Teaching Sunday School Students How To Pray

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I teach with a co-teacher and we have been teaching 8-10 year olds (3rd/4th Grade U.S.A) in Sunday School for the past five years. I wanted to share with others something that the Lord has used in our class and has been a blessing to be a part of each week.
In our class we have a prayer time each week before we begin our Bible lesson. Our heart’s desire in doing this each week is to enable the students to not be afraid to pray publicly.  As adults it can be intimidating to be called on to pray publicly.  Our prayer is that our students will take what they learn in class and be children who pray privately and publicly.  To help students become more accustomed to praying in public and also to aid them to pray privately we teach them to praise God, thank God and make our requests to God. As they learn the discipline and joy of prayer early in life, it’s our prayer that as they serve the Most High God they continue to be faithful prayer warriors.
How we implement prayer in our class is to have a prayer time each week before our lesson begins.  To prepare for this time we have prepared cards for the students to select.  There are 3 categories that we prepare.  Praise, Thanks and Request cards.  On the praise cards there are examples of how to praise God.  “I praise you because You are our comforter.  You comfort me when I am discouraged.”  On the thank you cards we have examples of things we can thank God for.  “Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.”  On the request cards we have examples for requests.  “Please help our pastor to preach Your Word or Please help our leaders to make wise decisions.” (We keep it to simple sentence prayers so that we have time for all the students to participate.) We have several cards to choose from.  Each week as the students get the idea of praise, thanks, and requests they become more comfortable to use their own prayers of praise, thanks and requests.  When they first arrive we remind them to choose their cards if they need cards and if they already know what they want to praise, thank and pray for they don’t need to take the prepared cards. The cards provide something to help the students who are scared to pray out loud.  In the beginning they are participating by reading off their card when it’s their turn.  It’s our prayer that as they continue each week it becomes natural for them to pray out loud and not be focused on the others around them.  (In past classes we provided a piece of paper that had the three components with a blank for the student to fill in to help them pray their own individual prayers.  The sheet said:  I praise you because…..Thank You for…..Please help……)  An index card or a blank piece of paper can work well too.  As our students grew and became more accustomed to doing this each week they did not need the cards.  We provide the cards each week for possible first time visitors and for the students who still want to use the cards.
As we pray each week the Lord will gives insights how to encourage and help the students to grow in their prayers.  For instance, in our class we noticed a trend that most of the students when praying without cards would say, “I praise you because you are holy.”  That is an awesome characteristic to praise God for!  What we wanted the students to realize is that as they pray that it’s important to remember what that  are saying means.   God is perfect and without sin.  We don’t want to pray the same things every time we pray.  Prayer is talking with God and having a relationship with Him.  We don’t say the same things over and over when we talk to our friends. It’s important to encourage them to praise God in new ways.  To help them do that we encouraged them to think about how God helped them that week.  If they were sick and God healed them, they can praise God as the one who healed.
When it is time to pray as a class we get on our knees. We explain that we get on our knees to show respect to God.  Jesus knelt as He prayed  Luke 22:41 We explain to them that there will be a time of silence so we can quiet our hearts before God.  As we quiet our hearts before Him if He shows us anything that we have done that is sin against Him we need to ask Him to forgive us.  (A time of confession so we can be clean before God as we come to Him in prayer.) After that moment of quiet the lead teacher begins the prayer time and the students take their turn and the c0-teacher closes out the prayer time.  This time has been such a blessing for us as teachers.  We have seen even the shyest students pray something very simple in our time of public praying.
When we implemented this in our class we did not allow it to be an option if students wanted to pray or not.  This sounds very rigid but if you allow them the option some won’t ever try.  (If the child is a visitor we tell them this is what we do in our class and show them the cards and if they want to participate they are welcome.) We encourage the students that this is a safe place to pray.  We all came to Sunday School to learn more about God.  This time of prayer is helping us to learn how we can pray together.  When we are at home we pray privately but there will be times that we need to pray together. We encourage them to speak so that we all can hear.  Example:  When a person says, “Thank you God for healing my Grandmother”, we all can say thank you to God in our hearts for what He has done.
Even if it might seem as though some students are going through the motions by taking their turn and reading their cards, seeds are being planted in their hearts.  As the student reads : “I praise You because You are the Bread of Life; Your Word feeds my spirit, or I praise You as the Prince of Peace, You give peace to me when I am upset” these Biblical truths are being planted in their hearts.
This was shared for the purpose of encouraging and helping anyone with a need for ideas how to teach your students to pray.  As with all circumstances in the classroom the teacher needs to be in tune with the Lord’s leadership.  What works well in our class may not work the same in another.  God is faithful to help you teach your class the important discipline of prayer and He will enable you to do it in the way that’s best for your students.

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