Prayer is something we should all do but understandably it can feel intimidating if you aren’t confident or experienced. I love listening to children pray. They really don’t have the presets we do and they aren’t afraid to ask God for anything. Still, after a few unanswered prayers, like, “Dear God, please make me fly,” kids will need some encouragement and guidance.
As children’s ministry leaders, we have to walk a fine line between encouraging faith and perseverance. I’m certainly no expert on prayer but have been teaching prayer to children for over a decade. (Closer to two actually.)
If you have new volunteers or are just getting started on the subject of teaching prayer, remember these four tips.
1. You should demonstrate prayer creatively. Just read a small portion of the Bible and you can see that over the ages, people have offered prayer differently. Some take a formal approach; others simply, “cry out” to God. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to teach these different ways to pray. Lead a prayer while you kneel, while you stand, with your eyes open and with them closed. You could also pray with a candle lit and the room lights dimmed. You can shout a praise and prayer together as a group. Don’t be limited by your own ideas about prayer. (I know, ouch to me too.)
2. Address God in a variety of ways. I prefer to say, “Father” but that’s not for everyone. In fact, during certain seasons of my life, I have called God by different names. Sometimes I began my prayer as, “Dear Lord,” or “Dear God.” By doing this, we teach kids that God hears us when we pray, even if we don’t say everything perfectly.
3. Be sensitive to the child’s attention span. Remember the minute rule. If you’re teaching mainly five year olds, you’ve got about five minutes to make a teaching point. With prayer, you’ve got to translate that to the second rule. (Well maybe not quite that short.) Depending on your group, you’ll have to limit the length of your prayer time.
4. Don’t critique a child’s prayer. I’m sure you know this but just in case, please don’t critique a child’s prayer. Interrupting the flow of a prayer or acting like the “prayer police” can make kids uneasy about praying. I go back to the “Please let me fly, Lord” prayer (which my son prayed feverishly). Although I knew that the chances were remote that he would actually fly (but a certain prophet was lifted in the air by his hair) I knew that the prayer of his heart could have a different meaning. God would indeed allow him “to fly” but the answer was a spiritual one. Instead of discouraging his prayer, I encouraged him to continue and as he got older, explained that God can answer a prayer in many different ways.
I hope you do teach your kids to pray and often! The world needs praying children!
Read more from Mimi by following her blog at Tools for Kids Church.