Teaching your Child to Pray
Parents have a duty to teach their children the faith, including prayer. ERIN CARELSE offers some ideas about how to introduce prayer into the lives of our children.
Teaching our children to pray is a vital part of introducing and reinforcing their relationship with God.
But knowing that prayer is important is not enough; we need to be deliberately teaching them how to pray.
Providing an example is one of the best ways you can get your child interested in prayer.
It’s important that your child understands that prayer is simply a conversation with God. Instilling in children important principles like praying when they are young, will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If you make it a priority, your child is equipped to do likewise; consistency is key.
Here are a few tips to help you to encourage your child to practise daily prayer:
Lead by example
The best way to start teaching children about prayer is to pray in front of them. They aren’t going to learn heartfelt prayers until you pray heartfelt prayers with them.
Praying with your child is a great way to teach them how to pray; it gives you a glimpse into what your child is thinking or is worried about.
Try to make your prayers easy by speaking in a comfortable way, as if you were talking to a friend.
Teach them to pray not only for what they want God to do for them, but also for what God wants them to do.
No ‘right’ way to pray
The most common time for prayer is usually in the morning, before bed, and at meal times. These are obviously important.
However, it is also important for your child to know that they can talk to God about all things at any time. They must know that God is interested in everything that happens in their lives.
They don’t need to pray with certain words or phrases, let your child see you praying throughout the day for a variety of things.
There is also no prescribed length to prayers. Quick prayers, especially if you have a younger child, are a gentle way to encourage praying.
Importantly, encourage your child to pray for others. This will teach the child compassion, empathy, and selflessness.
Nothing’s too big or small
Reassure your child that they can talk to God about anything that’s on their minds, and that no request is too small or insignificant—whether it is asking for help, talking about things that happened that day, things that frighten them, praying for a good day at school, and so on.
A prayer as simple as, “Lord be with me”, before writing an exam or, “Thank you, Father”, when something good has happened, is a good place to start.
Teach them to make a purposeful effort to think of others and the needs of others, as this will help them know how to pray not just for themselves but also for other people in their lives.
Children need to be reassured that God is always there and wants to hear what they have to say.
Point out answered prayers
Younger children may not be sure that God is actually hearing their prayers and sometimes they may want “proof”, so that they know that God is listening.
This can be something as simple as saying a quick prayer if a friend or a family member has a cold. They could say a prayer asking God to help them feel better.
When that person does feel better, show them that God answered their prayer.
Show them that your own prayers are answered as well. Start with something like, when forgetting where you left your house keys, to stop and say a quick prayer out loud, “Lord please help me to find my keys.” When you do locate the keys, remember to thank him.
The same principle can apply when your child is anxious about something. Let the child say a prayer, asking God to be with them and help them. Once they have overcome what they were anxious about, let them know that God listened.
Where to start
Depending on the age of your child, you can introduce praying with something as simple as singing prayers, or colouring sheets featuring prayers. This is also a good time to teach them to pray the Sign of the Cross.
When they are a bit older, start off with a simple prayer like the Our Father and focus on that for a few weeks. This prayer will show the child how to ask for forgiveness, and teaches them respect and about doing God’s will.
The Hail Mary is also a good choice and then later on you could introduce the Rosary, even if it’s just one decade.
Remember that when you teach your child the importance of praying, you’re also teaching them whom they need to turn to when they face trials in their lives.
Parents have a responsibility to spiritually lead their children. A few words spoken from the heart, with a humble attitude, can say a lot.
And let us remember: The family that prays together stays together.
Erin Carelse is News Editor for The Southern Cross and mother of three children.