By Guest Columnist Paige Atkinson
One of the greatest things we can do to help our children develop a relationship with God is to teach them the importance of prayer. Prayer, is, after all, how we communicate with and connect to our Heavenly Father. If we want our children to know God and not just know about Him, we need to teach them to pray, and we also need to pray with them.
Tim Challies points out that in both the Old and New Testaments, parents are told to teach their children to obey the word of God – which includes the practice of prayer. So while our children can do all kinds of worksheets about God and hear stories about Him week after week, it is when they talk and listen to God that they get to know His heart.
So just how do we teach our children to pray when most of us may feel like we do not even know how to intercede ourselves?
1. Example is the first teacher. Let your children see you pray. Make prayer a part of family devotions, as well as when you gather with family and friends.
2. Encourage your children. Allow young children to take those moments when they are in awe of God’s creation and turn them into words of praise and prayer.
3. Give a structure. As children get older, consider giving them the ACTS prayer acronym to guide their prayers – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
4. Use bedtime as a time of confession. Nighttime is a wonderful time to ask your children if there is something they need to tell you, or if there is anything bothering their conscience that they need to talk with God about.
5. Encourage them pray for their current needs and wants. Teach them some prayer for strength. God wants to hear the desires of our heart.
6. Teach them that prayer is a delight. Jesus gives us astonishing promises about the prayer of prayer.
7. Teach them to ground their prayer in the Gospel. Praying in Jesus name is not just a catch phrase to put at the end of a prayer. We come with confidence based on the blood of Christ. We have permission to use His name to ask for things that bring glory to His name.
8. Remind them to seek the Lord in difficult times. God allows hard times, so that we will seek Him in prayer.
9. Rejoice and record answers to prayer. Specific prayer with specific answers give great joy and build our faith.
10.Deal with disappointment. Children need to be taught that sometimes God does not always say yes. For our own good, He may also tell us to wait or even no.
11.Help them to understand the privilege of praying for others. They can pray for their family, their church, their friends and even their enemies. Encourage them to remember those who are persecuted for their faith and for those who have not yet heard the Gospel.
Prayer delights our Father and builds our faith. Our goal is for our children to have a heartfelt confidence in a God who hears their prayers and for them to be able to build their relationship with God through prayer. We can teach our children about prayer, but only the Holy Spirit can give our children a heart for prayer.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Paige Atkinson is the elementary director at Morrison Heights Baptist Church. She has been in children’s ministry for over twenty-five years and is pursuing a Master of Arts in discipleship and family ministry.