I would guess of all the things Christian parents do at home to build faith foundations, the most consistent is teaching kids to pray. For many families though, the instruction stops after teaching kids how to say a couple of rote prayers like “God is Great” or “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”. To have a rich, full, active prayer life, there are a few more things you to need to teach your children.
Fortunately, prayer is extremely concrete in many ways. There are a lot of fun things you can do with your kids to teach them some prayer concepts and to help them develop good prayer habits. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Praying Colors: This activity is great for the very youngest of children. Cut up little pieces of paper in different colors. Then when you pray as a family, have each person draw a slip of paper. They then need to thank God for something that is that color. So if your child pulled a green slip of paper, he may decide to thank God for frogs. This activity is great for kids who aren’t quite old enough to easily think of things for which they need to pray. It also reinforces the concept that all good things are from God – even frogs!
- Prayer Jars: Find empty, clean containers of any sort. It can be a jar or a juice can (make sure all rough edges are removed and small children have unbreakable containers). Encourage your kids to decorate their containers. Then give them slips of paper or wide craft sticks. Talk with them about all of the different types of things they might want to share with God in their prayers. Have them write each type of thing on a separate slip of paper or craft stick. Then when it’s time to pray, they can pull as many as they want out of their container to remind them of something they can share with God. This activity is great for all kids, but especially those transitioning to their own more private prayer life. It helps them to remember that the entire time in prayer shouldn’t be about them giving God some sort of to-do list of everything they personally want from Him. It encourages them to make their prayers a little broader and less selfish.
- Prayer Rocks: This is another great activity for kids transitioning to more private, personal prayer lives. Find or purchase a large stone for each child. Allow them to decorate with paints or markers. Encourage them to place the rock on their bed pillows. When they go to bed at night, it will remind them to pray. when they are finished, they can place the rock where they will see it the first thing the next morning. Once again, it will remind them to pray. After they finish, the rock goes back on the bed pillow to repeat the cycle.
- Prayer of the Month (or Day or Week): Grab a container and slips of paper. Have your kids write down the names of everyone they can think of – one name per slip of paper. Once a month (or day or week), they can draw one name out of the container. This person should receive “extra” attention during your kids’ prayer times. If you want to make it even more meaningful for your kids and encourage the person for whom your family is praying, contact them. Explain what you are doing and ask if they have anything special for which they would like you to pray.
- Prayer Journals: This can be a family activity or each person can keep their own personal journal. This is a great way to reinforce with your kids that God can answer prayer in three ways – “Yes”, “No” and “Wait”. Most kids and even many adult Christians believe God has only answered a prayer when He says “Yes”. Your kids need to understand God always knows what is best for them and God saying “No” to a prayer is always in their best interest. The journal itself can be a “real” journal or one your kids create and decorate from paper or school spiral notebooks. Encourage regular review and discussion about the items in the journal and how God is working in those situations. Often, we tend to forget when God said “Yes” to our prayers. Your kids may forget how upset they were when God told them “No” or “Wait” and failed to connect the dots back to the blessing they now have because God didn’t immediately say “Yes” to their plea. The longer you can faithfully keep the journal, the more powerful the impact it can have on your kids faith journey. It can also help you realize they need extra teaching and guidance from you in more complex areas like being angry with God when He says “No” to our prayers. These areas are rarely covered in churches and can become stumbling blocks for our kids if not addressed.
- Pray Without Ceasing Sticky Notes: Grab some sticky notes and markers. Encourage your kids to decorate them with the word “Pray”. They can add drawings or suggestions of something specific about which to pray. Then let them place them all over your house. Every time someone finds a sticker, they should stop and pray – even if it’s just a sentence – then place the sticker in a new location. You can do this for a couple of days or keep it going indefinitely.
- Prayer Request Box: If you live in an area where people often walk by your home, this works really well. Or you can consider setting one up at church your family empties regularly. Set up an attractive water proof box or container where people will see it. Place in plastic, instructions for them to leave their prayer requests in the container. Let them know your family will be removing the slips regularly and praying for their requests. Remind them names aren’t necessary – God knows who they are. Have a separate plastic container with slips of paper and pens in it for people to use. To protect other’s privacy, you may want to put some sort of lock on the box so others walking by can’t take the requests and use them for something unloving. The anonymity of those leaving requests is a great way to teach kids to pray for people other than just family and friends. It also teaches them how to pray for others without using it as a subtle way to gossip about others.
Never assume your kids understand prayer merely because you prayed rote prayers at meals and bedtime. Just like other things God asks us to do as Christians, your kids need to study the scriptures with you and be taught what those things look like when lived out in their lives. Prayer is a crucial building block in their faith foundation and worth the extra time and effort.