Have you ever found yourself doing one of these less-than-helpful types of prayer with your kids?
- You repeat the same prayer ad nauseum. You know the kind – “…if I die before I wake, I pray dear Lord my soul to take.” Nothing to put our children into a sound sleep like talk of death, right? 🙂
- You pray a sermon. I’m guilty of this one a lot!! “Dear Lord we know that you want us to obey you in everything and I ask that you would help us (and by “us” I mean “them”) to OBEY tomorrow.”
- You pray the news. “Dear Lord, my friend is in the hospital and she has this problem and she’s dealing with this issue.” Newsflash…he already knows!
- The repeat-after-me prayer. “Dear God (Dear God), help us to listen (help us to listen) to your voice (to your voice).”
- The enforced prayer. “Stop goofing around and pray NOW!” Yup, we’ve done that one in our house too! Why is it that suddenly at prayer time they have all this energy?
Don’t get me wrong – I grew up doing a lot of these and have done most of them with my own children in the past. They’re not wrong in themselves (except maybe the last one ;). They each have their place in our lives.
However, I don’t think any of them are the most effective way to help our children develop an authentic prayer life.
A while ago I was teaching a class on prayer to some parents in our church, and I stumbled upon something that I had taught before, but never really tried with my own kids.
We had been stagnating in our family prayer time, and needed to get out of a rut.
So we tried a Prayer Pattern. Wait a sec, isn’t prayer supposed to be about communicating with a dynamic God, not following patterns?
A Prayer Pattern is a way of providing guidance to your prayers, a discipline to help you focus and draw near to God.
Using this has transformed our family prayer time.
We use one that is similar to the ACTS prayer, but modified for children. (ACTS stands for Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Supplication, a package of words that is obviously a stretch for most children to remember, never mind understand!)
Instead, we use the following pattern. I start each section with the intro line that the children repeat, and then they continue the sentence with their own words.
Wow God, you are…
-> The key here is that you are telling God what he IS, not thanking him for what he has done (that comes later). Praising God serves the purpose of bringing him glory and centering our hearts on him.
I am sorry for…
-> The key with confession is to lead by example. Personally, I always have something I can confess. Sometimes the kids can’t think of something, in which case I encourage them to ask God to show them something for which they should apologize. Occasionally I will remind them of something, but I think it’s more effective to let God bring them to repentance. After we’ve all confessed, we say together “Please forgive me.”
-> My boys are still young, so their prayers reflect that. But when something bigger does come up, I make a point of praying this section first so that the seed of the idea is in their mind.
Thank you for…
-> This one should be easy!
Following this prayer pattern has made such a huge difference in our family prayers. My middle son (currently 4) always used to fight us when it was time to pray, and I think it mostly came from not knowing what to say. He is much more engaged now.
If you would like to try this prayer pattern with your kiddos, I’ve created some journal pages that you can print off, which are in the prayer template library. Sign up for them right here!
If your kids are ready to think more abstractly, you can use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern as well.
For more help with teaching your kids to pray, check out my prayer workbook for families or children’s programs!
With 12 short but meaningful prayer activities, Made to Pray will guide you and your children to a better understanding of prayer. From prayer patterns to learning to hear the quiet whisper of God, you will finish this activity book with a deeper relationship with the God of the universe!