“The only hope in making a long-lasting difference for God is to learn to pray”* How do children learn to pray? They first learn to pray by hearing their parents pray. Children as young as one and two can be taught to pray.
Prayer is talking to God. When praying with preschoolers, use simple words and phrases your child can understand. As parents integrate prayer as a natural part of the day, preschoolers learn to turn to God to heal their booboos, pray for their sick dog, and express thanks to God for the macaroni and cheese at dinner.
Avoid teaching preschoolers memorized prayers. While the “Superman Blessing” and “Now I Lay Me” sound cute when preschoolers recite them, they do not teach children to talk to God about the concerns of their hearts. Encourage your child to use his/her own words. Give them a sentence prayer to complete such as, “Thank You, God, for …. “, “God help my friend ….”, or “God help me to …” Model praying spontaneous prayers throughout the day. Prayer is not just for mealtime and bedtime. God’s creation gives you many opportunities to express thankfulness to Him. When you are outside with your child, pray, “Thank You, God, for the pretty flowers” or “Thank You, God, for eyes to see the rainbow.”
Pray “on the spot” prayers. When your child comes to you with a problem or a worry, pray right then. Integrate prayer into discipline by praying for God to help your child be kind to his/her sibling or for God to forgive your child for wrong choices or actions. Teach older preschoolers the different kinds of prayer: praise, thanksgiving, prayers for people who are in need, prayers for oneself and family.
God instructs Jeremiah to “call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12). By modeling and teaching children to pray, parents are laying the foundation for a lifetime of calling out to God through prayer.
- Ronnie Floyd, How to Pray