Toddler prayer: A Primer for Christian Families

Toddler prayer | Toddler boy closeup

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A huge thank you to Lois McKiernan of Where Truth Lives for this fabulous article on toddler prayer!


“Is there anything you’d like to pray?”

My toddler nodded, then squeezed his big eyes closed.

“Thank You, God, for all my friends playing with me in the garden in the sand pit… In Jesus’s name… Aaaamennnnn!!”

He grinned as he closed his eyes and settled down to sleep, and I smiled in gratitude that he, though so young, was intimately communicating with his Creator, sharing his heart and his gratitude with the Source of every blessing.

Each night, my husband or I (whichever one of us is putting him to bed) will pray for our son – for his safety, his peace of mind, his obedience and his character. Then we’ll ask him if he wants to pray, too.

There have been one or two nights where he’s shaken his head no, but most nights he gladly seizes the opportunity to say thank you to God for something that has thrilled his little heart that day, or even that week.

Some of the things I’ve heard him pray have taken me by surprise and caused me to be more grateful for things that I too easily take for granted.

One night he simply prayed: “Thank you God for falling down the rain.”

Another night it was: “Thank you for all my friends at church.”

The simple foundation for teaching toddlers to pray

One thing I made a point of telling him as I introduced him to prayer was that he can talk to God anytime, anywhere.

“God is always with you, even though you can’t see Him, and you can tell Him anything and you can talk to Him anytime day or night. And you can talk to Him anywhere. Jesus loves you.”

I’m not sure how much his 2-year-old brain fully understands. But I know that he understands way more than I realize. Numerous times he has surprised my husband and I with statements about Jesus and recollections of experiences he seems to have had – things we hadn’t talked about with him before.

So, each night, we pray with him and for him, and encourage him to talk to God on his own, too.

A Sample Toddler Prayer

Praying with your toddler isn’t going to look the same as praying with an older child or an adult. Short attention spans and limited understanding call for short and simple prayers (which can still be powerful – after all, it’s not the words of the prayer that really count – it’s the power of the One to Whom we’re praying).

Toddler girl praying

A simple formula to keep in mind when praying with your toddler is thank you and please – to say thank you for something and to ask for something.

It doesn’t have to be long or intelligently-worded. It could look something like this:

Dear God,
Thank you for all my friends.
Please help me to be kind.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen

You can always expand on your chosen topics and words, but keeping it short and simple is just as effective.

RELATED: Print off these printable sample prayers to pray with your toddler!

Toddler Prayer: A Schedule

We read in Daniel 6:10 that Daniel “continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” (NASB)

Just as Daniel prayed three times a day, children learn habits by repetition, so a good way to develop a prayer habit in your toddler is to pray multiple times per day.

Following the pattern of 3 times a day, you could pray with your toddler first thing in the morning when they wake up, midway through the day at either a meal-time or nap-time, and before bed in the evening.

RELATED: Bedtime Prayers for Toddlers

Click here to teach your child to pray.

Tips For Effective Toddler Prayer

Always lead your toddler in prayer and always give your toddler the opportunity to pray from their own heart.

I’ve been amazed at the things my little guy has thanked God for and even just told God about. It is such a precious thing to experience, and it helps cultivate a genuine prayer habit, not just a blindly-followed routine.

Whatever time of day and however often during the day that you decide to pray with your toddler, remember these key principles:

  • Keep it simple
  • Give your toddler the opportunity to speak from their own heart
  • Remind your toddler that God is always with them
  • Teach your toddler to pray ‘thank you’ and ‘please’
  • Don’t underestimate the depth of your child’s understanding

Your son or daughter may be tiny now, but you are raising a future adult, whose foundation will hopefully be the Lord and His Word. Make prayer a priority, and go enjoy hearing the precious things your little one will say!

And, don’t forget: I made some free printable sample prayers to pray with your toddler. You can download them here.


Lois is a forgiven child of God, a wife, a mother, a writer, a navigator of chronic illness and an incessant fact-checker. She writes at WhereTruthLives.com to equip and encourage women to impact the world by living out the truth of God’s Word.
Get her Sample Prayers To Pray With Your Toddler free here.

You can also connect with Lois on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.

Need more prayer resources?

Check out these other posts on praying with toddlers on preschoolers:

A Downloadable Prayer Workbook

Made to pray: a 12-day prayer journey for the whole family

With 12 short but meaningful prayer activities, Made to Pray will guide you and your children to a better understanding of prayer and a deeper connection with God. Click here to learn more.