Cultivating Your Child’s Prayer Life

Cultivating Your Child’s Prayer Life
B.J. Meurer

Noah and Lily Thompson’s parents were on a mission—a mission to cultivate a love for prayer in their children’s hearts. But as any parent knows, getting children to sit still and talk to God can sometimes feel impossible.

The Thompsons tried everything. They prayed every night before bedtime, hoping to inspire their children to pray on their own. They set up a special prayer corner in the living room, complete with soft cushions, a Bible, and twinkling lights, to create a peaceful space for family prayer time. 

Despite all this, Lily and Noah seemed more interested in playing with their toys than in talking with God, and the Thompsons were left wondering how they could encourage their children to pray since prayer seemed to be the last thing on their minds.

Starting with God’s Word

The Bible contains some awesome stories about prayer, but too often children’s Bible story books and curriculums don’t show the struggles of these moments. They often pass over them too quickly in order to get to a happy ending. Instead, we need to start with an honest reading of the Bible.

We need to immerse our children in narratives of faith and courage that inspire them to develop a personal connection with God. People like Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul all had profound times of prayer that are recorded in scripture for us.  Take time to read those prayers and sit in the difficult moments by engaging in questions.  

For example, pose questions to your children such as, “How do you think Daniel felt when he prayed in the lions’ den?” or “What emotions do you think Jesus experienced when He prayed in the garden?” Encourage them to empathize with these biblical figures and envision what it might be like to converse with God amidst moments of uncertainty as well as victory. It’s not merely about reading another story; it’s about comprehending the sincere relationship between the person and God in that story.

Building that Connection

When it comes to establishing that same type of connection between our children and God, leading by example becomes paramount because it demonstrates to our children what an authentic relationship with God entails. When they witness us talking with God as though He were our closest confidant, they’re inclined to join in and talk as well.

By engaging in prayer throughout the day—expressing gratitude for a delicious meal or seeking guidance during difficult moments—we demonstrate to our children that prayer is as natural as breathing and that God is ever-attentive to our petitions.

Considering Ages and Stages

It’s never too early to start praying with your children. You can start praying even while you are pregnant so your child gets used to your prayer rhythms and patterns of life when s/he is inside of Mommy. As your child grows, start considering how they could offer more during times of prayer.  For example:

  • A 2 or 3 year old may be able to say “Amen”, “In Jesus’s name”, “Heavenly Father”, and “Thank you”.  Encourage even their babbling in prayer.  
  • A 6 or 7 year old can start and end prayer times and contribute to praying for specific people and needs.  
  • A 10 or 11 year old can seek God to help them with challenges they face, emotions they feel, and worries that they have.

Getting Creative with Prayer

Prayer doesn’t always mean being solemn. It can be infused with joy and imagination. Encourage your children to express their prayers artistically through doodles or colorful illustrations transform routine conversations with God into cherished works of art.  Go on a nature walk or neighborhood walk and talk with God. Create a numbered list of prayer topics such as family members, church leaders, friends, countries, etc. and then roll a six-sided die.  Whatever number comes up is what you pray for.

Celebrating Answered Prayers

When God responds to our prayers—no matter how big or small— commemorate these moments together through enthusiastic high-fives and expressions of gratitude to God.  These moments of celebrating answered prayers convey that prayer holds transformative power and that God unfailingly attends to His beloved children. 

Building a Prayer Life That Lasts

As Lily and Noah’s parents began implementing some of these ideas, slowly but surely, something amazing started to happen. Noah and Lily began to see prayer not as a chore, but as a privilege—a chance to connect with the God who loved them more than anything in the world. They started to open up to Mom and Dad about their hopes, dreams, fears, and worries, knowing that God was always there to listen and comfort them as well.
If you’d like more help with cultivating your child’s prayer life, download your free copy of our parenting resource titled “Let’s Pray: Your How-to Guide to Praying with and for Your Kids” and get started today.

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