My wife Tami and I wanted our children to learn they could talk to God as they would a good friend. We started teaching our children to pray once they could put a few simple words together.
If you’re like us, when you put your young child on the phone with grandma and grandpa, you coached them on what to say. If they were at a loss for words, you told them what to say. Just like we coached our children in talking with grandma and grandpa, we gave them a few tips on what to say to God.
Teaching a child to pray is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. It was a gift our parents gave to us. We wanted to pass on that legacy to our kids. That direct line to God will last a lifetime, comes with no subscription fees, and never requires an upgrade. The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.” Prayer gives children access to the greatest power in the universe.
A Few Words Can Mean a Lot
Perhaps you’ve wanted to teach your child to pray. But you’ve wondered where to begin.
Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated for an adult or a child. Keep it simple. Martin Luther wrote, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer.”
A few words spoken from the heart, with a humble attitude, can say a lot. Jesus, speaking to His followers on prayer, commended the short prayer of the tax collector who cried, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” (Luke 18:13-14).
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He gave them a prayer that was simple in words, yet profound in meaning.
That’s the kind of prayer a child needs.
Our children’s first lessons in prayer were to watch and listen to Tami and me pray. Before tucking them in at night, we would kneel with them next to their bed, close our eyes, fold our hands, and offer short prayers. After each phrase, we’d encourage them to repeat our words.
As our children grew older, we encouraged them to pray in their bedrooms privately, and with us during our family prayer time. Whenever we prayed, we worked to cultivate an attitude of respect for God. We also taught them they could talk to God anytime, with words spoken out loud, and in the quietness of their minds.
When our first child Megan was just a little girl, Tami and I were in a phase of life where we didn’t make personal prayer a priority. While we gave her lessons in prayer, we could have done better in teaching Megan the importance and value of prayer. What children see and hear their parents do has a profound influence on their values, choices and behavior.
The attitude we sometimes take as parents is, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” That attitude leads children to be as superficial as their parents. When teaching your child to pray, think about how you portray the importance and value of prayer in your own life. If prayer is something you struggle with, I encourage you to read my series “How to Pray: 8 Keys to Answered Prayer.”
Here are some simple “starter prayers” you can use with your child. You can even use them yourself.
Depending on a child’s vocabulary, teaching them the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is an excellent place to begin. The fruit of the Spirit described by the apostle Paul (Galatians 5:22-23), also provide excellent subject matter for teaching children to pray. Both of these are the inspiration for this list of 10 starter prayers.
1. The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Dear God, thank you for loving me. Help me to love everybody.
Dear God, thank you for giving me a beautiful smile. Help my smiles to give joy to people.
Dear God, help me to admit when I’m wrong and be kind to people who don’t agree with me.
Dear God, thank you for being patient as I learn to obey You. Help me to be patient when things don’t happen the way I want them to.
Dear God, thank you for your kindness to me, when I don’t deserve it. Help me to be kind to people, even when they are not kind to me.
Dear God, thank you for Jesus, who always did and said the right things to people. Make me good like Jesus.
Dear God, thank you for always keeping Your promises. Help me to always keep my promises.
Dear God, thank you for being gentle with me. Help me to be gentle with people, even when their words or actions hurt me.
Dear God, thank you for giving me the power to choose. Help me to always choose carefully what see with my eyes, hear with my ears, let in and out of my mouth, do with my hands, and go with my feet.
Have you had experience teaching your child to pray? Please share a helpful tip in the comments below.