Prayers for Children
- Guide to teach young children pray
- The Sign of the Cross
- My Finger Prayer
- The Lord’s Prayer with Motions
- Songs of Praise for Children
- Teaching kids to pray, 0-5 years
- Teach us to pray, 6-9 years
- Do you give kids an opportunity to pray?
- Do you value kids' prayers as much as adults' prayers?
- Do you model prayer for kids?
- Do you share answers to prayer with kids?
- Do you let kids pray for you?
- Only Believe: Teaching kids to pray for miracles, 10-12 years
- What are some suggestions for how to teach children to pray?
- Some more useful tips
Youngsters can be taught prayers using songs, etc.
There’s nothing quite as sweet and beautiful as a child in prayer. Listening to a preschooler recite the Lord’s Prayer can bring you to tears and laughter, often at the same time. Teaching a very young child how to pray is easy. Children naturally feel close to God and are often more comfortable praying than adults are. Here are some prayers you can teach young children at home or in a classroom.
Perhaps the first prayer a child will learn, the sign of the cross can be explained by the image of the cross. Tell a child that they are drawing a cross on themselves. Give instructions while facing them, but don’t make the sign of the cross yourself; the mirror image will confuse them. Tell them starting with their right hand, fingers together, touch their forehead; chest; cross the hand over to the left shoulder and then back “home” again to the right shoulder; and end with both hands together.
Here is a prayer that uses the child’s hand as a reminder of what to pray for.
My thumb is closest to my heart – pray for my family.
My index finger points out things we don’t always see; it instructs me – pray for teachers.
My middle finger stands taller than the rest – remember to pray for the president and leaders around the world.
My ring finger is weak and cannot stand alone well – pray for the weak and the sick.
My pinkie finger is the smallest – remember to pray for myself.
Hand motions and actions are helpful for remembering words to a prayer. Here are suggested motions for the Our Father.
Our Father (reach your right hand up as if you’re grasping an adult’s hand high up)
Who art in heaven (raise both hands up high)
Hallowed be thy name (bring hands together palm-to-palm in front of chest, as if in prayer)
Thy Kingdom come (raise outstretched hands above head in a V shape and spin all the way around)
Thy will be done (cross arms in front of chest and bow head)
On earth (point open hands down toward the earth)
As it is in heaven (swoop hands both up over head)
Give us this day our daily bread (pretend to eat a piece of bread)
And forgive us our trespasses (pretend to wash hands)
As we forgive those who trespass against us (pretend to wash hands of person beside you)
And lead us not into temptation (hold flat palm out in front of body in a “stop” gesture)
But deliver us from evil (hug yourself)
Singing is a great way to pray with little children. They can easily learn words put to simple tunes.
Singing to God is a way of praying to Him. Simple songs such as "Jesus Loves Me," "God is Love," "He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands," "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Go Tell it on the Mountain" are easy for a child to learn. And is there anything cuter than a child singing about Jesus?
Prayer habits that last a lifetime are most often formed in childhood. That's why it's so critical to teach young children how to pray. As with most spiritual disciplines, prayer is caught more than it's taught. As teachers model meaningful prayer lives, kids will learn how they, too, can talk to their Creator.
Here are the basics of teaching children how to pray. Help children talk to God. Everyone -- especially children -- would find sitting down to prayer easier if we could find a way to forget our notions of "correct prayer methods" and just start talking. To do this, avoid focusing on form in prayer. Rather, model for your children an easy, comfortable way to simply talk to God as you'd talk to a friend. Urge children to talk to God just as they'd talk to anyone else. They can tell God about their day, express their fears, and even be a little mad if they want to.
There's nothing too big-or too small-for God. It's true; God can help us face the hardest moments in our lives. God is also there to share in our smaller moments, too. He wants to know how our day went. He enjoys hearing that the rainbow we saw early in the morning made us smile, and that the bully on the playground scares us. Anything is okay to talk to God about.
Making prayers relevant to children's lives enables them to grow in prayer. Because kids have a strong tendency to view the world in terms of me, my, and mine, capitalize on this very normal stage of development by focusing prayer on kids' everyday concerns. For example, many adults make the mistake of asking young children to pray for church missionaries. Chances are kids don't understand what they're actually asking God for. As a result, God becomes more remote.
A better idea would be to focus kids' prayer requests on asking God to heal Damon's chickenpox, giving thanks for something necessary someone received, or asking for help for Alex.
God listens to ALL prayers. God is always there, willing and eager to listen to what we have to say. But kids aren't always so sure; sometimes they need proof. So give it to them. The best way to help children realize that God truly listens is to point out answered prayers. Did you ask for the quick recovery of Andi's cold? When she's feeling better, thank God for answering your prayers.
Make answered prayer visual by creating a prayer wall where kids write their prayer requests on one side of a divider. When the prayer is answered, move the prayer request to the other side. Thank God for each answered prayer. Help children understand that God may answer prayers in several ways. God may answer exactly as children requested. But God may also answer in a different way, wait to answer, or say no. Help children see these answers to prayer also.
The right place is any place. The Bible describes a variety of ways to pray: kneeling, standing, lifting hands, and even lying on a bed. Encourage children to pray whenever—and wherever—they want to. Even if it means a quick "Please make Janie all right" on the playground when a friend is hit with a ball.
Prayer is never inappropriate. Especially when it comes straight from the heart. In the end, that's all you really need to teach children to help them communicate with our God who's always listening.
The class ends, and you plop into a chair to quietly ponder the morning.
I started class with prayer. The kids recited the Bible verse. They even knew all the answers to the questions about the Bible story. They loved today's craft and game. They all remembered to take their Bibles and papers home with them, and every child left smiling. Yes, it was a good morning.
Then a quiet but nagging prompting pops into your head, “You taught the kids about God, but did they talk to Him?”
So often we focus on the lesson, but we miss the importance of getting kids to focus on talking to God. Think about it. When you have a relationship with someone, you talk to the person. It's hard to imagine a wonderful, close relationship where the two people never talk or rarely speak to each other. Then why don't we help kids talk to God?
Children's prayers need to be more than asking for blessings on their food or begging for help in a crisis. Children need to spend time with God as they learn about, listen to, and talk to him. As we encourage kids to have a real relationship with Jesus, we must lead them to talk regularly with him.
Since prayer is so important, you may wonder why the kids in your classroom or program aren't praying more. If you're honest, you may realize that the answer may have more to do with you than with the kids. Consider these questions.
Getting through an entire lesson may cause teachers to find few opportunities for kids to pray. When teachers fall behind in the lesson, or the service is shorter than usual, the prayer at the end gets skipped. Some weeks the children might not have any exposure to prayer at all.
We can take this dramatic example for instance. A person was teaching and an ambulance pulled up to the church. The classroom was right next to where the ambulance parked. Needless to say, the children were at the window curiously watching the excitement. One person of the church popped in to tell us that one of the older people had chest pains. Armed with the specific information, the teacher gathered the children to pray for the situation. The children spontaneously prayed for the man and his family, the ambulance attendants, safety as they drove to the hospital, and the doctors. This unplanned interruption to the lesson became their prayer focus for the morning.
Not every prayer opportunity is obvious; some opportunities take sleuthing. You can usually find a prayer opportunity from conversations with children. Let's face it, kids love to talk about things that are happening in their lives. As the children enter your classroom, chat with them about how their week went or what's happening in the coming week. You can turn conversations into a prayer time on the spot. If something really special or something else happened, pray and thank God for blessing the child. Remember to give the child the chance to pray also. If something difficult or worrisome is coming up, pray together and ask God to help the child through the situation.
Nobody really comes out and says, "Adult prayers are more powerful and important to God than the prayers of kids." Yet that's the impression we often give.
Often adults assume kids wouldn't want to or be able to pray for an extended amount of time, so the kids are rarely invited to participate. If it's important enough for the adults to gather in prayer, it's important for kids to gather in prayer also.
Another example. A person in this story we're going to tell about knows the power of kids' prayers better than most people. When a forest fire raged near his home and he was evacuated, he immediately put in a phone call. He asked to have all the kids pray for his house to be saved. Right then, hundreds of children interceded for his request. When he was able to return to his property, he found a completely burned forest with one untouched structure still standing—his house. The fire had parted and gone around the house. The heat of the fire was so intense, it had even melted the lamppost near the front door, but the home was completely spared. Just a coincidence? Or the answer to children's prayers?
Sometimes kids need to see and hear prayer modeled. Not all kids are fortunate enough to have prayer modeled in their homes, so they need prayer models at church. Even kids who have prayer modeled at home can benefit from hearing other people pray; they'll learn that there are lots of styles of prayer. As adults model prayer, it helps kids realize the importance of prayer to all Christians.
Advice: Never shy away from praying with children. Your prayers may be the only ones they ever hear.
Just like adults, kids have different talking and praying styles. Kids are great impersonators. They'll copy what they think is successful or "right." A person once remembered as a child she heard her dad pray. His prayers sounded like something directly out of a Bible, full of "thee" and "thou wouldst" phrases. The person knew there was no way she could pray like her father, but she wanted to pray "the right way." Fortunately, the person heard enough other people in her life pray and realized that there's no "right" or "wrong" way to pray. God would hear hers prayer, whatever lingo she used.
So often we ask others to pray for a request, but the people never hear how God answered the prayers. As adults, we may forget to ask or we just might forget all about the request. Not kids! They often have great memories. If a child doesn't hear how a prayer was answered, it can give the dangerous impression that God doesn't answer kids' prayers. Sadly, kids can get disillusioned and think that prayer isn't powerful. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Advice: Keep a list of kids' prayers. Regularly update the list with the answers God has given.
When children hear how God answers a prayer, it excites them and fuels their desire to pray for more things. A 6-year-old daughter had prayed something very specific for her mother while she was at a conference. Exactly one month later, the mother had a miraculous answer to that specific prayer. The mother immediately sat down with her daughter and explained how God had just right then answered her prayer. She jumped up and down and quickly asked what she could pray for next. We need to emphasize on the importance of children not to learn them to pray for useless and unnecessary things which only could entice them to love of vanity and greed.
One way to show kids you value their prayers is to share your prayer requests with them. Tell kids what's happening in your life or what (age-appropriate) struggles you're facing. By letting kids pray for you, you'll be the recipient of amazing answers to prayer.
Advice: You have untapped powerful prayer warriors sitting in your classroom. The good news is it's not impossible to get kids to pray. In fact, it's a lot easier than we think. Start encouraging kids to pray and let God take it from there.
A Christian school kindergarten teacher shared how her class prayed for her to get a car. She was surprised one day when a student told her that God had told him the class should pray for a new car for her. Her car was doing fine, but she took the time to let the kids pray for a car for her (after the will of God). A few weeks later, her car broke down and needed costly repairs. She then received a phone call saying she had won a brand-new car as a result of a contest she'd entered (as long as there is no chance or lottery etc. in the contest). This kindergarten teacher will never doubt that God speaks to kids and honors their prayers. Now she regularly shares her prayer requests with her students.
We want kids to pray and trust God for answers, but when it comes to prayers -- the ones that need a miracle -- how do we pray with kids?
Whether quiet whispers in the darkness or stark supplications during the day, the collective voice of the faithful is perpetually raised in prayer -- echoes of silent and spoken requests and gratitude. If you close your eyes, it's easy to imagine this millions-strong chorus of voices raised, seeking its way through the heavens to God.
Prayer is a primary force in our relationship with God; it oils the gears of faith and nourishes our souls. There's perhaps no more direct line to God than through prayer. It's no wonder, then, that when we take a child's hand to guide him or her into a relationship with God, one of our primary focuses is to teach that child about the power of prayer.
By the same token, we know that life is a journey, one that can be fraught with the unexpected and life-altering -- death, illness, strife, trials. As adults we traverse the rockier landscapes carrying our personal experiences and plenty of realism. We see situations that seem hopeless. Children get sick and die. Parents gets in a big quarrel with each other. Tragedies occur. Life is at times cruel. In these places we lean on God for strength and comfort, and we encourage kids to do the same. We tell children to put their faith in God, to set their worries at his feet. And we pray for healing, reconciliation...miracles. Even when we foresee an unhappy outcome, we pray for God's divine intervention.
It's in our DNA as Christians -- we praise God in times of joy and lean on him in times of pain. We pray without ceasing. And we teach children likewise.
