Creative Ways to Pray For (And With) Your Children

Prayer is one of the foundational spiritual practices of Christians. It’s our way of talking to God directly. Scripture is filled with descriptions of the purposes and benefits of a strong prayer life. In fact, we are commanded to “pray without ceasing”. That can sound a bit overwhelming to young people. You’ve probably helped your children establish good habits of praying at meals and bedtime, but teaching them how to pray throughout the day – as well as encouraging them to do it – can be a challenge.

Or perhaps, you know you should be praying for your children, but aren’t really sure what to pray about for them other than a few basics. How do these Christian parents who say they pray constantly for their children think of enough things to say to God every day?

Whether you want to strengthen your own prayer life or those of your children, there are some creative things you can do to spur your family to pray more often and in more depth. Here are a few of our favorite creative prayer ideas.

  • Prayer rocks. Find large flat rocks your children can decorate. If there aren’t any in your yard, most craft stores sell them. Then have your children use markers to decorate them with the word “pray” and anything else they would like. Tell them to place the finished rock on their bed pillow. When they go to bed, the rock will remind them to pray. After praying, they should place the rock somewhere they will see it immediately upon waking the next morning. When they see the rock in the morning, it is a reminder to pray to start their day.
  • Walking and driving prayers. These are prayers where you use the things you or your children see as they are walking around or driving with you in the car. For example, if your walk or drive takes you past their school, pray for the students and teachers and any specific needs of which you are aware involving people at the school.
  • Chore gratitude prayers. We aren’t usually very grateful for our chores and your kids are no different. What if you used those chores as a way to carve out time to pray? Most chores don’t require a lot of thinking, so our brains are free to pray as we work. Encourage your children to thank God for each of the items they are cleaning. Or take it a step further and use items as symbols of things to pray about. For example, if they are folding laundry, their socks might remind them of missionaries who walk long distances to serve and teach others and they could pray for them. Or putting their sports uniform in the washer could remind them to pray for their coaches and teammates.
  • Person of the week prayers. A friend of mine shared this idea. Each time period, she and her son picked a name out of a jar of names of people they know. They contact the person and let them know, they want to pray for them especially that week (or whatever). Ask if they have anything special they would like for you to pray about for them. If they can’t think of anything or don’t want to share private details, ask your children to pray for what they believe will help that person the most.
  • Scripture prayers. When our daughter was in elementary school, I joined a group of other moms who focused on praying for their school. Many in the group would take specific Bible verses and pray them for their children. For example, if they chose the verses listing the fruit of the Spirit, they may ask God to help their children have those characteristics in abundance in their lives. Since many in the time of Jesus used various Psalms as prayers, there are many verses in the book of Psalms you can use to pray over your children.
  • Color prayers. This is a favorite for Bible class teachers of young children. Cut out various squares of paper in different colors. As you pray as a family, each person draws out a slip of paper and prays for something of which the color reminds them. Young children will usually thank God for something they can think of that is the same color, like bananas if they choose yellow, and that’s fine. The object is to teach them to pray prayers that aren’t rote.
  • Theme prayers. Why not choose a theme of the day or week to add to your family’s prayers? Maybe it’s making good choices, handling conflict in more godly ways, being a light in the world, etc. Encourage everyone in the family to pray about the topic to God in their private and family prayers.
  • Breath prayers. I am not sure who originally coined the term, but it’s a great way to teach your kids to pray without ceasing. These prayers are usually only a sentence or a phrase prayed to God in the moment as something is happening. They are almost always silent prayers. Often these are prayed while waiting our turn to talk or do something. Less formal than many prayers, they are easy to do once you and your children get in the habit and they can encourage praying without ceasing.

Can you or your kids think of other creative ways to enhance your prayer life? Before long, you may find you all have started praying without ceasing and it has become as natural as breathing is to you!

5 Hidden Times to Teach Your Kids About God on Busy Days

What’s the number one excuse Christian parents give for not teaching their kids about God at home? I haven’t done an official survey, but I am almost positive the answer would be lack of time. Yet some of the busiest parents I know find ways to teach their kids about God daily. They may not have extra hours in their day, but they have learned how to use some hidden time wisely and point their kids to God even on the busiest of days.

