My daughter is currently on a campaign to move mealtime prayers to the end of meals. She actually has a very valid point. In her opinion, no one really pays attention to the prayer before a meal because they are so hungry or are worried about the food getting cold (ouch!). We have had several light-hearted discussions on the pros and cons of her campaign.
In reality, I am just glad she thinks about prayer. We have family prayer times, but I have always tried to encourage our daughter to have her own private conversations with God. I don’t force her to pray out loud in front of us (and never have) any more than I would listen in on one of her private telephone conversations. I often wonder how she talks to God and I am happy when she occasionally gives me glimpses into her prayer life.
Over the years, we have done several things to encourage her to pray and to reinforce the power of praying to God. You may have seen one of the more fun ways to encourage your child to pray regularly. It is called a prayer rock. You can take a large rock and cover it with a pretty square of fabric tied together with string or ribbon. Another option is to find a large flat river stone and paint the word pray on it. There are even prayer rock poems you can find on the internet to attach to the rock. After he makes the rock, have your child place it on his pillow. At night when he sees the rock, it will remind him to pray. After he prays, have him place it on the floor where he will see it in the morning. When he wakes up and sees the rock, it will remind him to pray again. After his morning prayer, he can place the rock back on his pillow.
A wonderful tool to teach the power of prayer is a family or personal prayer journal. In my experience this usually works best as a family activity, but you may have a child who enjoys writing in her diary and would prefer her own record. Purchase a spiral notebook or composition book. If your child enjoys art, have her decorate the cover. Daily or weekly, meet as a family to discuss what your family needs to pray about. Record your requests in the journal. As you see prayers answered, record the answer and the date in the journal. This is a great way to begin to teach children that “no” can be an answer from God also. I have done this several times. Each time it quickly becomes obvious that God is constantly working in our lives.
One of my friends had a great idea to encourage her son to pray for others. At the beginning of the year, they write down the names of twelve people outside of their family who are special to them and place the twelve slips of paper in a jar. Each month her son draws a name. They contact the person and ask if there is anything special she would like them to pray about that month. Even though they pray for other people constantly, that particular person gets special attention during family prayer times. My friend’s son now reminds her when it is time to draw a name or pray for someone.
As with anything involving your child, your personal example is extremely important. I personally am not one who regularly kneels or lies prostrate on the floor when I pray. I am a more “pray constantly as you go” kind of girl. As a result, I try to make sure my daughter hears from my conversation that I pray regularly and the types of things I pray about. When she is struggling with an issue, I encourage her to pray about it. When she stresses about something at bedtime, I let her know I will pray about it while she is sleeping. When we know someone who is ill or having a rough time, we discuss how we need to be praying for the person. She also knows if she is really concerned about something, my friends will pray for her as well. Now there are times when she will ask me to have my friends pray about something special for her.
We also try to point out when God has answered someone’s prayers, whether it is our prayer or someone else we know who was praying earnestly for something. Hopefully, she has a firm understanding of not only how to talk to God but also how to see His answers.
Prayer is such a crucial part of our relationship with God. Trying to be a Christian and not praying is like trying to have a good marriage without ever talking to your spouse. Help your child learn how to talk to God freely, willingly and often while he is still a child. He will find that prayer is his lifeline many times over the years. You may find it helps improve your own conversations with God as well.