In this article from Boldly Defending the Gospel, Qin Lu describes the importance of teaching our children how to pray.
How to Pray with Your Children
The ultimate and eternal aim of raising children is to lead them to become people who worship God, which is the fundamental difference between how disciples of Christ and the people of the world raise children. Praying with children and leading them to pray is essential to achieving this aim.
Praying with children is a great way to teach them that “God is the Lord of our household.” Even more, it means that, together with our children, our whole family can put into practice and experience “in all things submitting to God's will and leading” in a meaningful and important way. Prayer is not simply a formality or a habit; it is more than that. Through persevering in prayer in all things, one carries through the faith and submission to God that are behind it: one’s seeking of and desire for God's will.
This article shares, in a simple manner for those who are parents, how to pray with our children—how to lead children to pray. In the future, I will share about “How we parents can pray for our children” again in simple terms.
Prayer is a shelter to the soul, a sacrifice to God and a scourge to the devil. Thomas Brooks
1. Making a habit of prayer
Every morning, before each meal and prior to sleep—all these times are good opportunities for us parents to lead and help our children learn to pray.
Of course, prayer is not just a habit, but prayer needs to become a habit. Just because prayer is a habit, that does not make it only a habit. So acquainting our children from infancy with the habit of prayer is of crucial importance.
Occasionally, when I sit down and pick up my chopsticks, ready for my meal, my child will remind me, “Daddy, you haven't prayed yet—you haven't thanked God.”
Making prayer into a habit won’t cause prayer to lose its meaning; but if prayer is only a habit, it will become simply a formality and will lose its true meaning. But if one isn't habituated with prayer, it is even more likely to become a formality.
Therefore, praying with children, on the one hand, helps our children develop the habit of prayer, and, on the other hand, helps us parents persevere in making regular times of prayer—unceasingly digging deep into the true meaning of prayer, unceasingly meditating on the true meaning of prayer, and not letting prayer become only a habit.
2. The importance of early morning and late evening prayer
Early morning and late evening prayer is of particular importance because those times are the beginning and end of each day, and also the two times of day we Christians usually consider relatively important.
In our household, early morning prayers are generally about thanksgiving and supplication. Thanking God for his grace and for giving us this new day enables us to more greatly experience the riches of God's grace on this new day. We also pray through various supplications: asking for the Holy Spirit's help and guidance to enable us to live out the will of God's heart on this new day. This is thanksgiving and supplication; they become the general theme of our early morning prayers.
Of course, during early morning prayers one can also pray for things that will come up that morning. For example, on Sunday mornings we pray for the Sunday service and ask God to prepare our hearts, bless all those brothers and sisters serving in church, etc.
Our evening prayers are a little more varied. We include thanksgiving and praise at the beginning—thanking God for his care and protection, for his leading and blessings. After that, we usually pray to confess our sins, repenting of the day’s transgressions to God. Then we pray for God’s kingdom and his righteousness, for people who have not yet been saved, for God’s kingdom to grow. Next, we pray for the service of the church to which we belong: we pray for the brothers and sisters, the pastor and co-workers, and also intercede for a few special needs of the church members. Finally, we pray for our family. And then right at the end, just before we say “Amen,” we pray like this to finish: “May the Lord help all of us; may he enable us all to listen to God’s word and love God.”
Of course, in our evening prayers we will sometimes neglect some of these things; the content of our evening prayers is not the same every time. Sometimes and for no reason we forget to pray for something. Occasionally our children have to remind us: “Daddy, we still haven’t prayed for Pastor Zhang, Pastor Justin, and Pastor Josh.”
3. Praying in the differing situations of every day
In the midst of our lives as we come across many different things, we must start with prayer; we must also end with prayer.
For example, when our children make mistakes, we can first pray with our children and let the Holy Spirit work in them; then we can instruct and discipline our children. Afterwards, we can conclude our instruction with prayer, and in prayer let our children become clearer on the cost of their disobedience and the reason for their punishment. More importantly, through prayer we can help our children turn back to God, and let our children know that even though they have made a mistake and sinned, they only have to come before God and repent of their sin; God is a just and loving God—God will pardon them and forgive them.
Knowing how to pray with our children actually helps us parents to be constantly reminded that prayers should be part of our lives, not only for church, not only for mealtimes, morning and evening. Prayer can be made at any given moment, leading us in all things, great or small.
For example, at some sudden bad news—a church member has fallen ill, or something of that kind—then we can immediately kneel down together with our children and pray for that church member. In this manner—in the great and the small things of life—we can pray about them all with our children, seeking God’s will together, submitting to His guidance.
4. Form and content for prayers made with children
When children are little, we need to try to use simple language to express deep meanings—to use clear and simple language to lead our children in prayer. We also need to bear in mind that when our children are a little older, they can pray to God themselves.
Our children are currently two and three years old. We often lead them in prayer, sentence by sentence. They learn from us; the language we use is all very simple and clear. But when children are a little older (if your child is four or five years old or even older than that) you can let your children pray themselves, and let your children prepare a few things to pray other than those you have in mind. For example, they might pray for their friends or their own needs. Bearing in mind a child’s age and stage, the content and form of prayers may vary accordingly.
But the set content of our prayers should not change along with our children’s ages—for example thanksgiving, confession, praying for the furtherance of God’s kingdom and prayers of supplication and so on. These items should increase in number and depth along with a child’s age. These should never be omitted.
5. Let prayer become an attitude of life
Prayer is not something that only happens at certain set times or for certain set things. Prayer should also not be solely a formality or habit. Prayer should become much more than that—an attitude of life.
We can teach and lead our children in praying at all times and in all places. Let them know our God is a God who listens to prayer (and “listens to prayer” doesn’t mean he will give you whatever you ask for); he listens carefully to our prayers, he loves for us to make requests of him. Let our children learn how to present their prayers to God at any time and in any place. Prayer can be a way to worship and praise God, can be thanksgiving or praise, can be speaking from the depth of one's heart, or can be intercession. At any time or place, let prayer be not just a set activity for that time and place, but an attitude of life.
A couple of days ago it snowed where we live. After Sunday worship we took our children to “ski.” (Actually, it was only sliding down a not-so-steep hillside on a snowboard, it was not really “skiing.”) The place was full of small children playing. As soon as my son Jason got out of the car and saw the vast white expanse of snow, he sighed, “It’s so beautiful!”
Jason: Daddy, did God make snow too?
Me: Of course.
Jason: The snow God made is really beautiful!
Me: Now, don’t you think we should thank God then? Let’s pray together and thank God—okay?
Immediately after this, I stood with him in the snow and prayed, thanking God, thanking God for creating the beautiful snow, and thanking him for giving us the opportunity to play in it.
All these things are opportunities, though little in life, to shape how we live through our prayers.
Therefore, we parents need to be especially mindful and sensitive to every opportunity for prayer to share it with our children.
Let our prayers shape our lives, for we cannot live without praying.
Prayer is not only praying with words spoken out loud. It should be reflected in who we are and how we live. Let our prayers be visible; let us put them into practice.
Original Article: 教牧问答 | 如何与孩子一起祷告？ by Boldly Defending the Gospel
Image Credit: Family by shadu_b via Flickr.
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