Across different church traditions there are very different styles of prayer. In some churches prayers are pre-written then read out by a single person up the front. In others they’re prayed spontaneously all together, all at the same time. Personally I don’t think there’s a wrong and a right way to pray with your children. I just know we need to be doing it. We need to be teaching our children God’s ways, and encouraging them to grow in their own personal relationship with Him. These are a few of the things that we’ve done with our tribe, you might have come across all of them before, or none of them. Either way, I hope it’s an encouragement to you!
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1. Pray Scripture
I grew up reciting the Lord’s prayer. My mum taught it to me and often recounted stories of me praying through it even when I was tiny. And although that’s a pretty common scripture to pray, there are so many other portions of scripture we can pray through with our children – particularly once they’re big enough to read themselves. Some passages are written as prayers (Psalm 3:1-7, Psalm 5, Psalm 63), and others we can read through prayerfully, reflecting on areas we can ask God to grow us in (Galatians 5:13-22,1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Romans 12:1-2, Romans 12:9-13). We can also pray for those in ministry around us (Ephesians 6:18-20). If you have little people, something like Psalm 136 can be good – you can read the first part of each verse and they can respond with the second.
In our house we believe it’s important to show reverence for God – and that’s displayed in the worship and prayer that happens around here. But that doesn’t mean we need to use high and lofty language that can sometimes distance us from God. It’s also a good opportunity to encourage children not to fall into the trap of saying the same thing every time they pray (Dear God, thank you for my food in, Jesus name, Amen…. #soundfamiliar). Around here that means that often prayers are ended with “that’s what I would like” rather than “amen”, that they are started differently, or that we pause before we pray to make sure we’re not just praying on auto-pilot.
3. Be Topical
This works particularly well with multiple small people with limited attention spans. Going around the group, ask each one to thank God for one thing. You can go around as many times as you like, either changing topic after each person has had a chance to contribute or just choosing one thing to focus on for that prayer time. As well as thanking God for the things in their life, other topics could include praising God for who He is (praise him for His faithfulness, His justice, His love, His patience…) naming a person they want to pray for, something they are asking God for or naming a country they want to pray for.
4. Pray #alltheplaces
Prayer doesn’t only have to happen at home. If you don’t do family quiet times in the morning, pray in the car on the way to school. If your child has a particular stressful day ahead, stop and pray with them in the carpark before saying goodbye. If dinner time is when you first come together as a family for the day, take time to pray before your meal in a way that’s more than just “Food, thankyou, amen”. God knows and loves us throughout every part of our day and desires an intimate relationship with us through it all.
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What other tips do you have for praying with your family??