How to share the gift of prayer with your children

I do not have much of an imagination and do not enjoy science fiction,  fantasy or cartoons. Therefore, it is curious that I had an imaginary friend, named Boy, when I was a toddler. I simply called him Boy and in retrospect wonder why I never chose a more creative name for my friend. Boy was a compassionate and playful pal who went with me everywhere.  We chatted and giggled, happily trailing behind my three siblings.

After I became old enough to attend Sunday School and understand the lessons, I quickly replaced Boy with a new best friend, God.  We held hands in joyful, faithful trust, and have never let go.  We have an ongoing conversation about the blessings in my life, the splendor of His world, and the things with which I need help.  I ask for guidance on how to be His vessel and how to be a beacon of love and peace in a turbulent world.  I pray that I serve Him well at Wesley and that I care for you, your children, and the faculty with kindness and grace. My prayers always include my appreciation for my wonderful family and friends.

It is amazing to talk to God, who loves me unconditionally and who I trust and love with all of my heart. I pray that you also have this experience and that you prioritize prayer for yourself and your children. I encourage you to share the power of prayer with your children, as it is an integral part of a faith journey.  As we age, faith and prayer insure a path back home if we become lost and confused.  Church leaders and Sunday School teachers provide critical information on the Bible and its contents.  They influence your child’s walk with God in many ways particularly the value of daily prayer.  Although their role is significant, you are ultimately responsible for your child’s Christian education and faith.

Some readers may ask, “How do I teach prayer to a young child?”  I will include some simple guidance and suggestions.  First, be a role model in daily life.  Offer simple, spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving to God in front of your child.  My mother said, “Thanks be to God” several times each day. Pray regularly and frequently in front of your child.  Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles, the founders of the Methodist movement, would put her apron over her head for peace and solitude when she prayed.  Given that Susanna was the 25th of 25 children and had 19 children of her own, the apron idea seems a good one.  While Susanna stated that her prayers were always of thankful appreciation, I have to wonder whether she included the request for a good nights sleep :)

In that children thrive on predictability and routines, I suggest that prayer times be at regular times, such as before meals or bed.  Together thank God for your blessings and then ask the child, “What one thing would you like God to help you with?” If your child is challenged by the question, memorize together a few simple prayers to share together until he/she is older and more comfortable.  You could simply have the child repeat a prayer after you.  Try the five-finger prayer where you hold up each finger and pray for a particular person.  Take a prayer walk, listening, seeing, and smelling, to reflect and rejoice on the beauty of creation.  As children get older, teach the Lord’s Prayer to reinforce the link between home and church.

Prayer is an invaluable tool for children to have on good days and not so good days.  It facilitates a dialogue about anything and everything with God, who loves us unconditionally and forever. It shapes our heart and gives us peace.

I  recommend:

What Happens When I Talk to God by Stormie Omartian

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer

Devotions for Preschoolers by Crystal Bowman

God, You Are Always with Us by Carrie Goddard

A Child’s Goodnight Prayer by Grace Maccarone

Thank You Prayer by Josephine Page

Poems and Prayers for the Very Young by Martha Alexander

Thank You, God by J. Bradley Wigger