“Will you pray for my missing teddy bear?”
This simple prayer request came from the sweet mouth of a 4-year-old aching to be reunited with her friend. Through her sad eyes it was clear that this was a huge loss for her. So, during the chaos of Sunday school, we took a moment to talk to God about a missing teddy bear.
As silly as this prayer may seem, it’s in moments like these that we are able to teach our children about who God is and how we talk to Him. If the whole Christian life is one lived out in prayer, then we should start as soon as we can to model and teach prayer to our children. Prayer helps shape a child’s heart to want what God wants.
It can be hard to know where to begin when you are teaching your youngest children about prayer. While it’s a beautiful task to get to do, it can definitely be a daunting one—so let’s walk through a few strategies for introducing prayer into your child’s life.
Start with the Basics
As you begin teaching prayer to your young children, start with the basics (no matter how simple it may seem to you). Teach your children that prayer is a way for us to talk to our Maker anytime and anywhere. Emphasize that we can be confident God will listen to us because He is our Father who loves us.
Additionally, God not only listens to our prayers, but He also answers our prayers. Teach your children that sometimes God will be quick to answer, sometimes He will be slow to answer, and sometimes He will answer in a surprising way. But no matter the answer, God always cares for us and loves us.
Teach the Lord’s Prayer
Jesus Himself taught us how to pray through the Lord’s Prayer, so it’s a great place to start with young children. Learning the Lord’s Prayer will encourage your children to want what God wants, shaping their hearts in accordance with His will. This is important because it’s easy for young children to assume that prayer is just another way for them to get what they want. But that is not why God gave prayer to us. Teach them that God gave us prayer as a way to learn what He wants for us—and as we pray for the things God wants, we will learn to want them too.
Here’s how you can aid your young children in learning the Lord’s Prayer:
1. Make it fun
Younger children have a shorter attention span, so it’s best to capture their attention quickly. Because of this, it may seem impossible to try to get them to memorize the Lord’s Prayer—but don’t lose hope. Here are some ways in which you can make memorization fun for your young ones:
- Include hand motions along with the words.
- Print off pictures to represent different words or phrases. Put them up around your house.
- Use a sing-song voice (or make a chant) as you teach the Lord’s Prayer. Maybe even put it to a tune!
- Have your children repeat after you and use different voices each time (whisper it, shout it, sing it, etc.).
2. Say it, then say it again (and again)
Try to insert the Lord’s Prayer in your everyday routine. Get them used to hearing the whole prayer out loud. You could say the Lord’s Prayer before breakfast or on the way to school or as part of your bedtime routine. Get your whole family involved.
It’s as simple as picking a time to say it and being consistent with it everyday (while also giving yourself some grace if you miss a day or two—it doesn’t have to be perfect!). The best thing you can do to help your child learn is by being repetitive with them.
As I mentioned before, it can be a daunting task to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer in the youngest of hearts, especially when there is so much we want them to know and do. But we must lay a firm foundation before we start building castles. Yes, that might mean we pray for missing teddy bears, but we can be confident that with each prayer we say with and for our children, God is working in their hearts and teaching them to want what He wants.