Where are these little nuggets of time you can use to teach your kids about God? Here are five of our favorites.

  • Car time. Busy days usually also mean a lot of time in the car. You could probably do an entire family devotional in one trip, but there are other ways you can use this time as well. Try doing drive by prayers with your kids when you pray for the people and things you notice on your drive. Ask them about their day and talk about the things God would want them to know about the choices they made or need to make. Play music that is based on scripture and sing along – they will memorize Bible verses easily when they are lyrics to their favorite songs.
  • Fast food time. You may not sit down at the kitchen table to a home cooked meal, but you can still have meaningful conversations at the table in a fast food restaurant or even in the car in the parking lot if you went through the drive through.
  • Required reading time. Many schools require students to read a certain number of minutes each day. They rarely assign specific books. Why not let your child read from a children’s Bible, the NIrV version of the Bible itself or one of the many Christian books written for children? Some churches still have libraries where you can borrow Christian books for free.
  • Snack time. Many children have an afternoon snack. Instead of tossing the food at them and going about your business, sit down with them. Even on the busiest of days, you can spare five minutes to have important conversations with your kids while they eat their snack.
  • Bedtime. Once children reach school age, many parents stop doing bedtime prayers with their children. Yet most still tuck their children in and have some sort of bedtime ritual. Consider praying over your child, reading a few Bible verses, telling a Bible story or reminding your children “who they are and whose they are” instead of some secular affirmation in your bedtime routine. Those five extra minutes of time spent with you and God can also help calm and soothe your kids, making it easier for them to sleep.

Be creative. If one of your children is waiting with you during the activity of another – you’ve got a nice block of time. Children too old for naps, benefit from an afternoon rest time when you can rest with them for a few minutes, talking about the things God wants them to know. Find what works best for you and your children, but find time somewhere… because even if you attend church and Bible class regularly, your children will still need to get the bulk of their spiritual education from you.

Fun Way to Teach Little Ones to Pray

Often parents start teaching their babies to pray by teaching them to fold their hands and bow their heads when an adult says a prayer. While prayer can be said in any posture, it is a great way to help set apart talking to God from regular conversations and to teach that God should be respected.

The next step – once they can speak a few words – is to teach toddlers rote prayers that are said for every meal or at bed time every night. There is another option, however, that I believe more clearly teaches how most Christians talk with God in prayer. With a little effort, you can make it fun and easy for even the smallest child to pray with a family member or independently.

Grab some magazines, family photos, colored card stock, glue sticks, a hole punch, metal rings (laminating film is nice for longevity) and your toddler. Toddlers often have a difficult time thinking of things for which to pray. Explain to your toddler that you want to help him or her make a special book to remind him or her of things he or she wants to either thank God for or ask God’s blessings about.

Start by helping your toddler find photos of things for which to thank God (for which He has blessed your child). As you find the photos, let your toddler glue them to a “thank you” page. Remember, a toddler has a very short attention span, so you may only add one or two items a day. That’s okay. Your toddler can begin praying for those items and it gives you a reason to talk about prayer every day you work on their prayer book.

After you have several items in that section, you can begin a “God bless” section. This will involve family photos and pictures of others close to the family. You can also cut from magazines photos of world leaders, recent events that concern your child or things like a photo of a hospital to remind him or her to pray for the sick.

As your child gets a little older, you can add sections for “God is Great” and “I am sorry for”. Although tiny children don’t sin according to the Bible, it is good to get them in the habit of repenting for when they are old enough to sin. It is also a subtle way to begin teaching them about the things God says are sinful.

If you have a small home laminator, it will make the pages sturdier. Punch one or more holes along the edge and put a metal ring through each hole to keep the pages together. Help your children use the book to pray with you and then begin teaching them how to use it to pray independently. When the book gets long, remind them they can choose just a few items about which to pray each time they pray. If they pray several times a day, they can cover a lot of their items.

Prayer is critical for the spiritual growth and health of your children. It’s great to start them with good prayer habits as early as possible.

