind.” After five minutes, share what you each heard. Remind everyone that listening to God isn’t magical and takes practice.