Teaching children to pray is an important job for parents and church leaders. Even very young children can be taught the rudiments of prayer, such as bowing their heads, closing their eyes and speaking to God in simple phrases. As children grow, they can learn to pray more and more in accord with the big, overarching themes of the Bible. Here are just a few ideas to start the wheels turning on ways children can grow in prayer.
1. Teach children to pray as Jesus taught His disciples (Matthew 6:9-15).
The Lord’s Prayer, or the Model Prayer as it is sometimes called, asks God to accomplish eternal things that He intends to do; therefore, we enter into an exciting “partnership” with Him as we pray according to His will. Help your kids memorize the Lord’s Prayer and explain to them what each request means (a good resource for this is the book Jesus Teaches Us How to Pray by Sinclair Ferguson).
2. Teach children to pray for the sick (James 5:16).
Use your church’s prayer email or bulletin to make a prayer list. Does your church have a list of widows, sick people, and shut-ins? Have your children pray for specific members on a regular basis, and if you can find a way to involve the children in physically serving members on the list, so much the better.
3. Teach children to pray for the persecuted church (Hebrews 13:3).
Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has information on persecuted believers and countries hostile to the Gospel that need our prayers. Kids of Courage is an off-shoot of VOM that spotlights children who have made brave stands for Christ in dangerous places. The suffering church is our family; children feel honored by the privilege of praying for her.
4. Teach children to pray for missionaries, your pastors and other leaders in the church (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
The New Testament epistles contain specific requests for prayer from the apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:19 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1, for example) that enlighten us to the prayer needs of missionaries and pastors alike. Find out what missionaries or missions endeavors your church is supporting; ask your pastor how the children’s ministry can be praying for him. Let your children know they can be a vital part of God’s work in the world by praying for missionaries, their pastor and other spiritual leaders!
5. Teach children to pray for their own growth in Christ-likeness (Psalm 119:36-38).
Praying in this way honors God, for we know that in our own strength we are powerless to live holy lives. Children can learn this dependence and trust in God’s sanctifying work right from the start.
What are some other biblical ways we can teach children to pray?
These are just a few examples of teaching kids to pray in serious, biblical ways as they grow older. I realized as I was writing this article that there’s much more I should and could be doing in teaching our children to pray. Time to get going!