We all know in our hearts how very important it is that we teach our children to pray… but how are we actually doing so? The Bible tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing”; that we should pray all throughout the day, not only at a designated prayer time. We are to talk to the Lord as we are going about our daily business, asking Him for His help, thanking Him for hearing our prayers, and lifting up burdens of our own and for others. Would you say that your children are witnessing this sort of prayer life in your own home?
When our children are little, like under 2 1/2 years old, teaching them a little prayer to say is a great way to begin teaching them to talk to the Lord. When my daughter was around this age, her first prayer learned was, “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Amen.” I felt like this was more meaningful than the “God is great, God is good…” mealtime prayer. As she has grown older, and her understanding has broadened, her prayers have become more meaningful and more her own. Sometimes she might pray for healing for a “sick” stuffed bear, or something silly like that. But you know what, that’s okay! She is learning to trust in the Lord for the concerns of her heart, and that is exactly what I want to encourage: Prayers from her heart.
But I would say that if you are wanting to teach your child to pray, it is not enough to simply recite a sweet, poetic little prayer at dinner and bedtime. Teaching our children to pray, to truly speak to the Lord from the burdens of their heart, is so much deeper than a few memorized lines. We have all heard that the best way to teach is by example; truly that is the key. Our children watch us when we think they are preoccupied with their toys. They hear us when we assume we are alone. And they examine, yes, even mimic the way that we react in trying situations. So first we have to examine our own hearts and actions before we can begin to teach our children the ways of the Lord. For as we do, so will they.
Teaching your children to have a heart of prayer will come as they watch you in your prayer life, and hear the concerns of your heart being poured out to the Lord. They will see and begin experiencing the power of prayer when they hear your praises to the Lord for prayers answered, and see the joy on your face as you explain to them and others what the Lord has done. Do not be afraid to appear vulnerable in front of your children. When they see you humble yourself before the Lord, you are teaching them that it is okay for us to lean on Him when we are weak. And then as you thank the Lord for hearing and answering your prayer, even before your answer has arrived, they will see your strength in Him, and begin to understand the power of coming to the Father in prayer.
So, I ask you today, as you go about your business and every day activities, pray that the Lord helps you to have a fervent heart of prayer. As you are washing the dishes, lift someone up in prayer. When you pass an accident scene on the side of the highway, pray out loud for the victims and the paramedics. When you can’t get your car started, or that certain gadget wont work, pray that the Lord will help you. And when your child asks you who you are talking to, or what are you saying, you now have the perfect opportunity to explain to them the importance of talking with the Lord in every situation. When your children begin to see this in you every day, in time you will be blessed to see them learn to call upon the Lord throughout the day for their own burdens. And when they do, encourage them, and assure them of the power of their prayers.