Call to Prayer: Teaching children to pray
Posted on August 30, 2017 by Jon Trotter
By Sarah Showalter
God hears our prayers—this is good news! It is good news worth sharing.
As a mission agency, our stories about evangelism and sharing our faith often center on missionaries in far off countries sharing the gospel with the unreached. These are exciting stories! And yet, evangelism also happens within our own homes and communities with our own families and our neighbors. It can be harder to glimpse the excitement of discipleship among the ordinary routines of life, but as Jesus showed us, sometimes the greatest opportunities for discipleship are where we least expect them.
In Mark 10, we see the disciples trying to prevent Jesus from being “bothered” by keeping the children away from him. People were bringing little children to Jesus so that he could pray for them, but in the eyes of the disciples it was not worth Jesus’ time. He had more important things to do.
But hear Jesus’ response:
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. (v. 14b-16)
Jesus not only viewed the children as worth his time, he told the disciples that these children have a gift in the way they receive the kingdom of God.
As believers, we are tasked with the job of bringing the little children to Jesus, whether it’s biological children, nieces and nephews, neighbors, or school children. One of the ways we do this is by encouraging and teaching children to pray. We can spend all the time in the world teaching children about God, but if we don’t teach them how to relate to God, we’re not doing any better than the disciples who tried to shoo the children away.
Here are several suggestions for how to model and encourage prayer in the lives of children:
Share your own experiences. Share with children examples of things that you have asked God for, or times that you have heard or seen God’s response to your prayers.
Pray in the moment. The best way to teach children how to pray is to pray in their presence. When children approach you with a worry or problem, pray with them on the spot. Model that nothing is too small to take to God in prayer.
Go on a prayer walk. Cheri Fuller, author of When Families Pray says, “Children are terrific prayer walkers because they enjoy movement and being ‘on site’ makes the prayers more meaningful and concrete. To begin, walk around your neighborhood and ask God’s blessing and salvation on each family. Pray for the children in each home.” [a]
Pray a blessing. Pray a daily blessing over your child using Scripture. Numbers 6:24-26, Ephesians 3:16-20, and Colossians 1:9-12 could be used as blessings over children.
Pray for your children’s prayer life. As you model prayer in daily life, ask God to draw the children’s hearts to him. Pray that God’s love and presence is made known to them through their prayers, and that they grow in faith and relationship with God.
Keep in mind that the goal is not just to prepare children to be Christian adults. God often uses children in his plans and he wants to use the children in your life too.
Martin Rhodes, Short-term Missions Coach at VMMissions, has begun praying a blessing on his three children each morning before school. One by one, he places his hand on each of their heads and pray, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace,” from Numbers 6.
One morning after he had finished praying for Elliot, Vincent, and Annaliese, the three children wanted to pray for their dad as well. Each one placed their own hand on Martin’s head and prayed the same blessing over him.
Let’s ask God to use us to model a prayer-filled life to the children around us, and let’s pray that we might learn more about the kingdom of God from those to whom Jesus said it belongs.