Teaching Children How to Pray | Simple and Heartfelt Strategies
Common Childhood Prayers
Prayer Is an Act Both Great and Small
Teaching your child to pray is a priority for many parents. Where doing this may seem intuitive for some, other people, I know, find it difficult to settle on the how-to. If one has fallen out of practice of religion, or if you have never really learned much about a particular faith yourself, it can be challenging to pass this lesson along with confidence.
I believe with all my being that prayer helps people deal with life in times of trouble, as well as fosters a feeling of security in that, with prayer, one is never alone. Teaching your child this basic undertaking exposes them to a powerful grace that can be greatly beneficial to them during their lifetime. To believe that there is a higher power looking out for you, and having a confidence that life transcends death, takes so much pressure off our human shoulders! It allows one a venue to love, appreciate, praise and know, God.
I have always been blessed with a natural gift of faith, yet it was undoubtedly first fostered by my parents and what they believed, passing this along to me. I would love to share with parents who are wondering how to approach the subject of prayer with their children, a point from which to begin if they are in need of a little practical advice.
Plant the Seeds of Faith
No matter what belief you are, what religion, prayer is a universal practice that is open to everyone, and I believe, there really is, no wrong way to pray. In fact, I feel that every prayer in itself, is a perfect thing and this can be an encouragement for you as you embark on teaching prayer.
Loving God and trusting in God is the basis for praying. I, as a Catholic, believe in Jesus, the Son of God, and Mary, his mother and their power as constants in my life. I also believe in the saints and the communion of souls - including those loved ones and friends who have passed - and that they can intercede for us, making our prayers ever stronger, ever heard (see the video below on the pope’s teachings on this subject) by God. But even if your beliefs do not align exactly with mine, you can still teach your child that God is personally accessible and praying to God can enhance your life, provide security and give a springboard to jump from in the future when your child may wish to further explore his or her journey of faith.
If you introduce the existence of God to your child, they will have a basis for such grace in their lifetime, should they choose to embrace it. If you do not teach prayer or introduce God, they may have a more difficult time in finding it on their own. If you believe in God, it is only fitting that you would pass this belief on to your children, as you would pass any other important lessons about life. Children are extremely accepting of the beliefs their parents convey to them (as expressed in the article Culture Shapes Religious Beliefs, Psychology Today). This is the power you have as a parent, and some believe, your role in God’s plan.
Who Might We Pray To?
You might want to introduce your child to praying to:
- The Holy Spirit
- Mary (The Mother of Jesus)
- Saints (blessed souls in heaven)
- Communion of Souls (souls that have died)
- Their Guardian Angel
Utilize the Five Elements of Prayer
In Catholicism, there are really five basic elements of prayer, or five reasons that we might want to pray. In your pursuit of introducing prayer into your child’s life, you may want to touch upon these as a guide for your children as they begin their earliest prayers, and as they build a relationship with God. Even one minute spent on each is enough time!
Simply try addressing each of the following with your child, perhaps as part of a nightly ritual, naming them while you “say your prayers” out loud with your son or daughter, and share your day. They will love this time spent with you and as young children, they will be accepting of the belief in God that you convey just by experiencing this often-cherished practice of simply talking to God. Together:
- pray for protection or help. Prayers of petition are when we ask for God’s protection or help. It is probably the most common type of prayer. This is when you ask God for protection in your own life or help with any worry that is on your mind. This teaches children that they are good, deserving of love from God, and important to God. It teaches your child that he or she can always go to God for help and that they are not alone in their problems. It will impact them for their life. You can introduce this by asking your child if they have any intentions for God or needs that they would like help with. You can together ask for God’s protection, for your child and your family, naming members
- pray to praise God. You can pray to express your belief in the glory of God and to praise and glorify God for all his wonder. You can worship God by reveling in a beautiful day, that he created, or by praying the Our Father, in which you state, “hallowed be thy name.” It tells God that you trust in him and his power and glory. Basically, you are imparting that God is good and deserving of devotion.
- pray for forgiveness. This is when you pray to God when you are sorry for actions that were less than kind or loving. You can pray to ask for forgiveness and healing. This shows children that they are good, that we all make mistakes and that we can move on from them. It teaches them to care about the way they choose to live and links morality to God and the concept of afterlife.
- pray for others. This is when you ask God to bless those you love and to pray for those that need special help or intentions. This is a great reason to pray as it teaches children to be compassionate for others and fosters kindness in their soul and in their moral ethic. It helps them to feel that they can make a difference for people who are having trouble and, truthfully, through prayers, they can. You can ask your child who they would like to pray for simply by doing a round of “God bless…. (insert names of people your child would like to pray for).”
- pray to thank. You can pray to thank God for blessings in your life or for answered prayers. You can thank God in advance for prayers of petition you have put forth. This conveys to your child that good things come from God, fostering trust and strengthening belief. At night before bed, your child can thank God for his mommy, his daddy, and those people and things that are blessings in his life, recognizing appreciation for what God has given us.
Simple Ways to Reinforce Prayer With your Child
Encourage Your Child to Pray
Put God to use! My religion teaches that God wants us to pray to him. He actually wants us to ask for things!!! There are so many places in the bible where we are shown that asking for help is what God wants from us (“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” Matthew 7:7). Instill this understanding in your children.
So often, I think people are worried that asking for help from God is selfish or that they are undeserving, or they feel guilty asking God for help, if they haven’t been close to God for a while. I feel the opposite. Trouble in life is an opportunity for you to get closer to God, again, through prayer.
Make Prayer a Dialogue
As a Catholic ccd teacher, I love to teach children that they can have an ongoing dialogue with God. They do not have to use lofty prayers or preset words to establish a relationship with the Lord. They can simply talk to God in their head. God can be a friend to your child. Prayer can be anything your child wishes it to be. I find this comforting, and so should you, as you introduce prayer to your child.
Incorporate Prayer in Your Daily Life
All in all, teaching your children to pray is a great gift you can give to your child and yes, it may be something as parent, that you owe them if you wish to pass on your own ideas of faith. As established above, there are lasting benefits for your child in being introduced to the basics of a faith system.
You can incorporate prayer into your daily life to reinforce the importance of praying with you child, before bed, before meals and in the morning, as you start your day and on Sunday. If you have a special need or intention, ask your child to pray for you or others as part of your normal daily conversation. When you see an ambulance with sirens blaring while driving with your kids, call out “Pray for those people!” If you wish to further faith instruction for your child, consider signing them up to a local church’s religious education program. Look up churches in your area online. They are always very open to discussing their programs and often times, you do not have to be a practicing member of their church or even their religion to join. Classes usually last one hour and are once a week.
Also, take your child to a religious service on Sunday. Many children love doing this with their family. It shows your child that you are setting a priority for God in your life. I am always surprised to find that people are nervous to attend services if they are out of practice. There is no need to be! Parishes welcome attendees with open arms and without question. Good luck in this blessed endeavor. Love to you all.
Praying to Saints and Communion of Souls for Intercession
What do you think?
I believe that teaching my child to pray is an important responsibility I have as a parent.
- The Real Power of Prayer
I have always been a strong believer in the power of prayer, which I know some people question. A recent experience made me re-think, and has re-affirmed for me, the power of prayer.
- Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Kids
One of the most important lessons that we can teach our kids is kindness. Kindness is love in action. Here are random acts of kindness ideas for kids with lots of adult participation.