6 Ways To Disciple Your Kids To Pray
I remember hearing a story of a six-year old boy who said he wanted to pray at the dinner table like dad. The father told him to go ahead, and the son began with: “God, thank you for my beautiful wife…”
You see, the son simply prayed the same prayer he had heard his dad pray for many years. Have you ever asked your kids to do something, like pray, and they feel as if they do not know how? Or they simply repeat what they have heard you do? Here are 6 ways that we can disciple our children to pray:
1. Teach them what prayer is – “What is prayer dad? Is it just talking to God? Do I just ask for things or what am I even supposed to do?” First our kids simply need to know what prayer is. The Westminster Larger catechism defines prayer this way: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” Or a simple definition: ACTS, Adoring who God is, Confessing our sins, Thanking him for his mercies, and Supplication, presenting our desires before him. All this is in the name of Jesus and by the help of the Holy Spirit.
2. Tell them why we pray – “Dad, why do we pray?” We pray because of who God is. Prayer is recognizing that God is in control and has power over all things, and simultaneously humbly admitting that I am not in control and have power over nothing. In this way, we bring God glory while praying. Further, because of who God is, prayer is a grace to his children for their benefit. In fact, when God is glorified, we always benefit!
3. Show them how to pray. ”So how am I supposed to pray?” “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1). These young men needed to be taught how to pray so it should not surprise us that the young men and women in our households and churches need taught as well. Jesus taught his disciples to pray as children to a glorious father, children who desire the will of their father in all places and in all circumstances. In front of your children, pray as a child trusting God for what you need. Pray that God would forgive you of your sins as you forgive others. Pray as a child dependent on a glorious father to keep and deliver you from evil. Let them see their dad as a child dependent upon his glorious father.
4. Get them started. “Can I pray dad?” Instead of giving them the words to pray, ask questions to lead them in pray. For example: What are you thankful today? What are you upset about right now? Do you think God has the power to comfort you? Do you think God likes to hear about the things that hurt you or anger you? Is there something unloving you have done to someone that you would like to confess to God? Let’s tell him together right now.
5. Keep them going. Prayer is not a one-time thing or a ritual that we do before we are allowed to take a bite of food. Prayer is a gift awarded to us by Christ. The best way to keep your kids praying is for you yourself to continue enjoy the one who has awarded you this gift:“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
6. Tell them it’s time for them to teach their younger sibling. ”Dad, I don’t think sister knows what prayer really is, can I tell her?” When we begin to see God working faith in our children and them growing more dependent on Him in prayer and less dependent on themselves, we ought to encourage them to disciple their siblings or friends in the same manner that they were discipled.
I remember hearing Ray Ortlund Jr. share about his dad. He had several memories of coming down the stairs as a high school boy early in the morning and seeing his dad on his knees in prayer and Ray recognized this as supremely impactful on his life. It is fitting for us to remember that God uses the faith of the body to build up the body. For Ray catching his glimpses of his dad in prayer was evidence that his dad truly believed in a sovereign God, whom he could speak to because of Jesus, and have great confidence that God listens with delight, and God used it to strengthen Ray’s faith.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35