One of the most over-whelming yet joyful responsibilities we have as parents is teaching our children how to pray. I suspect that most parents struggle at teaching their children to pray because they themselves feel that they are not very good at praying. I know I’ve felt this way and hey, I’m a pastor! I mean I’m the guy at all the family functions that has to say the blessing because “it’s my job.”
But I’m hear to tell you that consistent, daily, simple prayer with your children is one of the most profound things you can do to impact your child’s heart. Just the other day one of my children asked if he could say the blessing at our evening meal. I was glad to let him take leadership in doing this (after all, I’m trying to teach him how to lead a family one day). I was moved by his prayer. I was encouraging to see how he was able to articulate grace and thanksgiving all in a few sentences. That evening it was his turn to pray for whatever was on his heart and some other requests that were made. Again, I was blessed by the heart of his prayer. Thank you Lord that from the “mouths of babes” you teach us and declare Your praise!
What was so encouraging about his prayers were not just that he was able to articulate praise and thanksgiving – it was that we believe he was truly praying out of a converted heart. This is only something that God the Spirit can do and we are thankful for that.
As I have reflected on his prayers I realized that he did not learn this over night. He learned it in several different ways:
- He learned it from his parents. When Ephesians 6:4 says that parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord this certainly includes prayer. How do parents train their children to pray? Is their a curriculum? Do they have to take a special class on prayer at church? NO! Parents teach their children to pray by simply praying with them. It is that simple. Pray with your children. If this is overwhelming to you, start by saying simple blessings at meal times, then move on to a season of prayer with your children before bed. The important thing to do is to do it. Give them a chance to pray and show them how to do it.
- He learned it from his Sunday School teachers. I’m very thankful to work and belong to a Bible-believing, Gospel-loving church. Because of this blessing our children are around godly men and women teaching them the scriptures and teaching them how to pray. I’m thankful to those at church that pour time, energy, and love into my children to help disciple them. In the matter of prayer, my children have learned to pray because they have had the benefit of other dear believers pouring into their lives and modeling prayer for them. Do your children have this added blessing each week of being involved in a Sunday School?
- He learned it from school. I’m not advocating any form of schooling for your family, that is up to each individual family, but my children have the blessing of attending a Christian school. This school is not only Christian by name but Christian in practice. What I mean by this is that everything the school does is intentional in pointing them to Christ. Part of this intentionality is prayer. Everything they do at the school is covered in prayer. Think about this, every day, before my child begins an activity or a lesson, they begin with prayer. Again, I’m thankful that while I’m away from my children, I know they are being prayed for and are seeing prayer modeled by their teachers. Maybe your child is not at a Christian school, how can prayer be cultivated throughout the day in their life? I’m thankful for the youth workers at my church who 3-4 times a week lead students in prayer over a prayer breakfast at a local eatery before school. Maybe you could think of something like that for your child.
- He learned it from worship. It’s the age-old debate of when should our children join us in worship. I’m not here to bind any families conscience on this matter but certainly when your child is old enough to follow your instruction and sit still for at least 30 minutes, they should join you in corporate worship. Bible-based corporate worship should consist of regular, God-centered prayers. At our church there are at least 3 key prayers through the service from different pastors and leaders. I want my child to hear these prayers. By watching, listening, and participating in corporate worship my child has been exposed to Christ-exalting prayer that I know are changing and cultivating his heart – thereby teaching him how to pray. Is it time for your child to join you in a worship service to pray with other believers?
- He learned it from his church family. Much of what I have just written explains this point but learning to pray is not all about programs at church. You see our church family is much like our real family. We do life with these people. Our kids interact with each other outside the church walls. My wife and I made a covenant to assist these families in raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Likewise these families have covenanted to do the same with my children. Therefore I want my children around these families because they are being prayed for and prayed over. Do your children have other families that are praying with and for them?
 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
(Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV)