Teach Them to Pray
BY VANESSA DOLBERRY
MOST OF US WANT TO DEEPEN OUR PRAYER LIVES. WE FEEL GUILTY THAT WE DON’T PRAY ENOUGH. WE LONG TO COMMUNE WITH GOD THROUGH DEVOTED PRAYER, BUT IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY. PRAYER IS HARD FOR MANY REASONS. SOMETIMES IT’S BECAUSE OF A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN, BUSYNESS, AND OTHER TIMES, IT IS BECAUSE OF A LACK OF SPIRITUAL FERVOR. PRAYER IS VITAL. IT’S NOT AN ITEM TO CHECK OFF OUR DAILY TASK LIST, BUT IT IS CRUCIAL TO OUR DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FATHER. WE NEED TO COME BEFORE HIM WITH HONESTY AND FREEDOM. WE NEED HIM TO CHANGE US.
Because we, as adults, can struggle with prayer, we know the importance of teaching our children about prayer. The last thing we want is for our kids to equate prayer with a lengthy monologue filled with churchy phrases and a list of wants and wishes. We want them to know that prayer is meeting with the One who created us in His image. We are meant to be in relationship with Him and prayer is that open line of communication. It’s how He changes us.
Jesus gave us an example of how to pray in Matthew 6 often called the Lord’s prayer. In Mike Breen’s book Building a Discipling Culture, he breaks down the Lord’s Prayer into six different methods of prayer. This can be a great model for praying and teaching others about prayer.
- THE FATHER’S CHARACTER: (Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Matthew 6:9)
Pray, praising the Lord for who He is. He is provider, healer and comforter. He is mighty and just. Merciful and loving.
- THE FATHER’S KINGDOM: (Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10)
Pray that His kingdom would be enlarged. Pray for those who don’t know Him. Pray for people groups who haven’t heard His name.
- THE FATHER’S PROVISION: (Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11)
Pray, thanking Him for his provision and pray for His continuing sustenance.
- THE FATHER’S FORGIVENESS: (Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12)
Pray for grace to forgive others. Thank Him for the grace of His forgiveness toward us.
- THE FATHER’S GUIDANCE: (Lead us not into temptation …Matthew 6:13a)
Pray for guidance and wisdom in sharing the gospel with others.
- THE FATHER’S PROTECTION: (…and deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13b)
Pray for his protection as we share with others, that we would not get caught up in the enemy’s snare.
Use this prayer method during family prayer times. Have each family member pray through one component. The components can also be used individually. For example, when your child is struggling to get along with a sibling, you can lead him to pray concerning the father’s forgiveness. Talk about how the Lord’s prayer tells us that we should forgive others and that we need forgiveness as well. Pray that the Lord would give them a forgiving spirit.
Here are some other practical ways to model and encourage prayer in the lives of your children:
Write names of people to pray for on popsicle sticks. Put them in a jar and draw one out each night to have your child pray for them. This works especially well for younger children.
The Five-Finger Prayer
This prayer is a good way to teach your kids to pray for others. It is a good method for younger kids. Use your fingers to help remember important people to pray for.
- Thumb: People closest to you. Pray for family members and good friends.
- Pointer Finger: People who point the way. Pray for people who lead you like teachers, pastors, and coaches.
- Middle Finger: People in authority. Pray for people who lead the government, the President, and people who keep us safe, like the police and firefighters.
- Ring Finger: People who are weak or in need. Pray for homeless, sick, or hurting people.
- Pinky Finger: Pray for your own needs.
Family Prayer time
Create a consistent family prayer time. It can be at the dinner table or before bedtime. It could also be gathering together each morning before everyone goes to school and work. Sometimes we need to schedule prayer times to make sure they happen, because it’s just that important.
Sometimes it’s hard to pray because there can be so many distractions. Find a space in your home to make a prayer closet. Maybe it’s the closet under the stairs, a corner of the master closet, or even a spare bedroom. Have a place to sit or kneel. Also provide a bulletin board to pin up verses or prayer requests. Tell your kids that this is a place they can go any time to get away with God and pour their hearts out.
Many times, we pray and never look for answers to our requests or pleading. Make a family prayer journal. Record things you prayed about and the date. Make a column to the far right to go back and add when you feel you heard from the Lord about your prayers. Record even the little things you pray for. You will begin to see how good the Lord is and how He sustains!
Create a visible place in your home for prayer requests. Maybe it’s as simple as a chalkboard or a corkboard. If you are a DIY-er, check out the many projects on Pinterest by searching “prayer wall.” A prayer wall gives you a constant reminder of things to be praying for and also allows you to share your faith with others that come into your home.
Vanessa Dolberry lives outside Nashville, Tenn. with her husband of 16 years and her three children.
This article originally appeared in ParentLife Magazine (March 2017) ParentLife.