Learning to Pray as a Family
by Karen Whiting
Praying over a child and saying grace at meals are often a child’s first introduction to talking with God. That elicits many questions and comments, “When will God answer my prayer?” “I asked God for a super ten-speed bike so why did I get a plain old used bike?” and “Why didn’t God heal Grandma?” That’s a start of teaching children to pray.
Respond to Curious Children
Children want to understand prayer and God. Family devotions and prayer time are wonderful opportunities to explore prayer with children. It doesn’t need to be a formal time or memorized verses and prayers. Momentous prayers where we take the moments we have and turn to God may be some of the best prayer times because they are spontaneous. When a child gets a cut or shares an inner hurt, we can pray for healing. When we receive good news, we can thank God for the blessing. We can pause and pray for safety before a child leaves home.
God loves us and beckons us to delight in Him and use any activity to pray. Make big ice cream bowls with sprinkles and syrup and use it as a launch pad to pray. Compare the sweetness to God, the sprinkles to blessings He showers on us, and the flavors to all the variety in creation God made. Then pause and thank God for special treats and time together.
Be Intentional with Prayer
Plan activities and prayer. For example, stay up late one night to see the stars and be amazed at all God made. Let that time slide into prayer against fears and the darkness of evil as well as praying to be lights that add the sparkle of kindness to the lives of others.
During tough times, choose to study Job and realize that we will not understand God, but He calls us to trust Him. We will have troubles in this world and that helps us be grateful that God’s plans include heaven and a trouble-free future. He wants us to share our faith so others will believe. Our witness includes letting people see us face adversity as we lean on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:34, not to worry and remember each day has its own troubles. We can choose to pray when we hear sirens, for the people facing troubles. We can also choose to always rejoice that we are loved.
When children are sick, need stitches or a cast, pause to pray and discuss prayer. We live in a world where people sin and accidents happen. Our braveness in facing struggles helps us be compassionate and kind. We grow through problems.
Compare what happens in life to prayer. Plant seeds in the dark soil and discuss how the seed must start off in cold, dark soil with water raining on it and push hard to come up through the ground. Overcoming the struggle produces beauty and food. Pray each day as the seeds grow and rejoice as they break through the soil and again as they produce. Read scriptures about seeds, farmers, grass, fruit and other related plant verses to gain a deeper understanding of the analogy to prayer and faith.
After a child has disobeyed and gone through discipline and forgiveness to end with a hug from a parent, investigate forgiveness in the Bible. Read about Jesus forgiving sinners and dying for us. Chat about how it feels to be forgiven and get new hugs. Go outside, run and breathe in fresh air. Discuss how it feels to be free to run and the freedom of being forgiven.
Learn from Pray-ers in the Bible
Share about people of faith in the Bible, such as people mentioned in Hebrews 11, and their relationship with God. Read how God and angels spoke to Abraham, Hagar, Nehemiah and others. Study dreams God gave Joseph, son of Jacob, as well as Joseph, Mary’s husband, and to others. He wants to interact with us. True stories and hope-filled words in the Bible remind us that God listens and responds.
Create a family prayer journal about your family member’s prayer needs, blessings and scriptures that God impresses in their minds. Reviewing the family prayer journal boosts a child’s confidence in prayer as they see how God works in our lives through time.
Pray for Others
Have a prayer jar, wall or board where anyone can add a prayer need or pause and pray for a prayer need. Add news stories or pictures that remind us to pray for people and creatures God made. Ask people about their prayer needs, promise to pray for them and follow through, including asking them later how God responded to the need.
Giving thanks and realizing how much God blesses us and answers us helps a child trust God. Discover as a family how David developed trust as a shepherd in 1 Samuel 17:22-37. Then share all that you have learned and experienced that helps you know God loves you and listens to you. Sing praise songs and have a parade to celebrate blessings.
Build a prayer tower. Place a skewer in a Styrofoam block. Write prayers and prayer answers on slips of paper. Punch a hole in each paper and slide them onto the skewer. Watch that tower grow upward toward God and celebrate how much your family talks with God.
As children realize God blesses them and answers prayers, they recognize reasons to praise God. As they hear the stories of miracles in the Bible, they understand that God is almighty and awesome. Hold a praise party for God where everyone takes turns praising and giving reasons for worshipping God. Add a grape to a bowl for each blessing until they spill over the edges, to depict blessings overflowing.
Watch bonds grow as you pray with and for one another!
Karen Whiting, author of twenty-eight books, international speaker, and former television host, writes to strengthen families. Her newest book, 52 Weekly Devotions for Family Prayer, includes a new way to pray every week.
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.