But this aspect of Christianity creates an interesting tension in relation to how we teach -- and model -- faith and prayer to children. How do we guide kids to pray in situations that can seem very dark and hopeless? And what impact does it have on a child's faith to pray these really "big" prayers -- only to expect the very worst happen?
On the other side of this tension is the alternative approach: If we "pray on the side of caution," coaching kids to pray for the possible things -- safe things -- what does that tell kids about our faith? Is it possible to have "faith that can move mountains" if, deep down, we're afraid to pray for miracles? And at what cost do we model such a safe approach to prayer to kids?
We must work diligently to teach kids about prayer. So often, though, the prayer might be, "Please pray for my grandma's broken toenail to quit bleeding", or things similar to it, over the years numerous people have confessed that these prayers feel so simplistic and trite that they're hard to take seriously. Yet when children bring the really “big” prayers -- the kind that stop us in our tracks. -- we often admit that we don't know what to do.
“Please pray for my brother Dan to be healed. The doctor says he might only live another week.”
“Dear God, please make my daddy stop drinking and being mean to my mommy.”
We want kids to pray and trust God for answers, but when it comes to the really “big” prayers -- the ones that need a miracle -- how should we pray with kids?
To answer, let's start with a reality check. Consider some "big" prayers God answered in remarkable fashion.
Hezekiah lay in his bed near death. He prayed for healing, and God restored his health and added 15 years to his life (Isaiah 38:1-5).
Jonah prayed for his life to be spared from the bowels of the big fish, and God saved him (Jonah 2).
Paul, after praying, was able to heal Publius' ailing father -- and then other sick villagers, as well (Acts 28:7-9).
Elijah, "a human being, even as we are," prayed in earnest that no rain would fall -- and the result was a three-and-a-half-year drought. When he prayed for rain, "the heavens gave rain" (James 5:13-18).
Regardless of the stark facts or reality of a situation, the Bible makes it clear that prayer is our first and best strategy.
"There's no difference between the importance of prayer in the life of a child and that of an adult, for Jesus, prayer was life and life was prayer; there was no separation. Prayer is the language of our life in Christ."
Adults who minister to children are often keenly aware of what they're modeling to the kids in their charge. We demonstrate our personal faith each time we communicate with God in kids' presence and in how we grapple with specific situations.
"Fear and lack of faith are the two biggest hurdles I see [when it comes to this modeling], we're afraid that if kids pray for a friend with cancer and that friend isn't healed, then their faith might be shaken and they might doubt God. Sure, we need to protect kids from some of the disturbing details of certain prayer requests, but we never need to protect them from God. Overcoming doubt with faith is part of the full life in Christ. If you're constantly trying to remove every opportunity for children to wrestle with their faith, to wrestle in prayer, you'll be building a faith of straw that won't stand the trials that might lie ahead."
Few Christians would argue that our God has limitations. We know that God is capable of all things, not the least of which include the creation of our universe and authoring life itself. Yet we also know that while all prayer is answered, we typically don't get those answers on our terms.
It's from this perspective, where we may stumble with kids. Because it's human nature to focus on the results of a prayer -- on our terms -- rather than God's ability in every circumstance, we may mistakenly guide kids into wrong expectations. Teach kids to expect an answer to every prayer -- but not to expect that the result or time frame will be on their terms.
"The problem in praying for miracles with our kids comes only when we begin to direct their faith to the results of our prayers instead of the miracle worker who is God. Believing, faith-filled prayer focuses on God's ability -- not God's decision-making process...Parents and adults who pray 'big' prayers with kids believe in God to sustain their child's faith no matter what the result. We don't need to protect our kids from God. Recently a 3-year-old made this statement: 'God can always heal, but sometimes he doesn't.' This is the essence of faith-filled prayer."
No matter the circumstances or the struggle, as an influencer in kids' lives, you have the unique opportunity to model fearless faith and faith-filled prayer. As you sit during circle time and pray quietly hold a hurting child's hand and pray for a miracle, never forget to remind kids what the core purpose and benefit of prayer is.
"Prayer is the conversation of life. Prayer is always available. Prayer is always the answer. Every issue in our life finds its solution and answer in prayer. Prayer shifts the heavens and brings the kingdom of God to Earth."
Let's follow an interview with Steven, who talked about how his family has grappled with prayer after the accidental death of his 5-year-old daughter, Maria, in 2008.
