A huge thanks to Rachel from Titus 2 Homemaker for this article on prayer activities for kids!
When my sisters and I were young, we had a book we called “the Ryan book.” The actual title is Adventure at Hidden Haven Ranch
The interesting thing about this is that none of us particularly remember reading the book or doing the exercises from it. Neither does my daughter, who I also used the book with when she was very young.
We do, however, remember the lessons we learned.
That realization was an eye-opening encouragement to me as a parent – this clear evidence that what we do doesn’t have to be flashy or even memorable to make an impact.
What we learned about prayer
Adventure at Hidden Haven Ranch follows Ryan as he arrives at his aunt and uncle’s home and asks them to teach him how to pray. Aunt Marta provides him with a box of index cards and they begin walking him through several elements of prayer. At each stage, Ryan writes his own prayers on cards.
First, Ryan learns about praising God – “telling about the worth or value” of the Lord. In other words, saying back to God who or what He is or what He’s done.
Next, he learns about thanking God. These first two elements are similar, but different, and the book helps
The third element Ryan learns about is confession of sin, after he disobeys Uncle Grady and lies about it.
Fourth, he learns about asking for others (interceding). Finally, he learns about asking for himself.
As you read through the book as a family, the children follow along by making their own praising, thanking, confessing, asking for others, and asking for self cards. There are also discussion questions and, of course, Scripture to read and think about.
How to use these prayers with kids
Unfortunately, “the Ryan book” is out of print, although it’s well worth purchasing used if you can find a copy, and with it off the primary market, there is once again a dearth of resources for teaching kids to pray.
For those growing up in a Christian home, praying is something people are expected to just know how to do, the same way we’re expected to just know how to use a daily planner, to just know how to tidy up or organize a space, etc.
It doesn’t, as a rule, occur to anyone that these are skills people have to learn.
But even the Disciples – fully grown men – had to learn to pray:
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”Luke 11:1 NIV
If John’s disciples and Jesus’ disciples had to be taught to pray, I think we can reasonably assume our children could use some guidance!
Adventures at Hidden Haven Ranch is still my personal favorite resource and I don’t particularly think it can be improved on. I did, on the other hand, think it could be built on. Children who work through “the Ryan book” will learn to pray more well-rounded prayers than, “Dear God, I want a pony, please.”
Their experience will still be largely limited, though, to one particular structure.
What about when they’re confronted by a teary classmate who could benefit from a friend who will stop and pray with them? Called into a prayer meeting where they’re expected to pray for a whole hour? Called on to *gasp* pray out loud?
That’s why I wrote Prayer Practice for Kids (see it on Amazon), for preteens and mature older children. (Grownups can use it, too!)
We all need a nudge sometimes to get out of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves. Prayer Practice is just that – directed practice that encourages the reader to step beyond the familiar.
The book is full of challenges. A few are silly. Many are serious. All are bite-sized steps designed to help the reader practice praying more thoughtfully, and gain experience and confidence.
In some cases, there are “odd” challenges that you probably wouldn’t want to make a regular part of your routine. They’re designed, though, to shake things up and prevent mindlessly automatic prayers, and/or to draw attention to a particular point. (They also help keep it engaging for kids!)
Other challenges are more foundational practices that can form the basis of a reader’s prayer practice for years to come. These include basics like
- keeping a list of prayer requests,
- building up the length of time spent in prayer,
- and praying all day long.
In total, there are 90 challenges divided among 6 chapters or categories.
The things we spend our time on shape our lives, even when – perhaps especially when – they’re so “common” as to be considered merely routine.
Like my sisters and me with “the Ryan book,” I want my children to find spiritual practices so routine that they can take them for granted or find that they don’t stand out as “anything special.”
Because the habits they develop matter more than the individual moments.
Teaching our kids to pray can be a challenge. The basic idea of prayer — talking to God — is pretty simple, but the “nitty-gritty” can be tricky to explain.
This book was written as a tool for preteens, to help them practice prayer. (Kids a little younger or a little older can probably benefit, too, but the target age range is roughly 10-12.) It’s written directly to your child, in plain language, and introduces a variety of prayer concepts through a serious of challenges. The bite-size pieces help keep it from being overwhelming.
Download it today from Amazon; there’s nothing better you can do for your child than to invest in his spiritual growth.
Other Articles on Praying With Kids
- How to Hear From God: Listening Prayer for Kids
- How to Make the Most of Bedtime Prayer for Toddlers
- 8 Prayers to Help a Child With Anxiety
- Quick Ideas for Praying With Squirmy Kids
- A Simple Way To Help Kids Pray (and free printables)
- How to Make a Picture Prayer Journal With Your Child