Teaching Children to Pray

November 29th, 2011
Image © by bhardy | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons license.

For the third time in one night, Samuel came to Eli's bed and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Twice Eli, the priest, had told Samuel to go back to sleep, for he had not called. This time Eli paid attention. Though a word from God was rare in those days, perhaps God was calling Samuel.

Eli instructed Samuel, "“Go and lie down. If he calls you, say ‘Speak, LORD. Your servant is listening.’” (1 Samuel 3:9).

The story does not end there, for God was indeed calling Samuel to give him quite a message to deliver to Eli. The news was not good: Eli's sons had blasphemed God and would be punished. Samuel was reluctant to give the message to Eli, but at Eli's insistence, told him all that God had said.

Our children do have a relationship with God. Often what they need from us is help in recognizing God' s presence and words to say in response. Like Eli, we may be slow in recognizing what is happening.

Our responsibility and opportunity is not so much to teach our children how to pray, but to joln them in praying and to learn from their alertness and spontaneity. To do that well, we must be pray-ers ourselves. We must be in a current relationship with God.

About Praying

These questions may be helpful as you think about your own prayer life. When do you pray? What do you pray about? What does God say to you? Do you pray for people you don't like, not to change them but to be more loving toward them? When have your children or your students heard you pray? When have you asked your children or your students to pray with you? How have your prayers changed in the last five years?

As you think about these questions and your answers, you can join the children in your life in prayer.

Times for Prayer

Some times for your prayers and for praying with children are
• a planned worship time in your classroom
• at snack and mealtimes
• at nap and bedtime
• on birthdays
• as the seasons change
• watching a sunset
• in the middle of an argument
• when a new brother or sister is born
• when someone moves away, or moves into the neighborhood
• when you or they don't know what to do next
• before going to school
• in the midst of a storm
• when something beautiful happens unexpectedly
• when someone dies
• washing the dishes
• putting away toys
• bandaging a cut
• when deciding how to spend an allowance
• anytime

Kinds of Prayer

Some kinds of prayer are:
• giving thanks
• talking with God about needs or wants
• sharing feelings with God
• talking with God about someone's concern
• listening to God

Prayer Postures 

Some prayer postures are:
• head bowed, eyes closed
• head up, hands lifted up
• eyes open, looking at one another  
• moving to music
• holding hands
• lying down 
• hugging yourself, someone else, or a whole group
• singing
• sitting
• walking or running
• on your knees
• playing a musical instrument

Praying With Children

The words of prayer are the words we use every day. God hears what we say, whether we say it aloud or just think the words. When you pray with children, use words appropriate for their age.

What are some specific steps you can take to pray with children?

1. Read 1 Samuel 3 for the longer version of the story of Samuel and Eli. Who was teaching whom?

2. Practice praying at some of the times and in some of the ways listed above. Practice alone and with children.

3. Invite children to pray. Learn from them.

4. Alone and with children, read prayers from prayer books you might have, or get suggestions from other teachers, parents, or ministers at church.

5. Join the children in writing prayers, practice saying short prayers together.

6. Join other parents and teachers in a study of prayer and children.

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