The Stages of Teaching Prayer to your Kids
Last week we talked about the Heart of Prayer and how Elijah’s prayer in 1 King’s 18 really challenged my prayer life.
But in that conviction, I was struck with, how am I teaching prayer to my kids?
I recently read Raising Prayerful Kids by Stephanie Thurling and Sarah Holstrom, and I loved how they encourage prayer in their own homes and their books. They have tips and tricks on making prayer fun and using it to overcome bad attitudes and different types of prayers. It is a great resource to pick up.
While Raising Prayerful Kids is a great resource, what I felt missing was the understanding of how a Prayer life matures.
Just like our kids go through many ages and stages our kids' faith and prayer life will do the same thing. But I’m missing the book “Teaching prayer to Kids for Dummies.”
When I was thinking about how to communicate my experience in teaching prayer to my kids, I couldn’t get the Food Pyramid out of my mind. Yeah, I know the food pyramid is old school and the divided food platter is the new mantra, but I’m going with the pyramid, cause that’s what I grew up with.
Stick with me.
So as our kids grow, we are the biggest influences in how our kids grow and understand prayer. How we approach the Lord and talk about him is the first lens through which our kids gain an understanding of the concept of prayer. Truthfully, I’m still figuring this out. (Don’t tell my kids-jk)
We start when our kids are young by Modeling prayer.
Our kids are watching our every move. Yes, this is creepy, especially when you wake up at two in the morning with them staring at you. But it is both sweet and convicting when your one-year-old folds his hands at the dinner table.
The only reason a young child would do this is that it has been showing over and over again. Emulating adults is a major developmental milestone in kids. So how are you modeling prayer in your home?
Next, we look for the Opportunity.
The reason we don’t stop at modeling is that we don’t want prayer to only be a habit. Prayer is more than ‘that thing we do before we eat’. It is a posture as well as a perspective in which to view the world.
For if we truly believe that God is all-powerful and that our prayers are a sweet fragrance to the Lord, then we should pray continually. Treating communication with God as a call-in help line was never God’s intent. But to be a constant conversation, like a friend who is always by your side.
We show this type of attitude toward prayer by always looking for an opportunity to pray.
It is not uncommon for my kids to yell in the car that a motorcyclist isn’t wearing a helmet or ambulance sirens are wailing, and demand we pray for them. They’ve even asked to pray for people they see smoking cigarettes.
This is because we make prayer a habit and are constantly looking for an opportunity to pray. I often look for ways to include prayer in the interests and visual things my kids see daily.
One opportunity presented itself when my middle son’s lizard went missing. It was a little gal at the time, maybe three months old, so I knew the odds of finding this creature were minuscule. After dismantling its terrarium and scouring my son’s room, there was no lizard. My son was in tears. I was almost in tears that there was a loose critter somewhere waiting to die and stink up my house or jump out at me.
But we sat down, and I looked at my son and said, “Bud we’ve done everything we can, except what we should have done at the start, pray.” So, we prayed for the lizard to be safe and prayed we would find her soon.
Come bedtime, we head upstairs, and I look at the terrarium. Whose head is sticking up out of the air vent at the front of the cage? Yep, my son’s lizard. She had been safe in her terrarium ALL DAY. Though the thought to kill the little creature for the stress she put me in, did cross my mind. My son shouted, “God answered our prayer, Mom.” “He sure did, buddy.”
This little opportunity grew my son’s faith, and I watched his confidence in prayer grow leaps in bounds afterward.
Confidence is the final piece of our prayer pyramid, but there is one thing that has to come between opportunity and confidence.
That is Safety.
Our kids need to feel safe to pray.
Safe to say all the randomness in their heads and ask ridiculous questions.
As parents, we can often see the selfishness in our kids' requests, and we want to train that at the moment. But I want to encourage you to allow your kids to ask and say anything they want.
But Valerie, we’re supposed to train them up in the ways they should go and selfishness is a concern.
Yes, but would you rather your kids feel like they can ask God anything and come to him in any situation, or be shameful as they approach God with the hurts of their heart that at a time can feel selfish?
I want my kids to pray as David did in the Psalms. I want them to feel safe enough to complain and go to God when they are feeling despair. I want my kids to feel safe enough to ask ridiculous because prayer is powerful. If our kids don’t feel safe approaching God with confidence then prayer will be either a struggle or a stumbling block.
So let them pray. Let them express their hearts. And continue to Model (the foundation of the pyramid) prayers that show selflessness and humility. Your kids will catch on.
When prayer is modeled, the opportunity to pray is taken, and our kids feel safe, this is when confidence in prayer grows.
Confidence to go before the Lord in any situation.
Confidence to pray for the bully at school.
Confidence to pray for God to bring a pet that has passed back from the dead (that is big faith)
Confidence that God hears.
Confidence that God cares.
This is one of the greatest desires of my parenting. That my kids will have a confident faith. That they will be a remnant or revivalist in their generation.
Pray confidently out to their parents!
Teaching Prayer Stages
The Birth to 3-year old Stage- Modeling the position of prayer.
-one-year-old kid bowing their head sweetest thing other than a sleeping baby
The 3-6-year-old Stage-Modeling plus Sing and Speak
- Motorcycle/ siren prayers
The 7-10-year-old Stage- Opportunity- Lost Lizard
The 11-13 Stage- The Awkward stage- don’t criticize they want to sound like an adult but can’t always get the words out.
The Teen Stage- Growing in confidence- an opportunity.