God holds wonderful treasures, some of which may only be accessed through prayer. Kids want those treasures but they need a guide to help them find their way. One of the things I love the most about children’s ministry is having the opportunity to pray with children. Teaching kids to pray isn’t tough; however, I find many teachers and volunteers find leading prayer challenging, even intimidating. If you find yourself in this category, you can build your self-confidence by remembering these guidelines.
1. Touch and agree. Before praying with the child discuss talk about why the child wants prayer. Kids tend to wander in their conversation and thought processes. (Like some of us!) I usually say, “Okay, Ryan. You want to pray for Grandma because her foot hurts and your puppy ran away?” This helps children focus their requests and faith.
2. Invite the child to lead the prayer. Don’t feel like you have to lead every prayer. Give children the opportunity to pray. It may take some time, but eventually, your students will surprise you. Also, don’t correct kids if they do step up to lead prayer. Nothing dashes a child’s confidence more than correcting them in public, especially concerning spiritual matters.
3. Use repetition to train children. I always tell children not confident enough to pray independently, to repeat after me. Not because I’m a master at prayer but to build their spiritual knowledge. Training children to pray is simple when you use the repetition method. Don’t use long, flowery sentences but do heap lots of love on God. He enjoys praise and children see a loving relationship, not just hear about it.
4. Hold hands but ask permission first. Say to children, “May I hold your hand when we pray?” Asking permission calms the child and helps them know you are there with them. Holding someone’s hand should comfort them, not frighten them or make them uncomfortable. Sadly, sometimes this kind of contact does.
5. Demonstrate how to use scripture in prayer. I love this point. If it is possible and relevant, I use a scripture we just learned. For example, a child who is afraid needs to hear, “Dear Father, Your Word says that ‘No weapon formed against me will prosper.’ Because of Your Word, I know I am safe and protected.”
6. Affirm children afterwards. I affirm my students by telling them I will continue to pray for them daily. If appropriate, I give a hug or pat the child on the shoulder. Prayer should comfort but not infringe on a child’s space. Sometimes verbal affirmation is enough.
As a teacher, praying with children is one of my favorite activities. Pray with your student every chance you get, but don’t force prayer. Teaching kids that prayer is a normal function of spiritual life is important. Build strong prayer warriors by guiding your kids in this area.
For more help, you can print out our the Five Finger Model Prayer for children. You might also enjoy these coloring pages about prayer.
Visit Mimi’s website for daily encouragement, Encouragement for Christians.