You've lived through tremendous loss and tragedy in your family. How have you helped your children pray during the most painful times?
Steven: First of all, I'm going to admit that this is a really scary topic and one that I continue to wrestle my way through as a dad. With that said, I'll offer my honest ponderings. The way we've prayed together as a family during this time has been with honesty, desperation, and hope. We've cried out to God and tried to encourage our children, both with our words to them about prayer as well as our own prayers, to be as honest as David in the Psalms when talking to God. Mostly, I think we've taught them (whether good or bad, only God knows completely) about prayer by our own example. If there's one prayer they've heard me pray more than any other, it's been the one prayed by another desperate dad in Mark 9:24: "I believe, help my unbelief!"
What have you learned about prayer in the face of tragedy?
Steven: God truly is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). He's a safe place -- the safe place. Not that God is "safe" in terms of being predictable or risk-free, mind you. But as one points out: "He is not safe, he is good...He is the King." Prayer has been like oxygen to me and to my family. I don't know how we'd still be breathing if not for being able to pour our hearts out to God (Psalm 62:8) and finding that he truly is faithful and good.
What mistakes do you think adults may make with children when it comes to the really "big" prayers?
Steven: I think there are really only two mistakes we can make when it comes to prayer with children. The first one would be to not pray, which is sometimes tempting when we realize we don't really even know how to pray in certain situations...The second mistake is not being honest with God. Obviously, we have to use care in determining how much of our "honest desperation" (kicking and screaming) with God we invite kids into. But I truly believe that the best way we teach our children about trusting God even when life -- or God -- doesn't make sense to us is to watch adults in our own process of "wrestling and resting" in God's sovereignty as his dearly loved children.
What do you think it says about our personal faith when we coach children to pray (or not to pray) for miracles?
Steven: Understandably, praying for things that might not happen is really scary because it means we're not in control of the outcome. But guess what I'm coming to realize: We're not in control of the outcome! God's ways are not our ways, and yet he invites us to let our requests be made known...and by "requests" I have to believe that means miracles, too. I will say that after having walked through all we have as a family over the past few years, I've realized that almost every prayer I now pray with or without my kids ends with the words, "God, I trust you."
God has specific purposes in how to teach children to pray. When a child is asked how to solve the world’s problems, their answer is succinct and short. A child’s worldview is how God intended man to live in harmony with each other. So too, is a child’s view to prayer.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
If you ever get sick with an incurable disease and medical processes have failed, ask a child to pray for your healing. People who know how to teach a child to pray, empowers that child for life to pray without doubting. Children pray with an honest and simple belief that holds no biases. “I’ve seen many miracles come about through a child’s prayer.” Children pray with simplicity and faith. Adults learn to doubt, causing disbelief and unanswered prayers.
Be sure the children know that the purpose of prayer is to talk to God.
- Talk through and discuss the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), not as a rote ritual to repeat, but as an example of what to include in a prayer. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to address God with respect, request our daily needs to Him, ask for forgiveness, know that God protects us from evil, and to close our petitions with honor, respect, thankfulness, and praise.
- Encourage children to start with simple sentence prayers like, “I thank God for. . .” or “I pray for. . .” More complex prayers will come.
- Pray in front of your children, so they can learn by your example. Pray together as a family.
Let your child trace his hand on a sheet of art paper.
- Tell your child that he can use his fingers to remember how to pray.
- Over the thumb, write "Praise". - Tell your child to start her prayer by praising God in words or song.
- Over the first finger, write "Thanksgiving". - Tell your child that next she can thank God for something He has done.
- Over the second finger, write "Confession". - Tell your child that, in prayer, it's good to tell God the things he has done wrong.
- Over the third finger, write "Petition". - Tell your child that next she should ask God for the things she needs, including asking for forgiveness for the things she confessed.
- Over the fourth finger, write "Intercession". - Tell your child that he can close his prayer by asking God to help others who need Him.
- Put the picture up where it can be seen and remembered. When your child has it memorized, she will have the steps in prayer with her all the time.
This is best for children grades four and up.
- Reassure your child that it's OK to tell God the things he does wrong.
- Reinforce the prayer model over time so that it becomes natural for your child to recall the steps on his fingers.