Something happened a few nights ago that reminded me again of the responsibility we hold as parents to spiritually lead our children. The immense job we have to teach our kids to pray, to know the word, to understand Godly principles and to walk those things out in their daily relationship with Jesus.
It isn’t something they are just going to know how to do.
We must help, teach and show them.
And the job is something that does not end as they grow older.
Discipling our children takes attention, work and time.
The other night after devotions, Abby wrote me a note. In the note she said, “Mommy, I don’t know what to pray. When I pray, my mind goes blank and I can’t think of what to say.”
Sweetheart, you are not alone in that.
We were already way past bedtime so I told her I would put some ideas together for her and we’d talk about it the next day.
The next morning, I was getting ready to do my Bible reading plan. I opened my Bible app. When I looked at the chosen verse for the day, it was Romans 8:26 which says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Do you see it?
We do not know what we ought to pray for…
Abby’s exact question from the night before was right there on my phone screen.
Paul had the same question. We all tend to have the same question. We don’t always know what to pray, how to pray, when to pray and what words to use. We can’t always fully express our needs and wants and thankfulness in ways that seem prayerful and meaningful. Sometimes the needs around us are so great that we don’t even know where to start.
Yet, this deep need to connect with God through prayer wells up within us.
Not just us but also our kids. They also have a deep need to connect with God, to hear from him, to speak with him, to present their requests and give him praise.
Many times they do not know how and it is our job to teach, model and guide them in their spiritual growth.
Part of that spiritual growth means showing them how to pray, how to connect with God.
Prayer with our girls is and has been a part of our family devotional time. But this was the first time one of the girls vocalized not knowing how to pray.
It stopped me for a moment. How does she not know how to pray?
When I saw that verse pop up in my Bible app, I realized God was speaking to Abby and He was also speaking to me.
Teach them. Show them. Give them the tools and resources they need to understand how to communicate with God in creative, real, tangible ways.
That morning, I pulled out my pen and jotted down some notes. When Abby woke up, I showed her the verse of the day and had her read it. We talked about the verse and about Paul. We talked about how normal it is to not know what to pray but that the Holy Spirit will help us grow in our prayer life. We discussed some of the things I’d written down about prayer.
I told her that God had spoken to her through the verse of the day. He heard her. He knew her need and desire to talk to Him. And he was answering.
What did I write in my notes that day?
How do we creatively, effectively teach our kids to pray? How to we help them grow in the basics of prayer?
Helping kids pray with simple, easy, real ways to talk to God.
1} Give Thanks – A great way to get started in prayer is by giving thanks. Giving thanks is not just for the Thanksgiving holiday. We can give thanks all year round. Writing a thank you note, building a thankful tree, finding one thing to be thankful for that day. Giving thanks to God is a wonderful way to help get the words flowing when prayer seems difficult.
2} Vocalize Needs – Whether through writing down prayer requests, talking about people who are sick or friends who are going through a hard time or a neighbor who needs a job, we can bring our needs to God. The big stuff, the little stuff, the hard stuff, the impossible stuff, the easy stuff… all of it. We can tell God all about the needs around us. Every single day.
3} Think of Others – This goes along with vocalizing needs. Sometimes when we get talking about needs, we focus on our own needs. Making a purposeful effort to think of others and the needs of others helps us know how to pray not just for ourselves but for other people in our lives.
4} Help – This also goes with needs but maybe digs a little deeper. What do we need God’s help with at school? with friends? with a sibling? at church? their health? How do we need God to step in and help us each day?
5} Love – This can take many forms. Thanking God for his love, acknowledging his love, asking for his love to be shown through us. Asking him to help us love others, love our family, love kids at school. It can be thinking through the day and going over our actions. Were we acting in loving ways? Were our words loving and kind? Maybe it is remembering to tell God we love him. Focusing on love is something kids will understand and a great way to give them words to pray and things to talk to God about on their own.
6} Bible Verses – This is one of my favorite ways to help kids pray. Praying scripture is a beautiful way to communicate with God. Praying the Lord’s prayer, going through the beatitudes, putting on the armor of God, memorizing the Psalms, journaling a favorite verse, inserting their name in a passage, finding and then applying a verse to a situation… digging into God’s Word for things to pray about and pray for is a useful, valuable tool as they grow older in their walk with Jesus. Send a verse to school with them to pray at lunch. Talk about what verses mean and what they can learn about God. Print a list of verses to put by their bed or tape to the bathroom mirror. Filling our homes with Bible Verses that our kids can learn, pray and discover is beneficial and necessary.
7} Praying in the Spirit – For those moments when we don’t know what to pray, we must teach our kids to simply ask God what to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak through them, to give them the words, to bring to their minds the needs of others or highlight something in their day that God wants to help them with or maybe show them areas where they need to grow or things they need to work on in their heart, their character, or their relationships with others. Praying in the Spirit shines light on areas they need forgiveness or maybe need to forgive someone else. This is an important part of learning to pray.
*If you are unsure about what praying in the Spirit means or how to lead our kids in this way, here is a fabulous resource written by our good friends that I know you will benefit from reading. Click here.
8} Art – Drawing, coloring, creating, doodling, journaling, painting, listening to worship… giving kids a blank piece of paper and letting them draw or write their prayers is a really sweet way to help them work through feelings, understand their needs, express their hurts and share their love with God. Music is a powerful expression of communication to God. Writing songs, poems, and stories. We all can learn from using art as a way to communicate with God. It can truly be a precious way to connect with Jesus.
9} Cares and Worries and Fears – All the emotions right here. Our kids are like little bottles of a million emotions. Boys and girls alike carry the weight of fears and worries. The unknowns of the next day, new experiences, misunderstandings, family challenges, health issues, school stress… all of these things can be bottled up inside of them. We must help our kids present these things to God, tell God about each one, give them to him and leave them safely in his hands. This is a life skill that we all need as part of our prayer life. Letting our hearts rest from the cares of this world, being still, waiting for God to move in situations, giving our problems to Him and not taking them back again is very important. Putting words to these emotions is healthy for our kids and showing them that God can handle their questions, their fears, their worries and their emotions is a freeing concept as they learn how to pray.
10} Open Your Eyes – When we teach kids to pray, we often teach prayer with “close your eyes and bow your heads”, right? Well, sometimes, we need to teach kids to open their eyes. WE need to open our eyes. What is happening right in the space around us? What do we see that we could pray for or thank God for or ask for His help? Who is around us? What are they going through? How can we pray for the kids playing in the neighborhood or the person sitting next to us? Learning to open our eyes, see the world around us and pray for things in that exact moment is a creative way to help kids pray.
What can you add?
What is a way you creatively teach your kids to pray? How do you help them learn to pray?