Introducing your children to praying can cultivate an amazing spiritual connection between them and God, but with young children, it can be difficult to not just help them understand how to do it but also show them what they can get out of it.
Here are a few approaches if you want to get your young kids started out in prayer.
1. Start with a reason
“God, please help my headaches to go away.” This was my son’s prayer many nights, during the time he had chronic headaches after falling out of a tree.
We all pray for a very unique reason, but often, our kids default to asking for the same thing over and over.
Whether it is to ask God for forgiveness or to express our feelings, when we encourage our children to share their thoughts or concerns during prayer, this will help them understand that prayer is more than asking God for stuff.
Some other reasons for prayer include:
- asking for forgiveness
- asking for help
- asking for help for someone else
- saying “thank you” to God
This is a time to express their thoughts and feelings, and when we start with a reason for their prayer, this will create far better focus. Sometimes it can be as simple as giving thanks, but other times if your child is looking for an answer to a problem, prayer can also provide a sense of solace and a potential solution.
If you’d like to pray a more full-bodied, structured prayer with your child, I highly recommend using a prayer pattern like this one, which will help you practice several of the reasons for prayer each time.
2. Incorporate Song
If there’s one thing we can learn from our young children, it’s that songs are an amazing way to learn things. There is an abundance of nursery rhymes that help our children to learn the alphabet, and we can do the same thing with regard to prayer.
Introducing prayer songs that your children can sing along to is not just a way for them to learn how to do it, but also to gain a better, deeper-rooted meaning from the practice.
3. Choose the Right Time and Location
Prayer can be a practice like brushing teeth, and when we make prayer part of what they do when they get ready for the day or just before they go to sleep, this can bookend their day which gives them a greater sense of security.
Some fantastic times to pray with your young child include:
- daycare or school drop-off time
- at breakfast
- while waiting for the school bus
- at bathtime
- at dinnertime
- at bedtime
Prayer is soothing because it allows us to give thanks for the day before we go to sleep. It’s a very similar thing to a gratitude practice which has been shown to have numerous scientific benefits.
4. Set an Example
If you want your children to start praying, you need to show them how prayer is part of your life by praying in front of them on a regular basis.
In addition to setting an example, we can also pray together. Many families pray together before dinner or at bedtime, and this can make the experience far more comfortable.
Prayer can be a solitary practice, but there are many benefits of doing things together as a family unit, including a very nourishing practice like prayer.
5. Be Ready to Answer Their Questions
Many children can misinterpret the concept of prayer. For example, they can think that prayer is a method to get what they want, but we have to show them how prayer is a logical extension of our faith, and how having faith can help in our lives to not get what we want, but actually what we need, which is a vibrant connection with God. If they ask a question you don’t know the answer to, feel free to say “I don’t know, but let’s find out together!” You can ask a pastor, or a mentor, or even search for the answer on the internet.
Following some of these practices can ensure that we introduce the concept of prayer to our children so, over time, they can deepen their understanding and connection with God.