5 Important Reasons Your Kids Need Solitude

Solitude is a lost art. Your kids may have felt isolated over the last year, but chances are they were engaging constantly with all sorts of people…real and virtual. In childhood days of “yore”, kids spent time lying in the grass and looking at clouds or stars. They fished silently by a stream. They did needlework or sketched, unaware of the world around them. They had lots of free time when they weren’t expected to interact with anyone and had the freedom to think uninterrupted thoughts.

There are some huge spiritual benefits from providing regular times of solitude for your kids. You don’t have to lock them in their rooms, but it helps to shelve the devices. Modern parents have used a quiet, afternoon rest period to provide children with some solitude – even if others are in the same room (because no talking is allowed). However you make room for solitude in your kids’ schedule, here are five important benefits they may get from the time.

  • Reflection. Have a daily verse they can reflect upon. They may choose to reflect upon what’s been happening in their lives and how they feel about it. Or what they have been learning at church, from the Bible or in their experiences. Giving your kids time to process things means they are more likely to have the time to understand and apply what God wants them to know and do.
  • Creativity. Solitude does not mean inactivity. Arts, crafts and music still allow one to think while one is working. Sometimes clarity comes when doing something creative….the creativity can spark creative solutions in other areas, too.
  • Problem solving. Problems often are resolved with better results when time has been taken to think through the possible consequences of the various options. You may need to teach your kids how to do that properly before they can do it independently during their times of solitude.
  • Talking to God. Prayers tend to be rushed when time is at a premium. Solitude provides time for unrushed, long conversations with God. You may have to work with your kids to help them understand they can talk to God about anything and everything. Once they appreciate prayer, they will often use solitude to engage in prayers they may normally have not had time to pray.
  • “Listening to God”. No, they probably won’t hear God’s actual voice. The Holy Spirit, however, can put things on their hearts whether it is a reminder of scriptures, ideas or dreams. This is even more likely to happen if they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism and have the quiet and solitude to “hear”. Reading the Bible during solitude makes it even easier to learn what God may want them to know. Teaching them how to test and discern what God wants them to know from their own desires or Satan’s temptations is key to “listening” well.

You will probably have to carve out special time for solitude and explain the benefits of having screen free quiet time to your kids. Once they understand how to use solitude though, they may actually ask for more.

Fun Ways to Include God on Family Walks

There has been a lot about this year that hasn’t been so great for many. One of the positives, though, is that many families have been taking daily walks together. While they are great for exercise and stress relief, you can also use them to teach your kids about God. Not by lecturing, but by having fun as you go.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Play “Name the Blessings”. The Bible tells us God’s creation cries out His name. Not literally of course, but we were meant to look at nature and see God. What many Christians forget is that God is responsible for all of our blessings. He may not have built a house with His own hands, but He created the raw materials and gave people the gifts needed to plan and construct a home. As you walk, take turns naming the blessings from God you see. You may want to play it so that you have to find something for the next letter of the alphabet. Or see who can keep it going without repeating a blessing. Have fun with it. End your walk with a quick prayer thanking God for His blessings.
  • Take a prayer walk. As you walk, notice things or people that need to be prayed over. Perhaps it is the neighbor who has been sick or the family who just had a new baby. Maybe it’s for the children who attend the neighborhood school. You can stop and pray as you think of prayer needs and/or add them to your family prayer journal when you get home.
  • Take a service walk. Everyone appreciates a little act of love and service. My grandfather used to take the paper thrown by the street and walk it up to the door people used and leave it there, saving them a walk. Your family may want to surprise people or for some acts (like weeding a neighbor’s flower border), you may need to ask permission first. Even if the person refuses your offer of service, their day can be brightened by your offer.
  • Meet the neighbors challenge. On an average walk in my neighborhood, I can encounter anywhere from five to twenty five people. Using safe distancing practices (and masks if required), see if you can meet these people and start new neighborhood friendships that last beyond COVID. It’s hard to serve and share your faith with people unless you get to know them. You can start by having your adorable little ones wave and say “Hi!”
  • Storytelling walks. Running out of things to talk about on your walks? Try telling stories casually as you go. They can be family faith stories, Bible stories or any other story that teaches your kids about God and what he wants for them and from them.

Any experienced parent will tell you family walks are incredibly valuable. Use them to really listen to your kids and learn about their hearts. Have fun with one of the walks above. Just keep taking them as often as possible.