Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Setting Aside Time For Children to Pray

Just as we set aside time each day specifically for the adults to pray, we set aside time in our schedule for the children to pray. This isn't always easy and we're more likely to skip it if our schedule is cramped than skipping the adults' time. But it is in our schedule and does happen more often than not because we make it a priority and work to see it succeed. In our schedule, both our family prayer time and the children's personal prayer time happen in the morning after breakfast and before starting the rest of our day. I know of other families who have been successful at scheduling their family prayers just after dinner and the children's personal prayers after coming home from school. The time when it happens is not as important as trying to make sure it usually happens. It doesn't have to be very long. In fact, 5 minutes might be the very most your children are able to focus and interact with Someone they can neither see nor touch. But a short amount of time on a regular basis communicates to children that this is important and for them also, not just for their parents.

Our family prayers reflect who our family is and how we want our children to pray in the future. Our family prayers include praises out loud and at a different point praying memorized prayers together. You might use songs that your whole family knows from singing in church. You might take turns at offering one thing each person is thankful for. We place a hand on the person we're praying for; you might choose instead to kneel with hands folded while interceding for each other. You might use songs, prayers, Psalms, or Proverbs you come across or choose to learn as a family or read through in a regular pattern each day. If several members of the family know how to read, you might use a few minutes before/after a family meal to read a Psalm or Proverb together: just divide the number of verses by the number of readers at the table (we like to read only half a Psalm and saving the rest for the next time if there are more than 4 verses per person) and make sure your stack of Bibles is readily accessible so everyone can follow along instead of fumbling to pass one Bible from person to person.

We memorize Scripture as a family. Honestly, I find it much easier than I ever found memorization by myself. We create opportunities in our schedule and in our lives for our children to encounter Christ, and these opportunities are for the sake of our children, yet we benefit a great deal from them ourselves. It's a positive benefit of Luke 6:38.

A personal prayer time for children should not be long or complicated. I drew a few sketches and they colored the sketches on a small cardstock paper to represent Adoration (a music note), Confession (a heart), Thanksgiving (a few presents), and Supplication (different pictures for categories of people we pray for daily, including family, friends, neighbors, and sick people). This visual really helps my children build a concept of our purpose in praying and helps hold their attention (since they're only 4.5 & 3 years old). This is their prayer time so I require their participation, but the whole time used is only about 5 minutes. When they are having extra trouble focusing and participating I often ask them to close their eyes and imagine Jesus sitting with us. As we go through the chart, I remind them to talk to Jesus; He is with us even if we can't see Him and He hears everything we say to Him.

These are ways we've found Work for Us in building opportunities in our day for our children to pray.

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