Strategies to help you learn how you can pray with your children. Praying aloud with your child is one of the most important things you can do to model a personal relationship with Jesus.
As we go around the table at my small group and add to the closing prayer, I can’t ever seem to find more to say than “Thank you, God, for this time together.”
I should have something more profound to say seeing how I’d spent everyone else’s prayer time thinking up what I’d say.
But the truth is, I’m just not comfortable praying out loud.
It may come as a surprise to you then that I’m a big advocate of praying out loud to your children.
I can’t remember what age my children were when I began praying out loud to them, but they were definitely in school and old enough that I found myself nervous.
But I pushed through. I wanted my children to have a personal relationship with Jesus regardless of my insecurities.
I credit my consistent nightly prayers from childhood to adulthood, during which my relationship with Jesus grew.
Although my church attendance has waivered, and my obedience has taken some grand downward slides over the years, what never stopped was my communication with Jesus. I always said personal nighttime prayers even as a teenager to today being continual prayer with Him.
Pray with Your Children with these simple tips
Praying with your child instead of telling your child to pray on their own increases the chances your child will continue to pray once they’ve outgrown your nightly prayer time. Although my kids are teenagers and they haven’t outgrown it. Your prayer time becomes a memorable time.
You model the behavior you want to see in your child plus it establishes a special bond between you and your child.
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
PUSH THROUGH THE AWKWARDNESS
If you feel as though praying aloud is awkward, you’re not alone.
Even when we’re with our children, we can feel self-conscious about praying to God aloud.
But, our children aren’t judging the words we’re saying or counting the seconds of our pauses. They’re genuinely the safest people to begin praying aloud with.
After the first few times of praying aloud in front of your kids, the awkwardness will go away.
MAKE IT A DAILY HABIT
The easiest way to make praying with your kids feel natural for both your kids and yourself is to pray with them at the same time each day. For me, that’s at bedtime.
In the beginning, when my kids were younger, I kept it very simple. I’d tell them I wanted to pray for our family before sleeping. I’d grab my child’s hand and pray.
As they got older and had worries and concerns of their own, I began asking them if there was anything I could pray for them about in our nightly prayers. This question led to them asking for prayers about something they were anxious about during the day.
Over the years, prayer as a family has become a part of our lives that extends outside of bedtime. For example, we never leave for road trips without a prayer. We discuss praying for those who are hurting or who we know need Jesus just as easily as we may discuss what our upcoming plans entail.
GIVE Prayers STRUCTURE
To keep prayers meaningful and personal, don’t recite formal prayers when praying with your children. I want my children to grow up with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In each prayer, aim to touch on Thanksgiving, Forgiveness, Others, Requests.
Thanksgiving: What happened today you can recap for your child and thank God for?
Forgiveness: If the day has brought on yelling, fighting between siblings, or a hurt felt within the family, ask God for forgiveness. It may be your child that needs forgiveness, or you can ask for yourself. Don’t be afraid to show your child that you too are a sinner, asking your Heavenly Father for forgiveness.
Others: Pray for family members, friends, other people your child may have on their hearts. We pray together for the children my family sponsors with Compassion International.
Requests: Does your child have anything on their heart they want to ask God specifically for themselves? My children always want me to pray for a safe night, pleasant dreams, and that God will be with them in school the next day.
There are lots of acronyms you can find and follow like the 5-finger prayer or JOY (Jesus, Others, You.) They all are similar to the above points.
It’s not my desire to have my children follow a set structure they may get lost in. Or even worse feel their prayer time has become a work driven time where they must cross each item off the list to please God.
Instead, use the prayer points above as a guide to remind ourselves to thank God and pray outside of ourselves.
ENCOURAGING YOUR CHILDEN
Usually, as I pray with my children, they close their eyes, and we all hold hands. After you’ve been praying with your children for a while, you can encourage them to pray with you. Some kids will be willing to do so without much prodding, but most won’t.
Some ideas to get them involved include:
- Ask them what they’d like you to add in the prayer.
- Pray as usual then squeeze your child’s hand as a signal for them to add anything on their heart. If you have more than one child, have them squeeze hands in a circle. You can add the prayer closing.
- Have your child pray just once per week if willing.
- Let them read a bible verse before you pray.
- Ask them to say grace. That may be easier for them if your family has been saying grace for a long time, but praying out loud with no formula or agenda feels new.
- Just have your child say “Amen” at the end with you.
- Make a small prayer box and have your children write their prayer requests on pieces of paper.
Don’t force your child to pray out loud if they aren’t ready for it. Instead, ask your child occasionally if they would like to lead the prayer.
If not, remind them they can always pray silently to Jesus anytime they want to.
As your children grow
Now my kids will ask if we can pray together when they’re nervous about an upcoming test or a friendship is going sour. They’ll remind me we need to pray before sleeping if I forget due to pure exhaustion. They won’t let me fall asleep without our nightly prayer.
I may never become the best prayer warrior outside of my home, but my kids don’t need to know that.