If you desire to intentionally parent your children in the area of spiritual discipleship, one of the most important goals you can have is to lead them to their own personal relationship with God.
Your child can know the Bible inside and out, but if they don’t know God personally and have a relationship with Him, what does their knowledge really amount to?
One of the key aspects of building that relationship with God, whether you are young or old, is prayer. How can you grow a relationship with someone that you never talk to?
However, the prospect of teaching your children to pray can oftentimes feel overwhelming. Sometimes it can even feel embarrassing or uncomfortable to pray with your children.
Where do you even start?
How to Intentionally Teach Your Kids to Pray
A while back, I realized that I was really dropping the ball when it came to teaching my children how to pray and encouraging that aspect of their lives.
So, for the past few months, we’ve really been digging into praying together and I want to share five tips with you today that will help you, too, be intentional in teaching your children to pray.
1. It always starts with you.
…you shall love the LORD
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
strength. These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your
hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children…
Have you ever noticed the order of events in this famous passage?
FIRST, love God with everything you are and keep his words on your heart.
THEN, teach them to your children.
When it comes to intentionally parenting our children in their knowledge of God, whether it is about prayer or any other topic, it has to flow from a place a genuine faith in our own lives first.
That means, if your own prayer abilities could use some strengthening (and, let’s be honest, every one of us can improve in this area), you must begin there first.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Do a topical study of prayer in the Bible (this list is amazing, with all the instances of prayer listed)
- Set aside a specific time each day to pray. Use your phone alarm to remind you!
- Try a prayer challenge, like this one.
- Read a book on prayer. I’ve enjoyed working through this collection of works on prayer by Spurgeon and I look forward to
reading this book on prayer by Tim Keller.
- Pray, pray, pray. Ask God to help you pray. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the prayer life of your family.
2. Model prayer in all situations.
Your kids will probably forget the lesson you did on the five steps of prayer (or whatever), but they will never forget seeing you pour out your heart to God.
They will remember when you prayed for them at night, when you dropped everything to pray for a sick friend, when you stopped in the chaos and asked God for His grace in that very moment, when you prayed for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives during moments of discipline.
They will remember a parent who turned to God in all situations.
They will remember how you lead the way. And that is what they will follow.
Rejoice always, pray without
ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the
will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1 Thess. 5:16-18
3. Set aside specific time for prayer.
Those spontaneous, throughout the day prayers are so important, but so is setting aside specific time to meet with God through prayer.
It is important to set aside time for prayer…
- By yourself
- With your spouse
- As a family
- For each child on their own
These daily or weekly “appointments with God” are so important to setting a routine of going to Him.
There are as many ways this could look as there are different families, but in this current season for us it looks like set times to pray together both in the morning during our family Bible time (see tips for starting your own family Bible time here) and in the evening before bed.
4. Start with the best prayer teacher.
Not sure where to start with teaching your kids more of the specifics of how to pray? There are a lot of different “methods” out there!
Personally, I’ve found the best place to turn is to the instruction from the One you are praying to:
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your
your will be
on earth as it is in
us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our
lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.<sup
For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory, forever. Amen”
We like to alternate between reciting the whole Lord’s Prayer (you will be surprised at how quickly your kids will memorize it just from reading it
aloud together regularly!) and breaking it down section by section.
When we break it down, all we do it read a line or two and I will briefly explain the meaning. Then, we will all take turns praying something on that topic.
Having something to guide your prayer like that can really help for those who are shy or uncertain of what to say – whether
it’s the parent or the child!
5. Don’t forget to encourage your child in their private prayers.
Praying together is important, edifying, and necessary.
However, it is also important for your child to meet with God regularly without a parent as a coach or go between.
When my son turned seven, I slowly started encouraging him in this in two main ways:
- I set aside a time each morning for his own special “God time.” I do not micromanage what he does during this time, only
occasionally offering up suggestions. I just remind him that it is his special, set aside time to meet with and spend time with God.
- I (try to!) follow the Spirit’s prompting during parenting moments. Meaning, sometimes, the best thing I can do in a
moment of discipline or when my child is in need of wisdom, is to send them to pray and discuss the matter with God. Sometimes it can be scary
to let go of control like that, but I have never regretted it afterward.
As you intentionally teach your children to pray, you will see them begin to develop a closer relationship with God, as they come to know Him better through daily communing with Him in prayer.
Action Steps to Intentionally Parent in the Area of Prayer:
- Set aside a time each day for you to pray.
- Pray out loud with your child nearby at least once this week.
- Learn the Lord’s Prayer as a family.
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Liz Millay ministers to families through her blog, Steadfast Family. She graduated from Cornerstone University in 2009 with a degree in Youth Ministry and Bible. These days, she loves using her education and experience to help parents build strong families and impress God’s Word upon their children. She is the author of Play Through the Bible and four other kid’s Bible studies. Wife to Dave since 2009 and mom to three precocious little boys, Liz spends her days trying to find time to get the dishes done in-between play-doh sessions and puddle jumping. In her moments of spare time she enjoys being outside, reading, relaxing with her hubby, and spending way too much time on Instagram.”