“Now I lay me down to sleep…” That’s a prayer most kids learn. But is it enough to teach your kids a few prayer poems and prayers before meals? Think about it this way: Is that enough of a prayer life for you as an adult? While we should pray before bed and meals prayer must be continually on our hearts, minds, and lips. The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is a great reminder of how we should keep prayer as a first response instead of a last resort. So how do you teach your kids to pray? The best way I can think of is to pray with them.
Yesterday as we were leaving church a firetruck crossed our path. My two-year-old son was pumped! He said, “Watch out daddy! Get out of the way! Here comes a fire truck!” My kids were curious about what was on fire so I said, “Let’s follow the fire truck”. Cautious not to get in the way, we kept our distance until we came to a house engulfed in flames. We parked out of the way and I said, “Let’s pray for all the people involved.” We prayed for safety for the firefighters, homeowners, and bystanders. As we drove off I said, “A good time to pray is anytime you hear or see a siren and lights on a firetruck, ambulance, or police car.” I was teaching my children to pray whenever there is an emergency. They asked, “What if our house catches on fire?” We talked about an escape plan but I told them to pray for safety for our family. When we pulled up to the house, I said, “Let’s pray for our home and neighbors”. I saw an opportunity to pray and teach my kids to pray and took it.
Whatever you want you kids to do, or not do, you must model it to them. I cannot hope my kids will learn to pray on their own, I must teach them. Luke 11:1 says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” What the disciples were really saying is, “Wow, Jesus! Teach us to pray like that!” Notice Jesus had a certain place to pray. Now, you can pray anywhere. I like to pray in the car when I’m by myself. What is your “certain place” to pray with your kids? Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” We see Jesus not only had a quiet place to focus His prayers, He had a specific and scheduled time to pray. You can pray at any time of the day but having a routine of prayer is very healthy. Before bedtime, when you first wake up, during your lunch hour, or even in the car on the way to school are great times to pray.
What do you pray? Jesus models that to us as well. “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13). While it’s great to pray this verbatim, Jesus was giving us a prayer structure. When you pray, worship the Lord, seek God for His will, prioritize God’s Kingdom, ask for provision and forgiveness, forgive others, and stay away from sin. The best thing you can do to teach your kids to pray is just pray. Remember, the only prayers that never get answered are the ones that are never prayed.