Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Teach Them to Pray

Last week I talked about our early steps at teaching our children to love God and passing on our faith. This continues to be a topic about which I am quite passionate.

As I recall, the next significant step came after they learned to talk. I think my son was about 3 years old when we began teaching him to pray a very simple prayer before bedtime. Of course, he already knew that we prayed before meals. But, this was the first step for him developing independent prayer life.

We taught him to pray, "Dear God, Make me a Godly boy, a boy who loves Jesus more and more every day."

I can remember that the prayer morphed a bit over the first several months to a year. We were trying to figure out this prayer thing and what we wanted to teach him. I think at one time the prayer was, "Make me a Godly boy, a boy who knows more and more about Jesus every day." But we realized that knowledge of Jesus wasn't what we really wanted. It was relationship with Jesus that we wanted for our son. So we changed the words to "a boy who loves Jesus".

As he grew and matured we've added different elements to the prayer. There was one really funny period of time when we had to teach our daughter to say, "Make me a Godly girl" instead of "boy".

Since then, we've taught them to thank God for various things in their life. We try to steer them away from just thanking God for toys but, instead, thanking God for significant people in their lives - first grandparents, then they voluntarily added aunts, uncles & cousins. We added the various staff memebers of our church. They added friends and classmates. Occasionally they have to be reminded to thank God for their teachers, though usually they remember on their own.

More recently, we've begun teaching our son to ask God for help. When he went through a phase of being terrified of thunderstorms and loud rain storms, we taught him to ask God to give him courage and to help him sleep. Now, when he has difficulty with a friend we teach him to ask God to help him be kind. This new aspect of his prayers changes almost daily. And it is very personal and circumstance specific.

I am thoroughly enjoying watching their growth in this area. Their bedtime prayers have become unique to each one. We go through phases of "Mommy you pray, I'm too tired." And occasionally we give in, but generally they do it themselves.

This gradual method of teaching our children to pray has worked for us (so far). But, our children are still young and we realize there is much still to learn. We are not finished by any means - it is an ongoing process.

Recently I've been listening to some other parents going through this struggle of teaching Godly habits like prayer. So, now I'm curious... How do you teach your children to pray? How did you begin? Where are they now? How did it change over time?

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Announcement: Next week's Works For Me Wednesday is themed - "Mom I'm Bored". If you've got a good summer fun idea or a good way to keep the kids busy, be sure to link up or leave a comment.


Becky said...

We taught our children to pray through example. We've always had family prayer every morning and night. (It was an easy habit to develop since we grew up that way, but it does take commitment and consistency.) We'd help them with individual prayers as part of their bedtime routine; we probably started that when they were about a year old. It would even be an easy way to earn a sticker on their chore charts. As they grew older we'd just ask them occasionally if they were remembering to pray, and we'd suggest particular things to discuss in their prayers - like help before a test, and then expressing gratitude for getting a good grade. One time our 10 year old said "I prayed for help to remember to pray, and I'm remembering." The other morning I went to make sure my 15 year old was awake and getting ready for school, and I found him in his room praying. I guess it's working.

To sum up, I'd say we started early (although later is better than never), we pray as a family, our kids know we pray individually and that it's important to us, we taught them specific skills, we encourage them to recognize answers from God, and we praise their efforts and growth.

New momma said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have an eight month old, but am always wanting to hear suggestions that can help when he is older. We pray with him now before bed and hope to continue this as he gets older to the point that he can do it himself.

shopannies said...

so great for you to be the one to love your child

TX Poppet said...

Like Becky, we taught our little ones by example. In our little family, we have never been shy about praying. When I see our teens stop and take a moment to bow their heads quietly, without prompting, needing an audience or feeling shame, I know that it's because they grew up surrounded by prayer and it will be like air and water to them throughout their lives.

Jessica said...

Great post. We too have taught by example. She is almost 3 now and prays on her own occasionally. Her prayers are very simple and that's ok. It's teaching her to talk to God and we're working on helping her learn how to listen as well.

Tracey said...

Wonderful post! We have taught our girls to pray for others and to include their thankfulness to God in their prayers, but I love your idea of teaching them to ask for help about something specific related to themselves. That's something I'll begin concentrating more on now. Appreciate the tip!


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