Kids will pray about anything and everything, if you let them. My 5-year old son often prays for the napkins, the windows, his arms, his friends, gas stations, the neighbors, his soon to be born little sister, and anything else that pops into his imagination. Sometimes it’s just downright silly, childish, and unrealistic. I laugh often (out loud), and several times I’ve wanted to correct him or cut him off. But, I have to remind myself that one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of my son’s growing prayer life is me.
My own prayers are anything but silly, childish, and unrealistic. I can’t have my kids praying silly, unrealistic prayers. I’m a pastor for goodness sakes. It’s important that I set a good example, especially for my own children, right? When I think this way, I can’t help but realize I’m no different than the disciples in Mark 10 who were rebuked by Jesus for turning away the children.
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:13-14)
“Let the children come to me,” he says. Parents do a great disservice to their children when they hinder them from bringing their childlike faith to Jesus. We should be the greatest encouragement to them for coming to God with big, unrealistic prayers. Without knowing it, we can tame our children’s prayers and actually hindering them in their faith.
Here are 4 surefire ways to tame your child’s prayer life:
1. Only Pray at Dinner and Bedtime.
A great way to put prayer in a box is to only pray with your kids at the dinner table and bedtime. These are great times to pray and establish consistency in your day, but they can’t be the “main event” of your kid’s prayer lives. Don’t think of prayer times solely as blocks on your calendar. Prayer times should pop up all over the place throughout your day. They don’t have to be long or complicated, just intentional. When you think about it, these opportunities are all around you and your kids everyday:
- Ask them to pray for you when you get a headache
- Pray for the sick when you drive past hospitals
- Pray together after arguments and fights between siblings
- Take a prayer walk around the block or at a park and pray for your neighbors or God’s creation
- While coloring or making crafts, thank God for creating colors
- Pray and thank God for His love when your child shows love to someone else
- When you or your child gets frustrated, ask God for peace
- Pray when when you leave the house and when you arrive home
- Randomly ask your kids what they want to tell God, and then pray that together
2. Tell Them What to Say.
Another mistake I often make is telling my kids exactly what to say in their prayers. It’s important they learn their own prayer language, and not just repeat what mom and dad say. Giving our children cookie-cutter prayer statements can go a long way in hindering them coming to God with their own childlike faith. While they hopefully will pick up on some of the things we pray, and we should encourage this, it’s also good to start off with asking them a question.
- What is on your mind?
- What are you worried about?
- What do you want to tell God?
- What do you think God is like?
- Who can we pray for today?
These are all great questions to get kids thinking and encouraged to share their own thoughts, cares, struggles, and desires with God.
3. Discourage the Supernatural
Children have a greater capacity for imagination than their parents. If adults prayed with the same imagination as kids, how different would our prayers be? We don’t worship and serve a natural God, but we often pray prayers void of supernatural hope. God can heal. God can deliver. God can change hearts. God forgives. When we discourage our children from praying unrealistic prayers, we are telling them that God isn’t powerful enough, His love isn’t great enough, and His grace doesn’t change things. There are things we don’t understand, and that’s okay. Encourage wild, hopeful prayers. Encourage prayers that don’t make sense in this world. Ask for God to move in supernatural ways.
4. Never Model It
A surefire way to tame your child’s prayer life is to never let them see or hear you pray. My son learned how to say, “You got to be kidding me!” when he’s frustrated not because I taught him but because he’s heard me say that very same thing over and over. Kids pick up on these things, whether we want them to or not. If prayer is never modeled it will never be repeated. Give your kids a vision of a prayer life, because without it, pettiness will prevail. Let them see you pray with your spouse, with other friends, in public spaces, at church gatherings, when good things happen, and when bad things happen.
Don’t be the biggest barrier standing in the way of your child’s growing prayer life. It might require a great cultural shift in your home, but it will be one the best shifts you could ever make. I pray that I never again hinder my child from coming to Jesus.
Have you experienced any of these, in good or bad ways? What else would you add to these ways of taming our kid’s prayers?
photo credit: Marian Trinidad