Prayer is one of the most essential parts of the Christian faith. Like any relationship, communication matters, and prayer is a way we stay in conversation with God. It’s a way we express trust in Him. When we bring out petitions to the Lord, we indicate that He is our provider, our teacher, and our Savior. Prayer keeps us from carrying the weight of our worries on our own and shows that we trust the Lord of the universe with them.
In all four Gospels, Jesus prayed to the Father both in private and in front of crowds. He taught His followers how to pray, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6 ESV). As we follow Christ, prayer becomes an important daily practice.
Children, too, are called to participate in the kingdom of God. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14 ESV). By teaching children that prayer is a meaningful part of daily life, we help to raise up kids who have a close relationship with their Savior. Teaching prayer can be a wonderful experience, but picking the right tools, prayer techniques, and activities can be challenging. Below are a few ways to teach prayer practices to children!
Common prayers have been used for centuries and help connect children to the larger family of Christ through the ages. I used to think that common prayers were hard to learn and that using them was reserved only for Sundays. Praying the words that people have used for centuries and knowing that they still apply today is a special experience for children and adults alike. It is important to pass them down and teach them to the next generation!
Using the Lord’s Prayer is one of the best ways to start teaching children to pray. After all, it is used most Sundays in church! By praying the Lord’s Prayer, you are speaking God’s Word back to Him, affirming that His will and mission are your own. This is the prayer that Jesus taught; therefore, teaching this prayer is important.
But the Lord’s Prayer isn’t the only common prayer. Psalm 23 can also be used as a prayer for children to learn, and Luther’s Morning and Evening prayers are also good, theologically sound prayers to teach.
As you pray, have your children repeat each line after you pray it out loud. This verbal repetition helps to cement the words in their memory. By continually echoing these prayers, kids will learn to memorize these important prayers.
It’s important that children learn to bring specific petitions to the Lord. But how do you teach them to do this? Insert object prayers!
Object prayers have you turn a regular object into an idea for prayer! This can be done with items of food, toys, or even household objects. The goal of an object prayer is to prompt the participant to pray for a specific petition. Object prayers give children ideas on what to pray about and can get children engaged with learning to pray on their own.
The Hand Prayer is simple and fun. Ask your children to hold their hand out in front of them. Each finger on their hand represents a prompt:
- The thumb: pray for a family member
- Pointer finger: thank God for something
- Middle finger: pray for your church or pastor
- Index finger: pray for creation
- Pinky finger: pray for someone who needs help
Have students put down each finger one at a time, starting with the thumb, and ask them to pray the prompt silently. Once all fingers are in a fist, have them repeat the prayer but this time put their fingers up, starting with the pinky finger.
As stated earlier, speaking God’s Word back to Him helps affirm that His will and mission are your own. Another way to teach prayer is to use topical verses. Using Scripture in prayer is a way to remember God’s promises and the blessings He has graciously given.
Tell your students to pray the verse you give them, but also encourage them to use it as a springboard. Praying Joshua 1:9? Is there an area of your life in which you need to be brave? Or in Philippians 4:6, is there something you are anxious about? Is there someone you need to forgive, or something you need to ask forgiveness for?
By bringing everything back to the place we hear directly from God, not only do we teach about prayer, we also teach of the value of Scripture.
Don’t forget to remind children that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) because Jesus made the ultimate payment for our debt. Jesus is the reason we are free from sin, death, and the devil (Romans 6). Because of His perfect life and sacrifice, we pray to the Father in the name of the Son.
CPH offers many books that aid in helping children learn to pray. Check out Portals of Prayer for Kids: Daily Devotions for one resource that is developmentally appropriate for teaching prayer!