1. Set aside a specific time: This might be as part of the night time routine. Or it could be part of a regular routine such as driving to school. To make prayer a daily habit, set aside a daily time.
2. Impromptu prayer: It’s important to set aside a time each today to focus and dedicate to prayer. But it is also important to model praying spontaneously to God throughout the day. This can be as simple as thanking God for something a child is happy or excited for. Or if a child is sad, praying in the moment asking for God’s comfort.
3. Keep it short and simple: Jesus warns us against praying like the hypocrites, who love to pray for an audience in public (Matthew 6:5). Jesus also warns us not to pray like pagans, babbling on with too many words (Matthew 6:7). A longer prayer is not more powerful or effective. So keep the prayer time short and simple. This will also allow you to maintain focus so that praying with a child isn’t overwhelming.
4. Say grace: As soon as children learn to speak, they can learn to say grace. Our son Tyler who is 2.5 years old enjoys the privilege of saying grace at meals whether at home or with friends. He simply says ‘Dear God, thank you for the food, Amen’.
5. Pray from a young age: It is never too early to teach children to pray. If you have a baby, pray as you wrap them, hold them and put them down to sleep. You might want to pray a simple prayer such as ‘Mummy loves you, Daddy loves you, but most of all God loves you. Thank you God for today’.
6. Prayer is not optional: Prayer is not optional in the Christian life. Prayer is central to our relationship with God. Children are members of God’s family. So prayer is just as important for them. There are a number of non-negotiables parents have in place, for example we brush our teeth and we go to school. So a non-negotiable for Christian families is that we pray. Be careful not to make prayer a battle of wills. But use language that models that praying is not optional. Rather than asking ‘Do you want to pray?’ instead say ‘What can we thank God for?’ or ‘Are you going to start the prayer or should I?’
7. Pray for people: Print photos of family and friends and have them on a bookmark, poster on the fridge or set of cards. Choose one or two people to pray for each day and then rotate through. Pray for family and friends who are Christian but also for those who do not yet know God. This demonstrates to children a missional heart desiring for the lost to be saved.
8. Use simple copy prayers: Write some simple family prayers that children can learn by heart e.g. ‘Good morning Jesus. We want to live this day for you. Please bless all we think, say and do. Amen’.
9. Pray for your church. Think about upcoming events or special celebrations such as Easter and Christmas. Pray for the leaders and for other children at City Kids and Youth. This demonstrates the value of praying for God’s family, the church.
10. Use prayers in the bible: For older children it is important for prayers to be shaped by what the bible teaches. Choose a prayer in the bible such as Psalm 8, Matthew 6:9-13 or Colossians 1:3-14. Use the Contemporary English Version or International Children’s Bible so the language is accessible. Read through a few verses of the prayer each. Talk about the prayer or use the prayer as a model and structure to pray as a family.
Please note that some ideas in this article have been adapted from material written by Kidswise (Sandy Galea).