How do we go from bedtime prayers to personal prayer with our children? Giving kids a head start in talking to God is a mother’s goal. In our own prayers we hope our little ones will learn to turn to their Heavenly Father on their own. A mom with a heart for personal prayer can pass it on to her children.
Since we know our children need to live healthy lives, we teach them to eat and exercise. Since we know they need to study and work, we teach them to read and write. Since we know they need to care for themselves, we teach them to tie their shoes. Since we know life brings waves of challenges, we need to teach our little ones how to call out to God. We can show our children that prayer is personal, spontaneous, and effective.
All children experience fears, including darkness, strangers, or separation. These are opportunities to show children prayer is a personal way to answer fear. By using scripture to answer uncertainty, children learn that, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
Making it personal:
Take sequential pictures of your child with a frightened face, a thoughtful expression, a bowed head, and a smiling peaceful face. Use pictures to make a wordless book together. This is your text book to read together, training your child to trust God and pray when they experience fear. Show them that trusting God brings comfort.
Instead of making prayer a discipline reserved for adults and special buildings, help children learn prayer is for any time or place. Prayer can be spontaneous. Life with little ones provides endless opportunities to stop and “Pray now” about events of your days: a hurt friend at play group, a decision at a toy store, a passing ambulance, a lost kitten. Model spontaneous prayer in response to circumstances, then guide your child to stop and “Pray now.” Show them that at the very moment of need, you can talk to God and ask for His help. Your example will train them to be comfortable with immediate prayer.
Making it spontaneous:
Find a park bench to sit down, pull into a parking lot, or pause in a grocery aisle to pray when prompted. Show your child God is always ready to hear you call. After your child is comfortable with impromptu prayer, ask if they would pray. Hold their hand as a physical reinforcement.
You can show your children prayer is effective by training yourself to point out and give credit to God’s answers to prayers. Don’t let opportunities pass when God meets a need, gives wisdom, or provides comfort. Rejoice with your child and be specific about God hearing and answering. Your praise will reinforce your child’s confidence in the effectiveness of prayer.
Showing it’s effective:
Draw a picture together of answers to prayer you experienced together. Call Daddy or a relative to share the praise. Stop and give thanks to God for hearing and answering. Get a “recipe style” book, so you can draw pictures on 3×5 cards and slip them in as your little one sees answers. You will have a praise book personal to your family.
Before I started elementary school, my newly believing mother taught me to pray. Months later I was caught in an Atlantic rip current. My fearful mother watched from shore, as rescuers risked their lives for mine, but I was not alone. I was calling out to God with my own voice and from my own heart, because I knew He would hear the prayers of little ones like me. Many waves will wash over our children as they grow, but we can give them the gift of knowing prayer is personal, spontaneous, and effective. They must learn to turn all on their own. A mother can equip her children for whatever they’ll face when she passes on personal prayer.
What are you doing to pass on prayer to your children?