Yes, I just made up a new term. For the purposes of our discussion, social prayer is any opportunity your child is given to pray aloud in public. It could be as simple as praying before a meal or as difficult as praying privately with someone who is going through a devastating time.
Many families ask even the youngest of children to take turns praying before family meals. It is a great way to introduce children to praying and prayer. Don’t worry too much if your introverted child is uncomfortable and doesn’t want to participate. Allow them to pass for the moment, but continue to provide opportunities. Some kids will grow out of their reluctance as they become more comfortable with what to say. Others will need some additional encouragement to try again the next time they are offered a chance to pray. I would caution against making prayer a power game though – the negative consequences are possibly too great to be risked.
As your children get older, talk with them about prayer. I have found many children are uncomfortable praying in front of others because they have only been exposed to people at Church who lead flowery prayers. Show them Matthew 6:7 to reassure them God is just fine with short, conversational prayers. Ask them what they would say in a prayer if they were asked to lead one in class or at a friend’s house before a meal. Thinking about what they would say before given the opportunity will reassure some children enough to help them overcome their shyness.
When your children approach the teen years, they are ready to think about perhaps one of the most difficult kinds of prayer – praying with someone in private who is in a lot of physical, emotional and/or spiritual pain. You can admit you still struggle with these types of prayers if you do. Talk about appropriate things to say and things that probably should not be said. Do a little role playing if your child is introverted. With extroverted children, you may have to caution them from the other end of the spectrum – not making the prayer about a show or too loud and overwhelm the person who is in pain.
Individual prayer is vital, but social prayer is also an important part of living a Christian life. It is often a way to comfort others and serve them by helping them pray when words escape them. Approaching it as a skill to teach your children will help them be better prepared to serve those they meet who need or want their help praying. It’s worth taking some time to discuss and practice.