Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Teaching Children to Pray Throughout the Day

How often do you pray for your children? How often do they know you are praying for them? Do you ever ask them to lead the prayer?
We try to include prayer in our day, throughout our day, for our own sake (1 Thes 5:17), but say the prayer aloud for our children's sake. They need to know what we are doing. They will learn how to relate to Christ Jesus through what we model in front of them. We try to incorporate short prayers in our various activities as we live our normal lives so our children will learn to turn to God no matter what happens later on in their lives.
  • Our family meal is breakfast, so after everyone has eaten and before we get up from the table, my husband takes a couple minutes to say a prayer aloud for each of our children. If we have guests at our table, he will say a prayer for each of them as well. (He and I have already prayed for each other at this point, but if our schedule's been rearranged and it hasn't happened yet, then he will include me in the prayers and I will add a prayer for him at the end.) In another family this could happen as the parents are waking up the children for school, while individual children are eating (rather than all together as a family), or if necessary in an individual's prayer time without the children being present. The goals are 1. to pray for God to be present and help each person in his/her day and 2. to let the children know what you are doing so they can see the evidence of God's presence and help throughout the day.
  • Say a prayer aloud before each meal. Consider saying another prayer aloud after each meal. This could be spontaneous or memorized, short or long, a simple "Thank You" or a more complex blessing. The goals here are to build a habit in our children to recognize that our food comes from God and to thank Him for it. A prayer after the meal closes a family meal more officially and asks for the Lord's continued blessing throughout the day.
  • Just as we begin the day with prayer, we close the day with prayer. If my husband is home when our kids are going to bed, he says a short prayer for each one as they come to tell him good-night. As I tuck them in I repeat a standard night-time prayer with them. The goal is to reinforce the idea with them that God is watching out for us at all times, and if we every need Him for anything, He is ready and available to help us.
  • When a child comes to me with any injury I kiss and cuddle and comfort that child as best as possible. In the midst of the love and medical attention I pour out on the hurt child, I also include a short prayer asking God to heal the injury and to make it stop hurting quickly. It doesn't matter how small: after all, I want my children to know that God cares about every problem we face, no matter how large or how small it may be. My goal is that they will learn to turn to Him whenever they need anything whatsoever.
  • When we hear a siren for an ambulance or fire truck or police car, we say a quick prayer out loud for the people in trouble and those who are helping them. Our goal (besides the benefit for others of the prayer itself) is to teach our children to intercede for others, to look beyond themselves to others' needs, and to turn to God first whenever there is trouble.
  • Every significant road trip (i.e. beyond 1/2 hour or so) starts with a prayer. Everyone is in the vehicle, no one has much to do at that point except the driver, and if the driver's hands are especially full we might wait until we're on the highway and the driver doesn't need to worry about turns and merging. We then thank God for the opportunity to travel to wherever we're off to and ask for His protection and blessing while we're on the road. This is a really good opportunity to ask an older child to say the prayer on our behalf.
  • If we're traveling to church or another event where the goal is to pray together with other Christians, we often spend the time on the road having a mini family prayer time. We sing a few songs together, we say some praises together, we go through a prayer of repentance together, we thank God for His blessings, and we intercede for a few people. Depending on the length of our drive we will adjust which elements we include and how much time we spend on each. Our goal here is to train our children how to pray (so they behave better in the group setting...hopefully...) and to get everyone into the mindset of prayer so we're hopefully fighting fewer distractions once we get to our destination.
How do you attach prayer to your children's activities throughout the day? What is one way you could add prayer into their day?
This is linked with Works for Me Wednesday.

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