We want to help you integrate prayer into the culture of your home. Before we tell you how to teach your kids to pray, and give you ideas for how to start praying more as a family, we need to be sure you understand what we mean by prayer.
Prayer is the fancy word that means talking to God. Talking to God!
Praying is a huge privilege. Isn’t it amazing that your family can talk to the Creator God who has also become our Savior in Jesus Christ?
Prayer is an act of faith. We have a listening God who deeply cares for us like a Father cares for his children.
Prayer is the means of building a relationship with our listening God. Integrating prayer into your home isn’t like adding math to your homeschooling curriculum, or ballet to your extracurriculars. Prayer is the wonderful opportunity to help your children to get to know the greatest Person ever.
Prayer is the precious invitation from God for us to talk to him. Jesus gave his life on the cross and rose from the dead to mend our relationship with God—to bring us close to him again, so that when we run to him, there’s no more barrier between us, no more wrath for our sin, no more condemnation, just love (1 Peter 3:18; Romans 8:1). He has called us friends (John 15:15) and has welcomed us to entrust our greatest burdens to him (1 Peter 5:7).
Seeking to make the habit of prayer a greater part of your home life sounds like a project, but it’s not so formal or ritualistic as we think. You’re just learning to rally your family on any and every occasion to draw near to the Lord more often. Now, let’s talk about how to teach your kids to pray.
How to Teach Your Kids to Pray
Kids learn in two primary ways—by seeing and doing. They observe and then copy behavior they see, or they learn by trial and error. Kids learn to pray in the same two ways. They will learn how to pray by listening to Mom and Dad, pastors, babysitters, and friends pray. They will also learn to pray by praying themselves.
Therefore, to teach your kids to pray you must model prayer for them and invite them to pray. In other words, the best way to teach your kids to pray is to be, “constant in prayer,” always in open communication with the Lord, and to welcome your kids into that communication (Romans 12:12).
You understand now that prayer is the joyful pursuit of a relationship, which you want to invite your kids into, and you do that by praying with them, and inviting them to pray with you. But how do you practice doing both those things in your daily life?
How to Pray as a Family
We give you the following examples to inspire you to pray as a family. Sometimes a picture helps us more than raw instruction or how-to tips, and so we hope that these examples of how followers of Jesus pray with their families give you ideas for how to seek the Lord through prayer in your home.
1. Pray Together and Individually
We hope these two personal experiences from our editor encourage you to pray together as a whole family and to create opportunities for your kids to pray.
Every morning at breakfast, all five of us kids would gather at the kitchen counter around the phone. Mom would call Dad, who was already at the office, and he would pray, thanking God for the meal and committing our day to the Lord. When it came time for breakfast, one of us would say, “we need to call Dad!” We did not realize that our parents were teaching us to call Dad in a much deeper way—to cry out to our Heavenly Father at the start of every day.
Every evening, after we brushed our teeth and put on our pajamas, we gathered in Mom and Dad’s room for prayer. This time, each one of us kids would pray. I have sweet memories of hearing my youngest brothers learning to pray—sharing the honest thoughts of their hearts with God. My parents expected us to pray as soon as we could talk. At first this would take the form of repeating phrases after our parents, but as soon as we could form sentences on our own, we knew that we would get to say our own prayer with the family before bed.
Pray as a family together—but you don’t always have to be the one actually praying. Encourage your kids to pray!
2. About Anything and Everything
Psalm 62:8 says, “pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (ESV). Isn’t that a wonderful invitation? Pour out your heart! No holding back, no self-consciousness, no timidity. This precious psalm ends with two truths: first, that God loves us, and second, that he has the power to do something about the circumstances we bring to him (Psalm 62:1-12). Because we know God loves us and cares enough to act on our behalf, we can pour out our hearts before him in prayer. We can give him everything on our hearts.
Model for and invite your kids to pray about anything and everything. Here are two simple ways I have seen this beautifully done.
First, pray every time an ambulance or firetruck passes by with lights and sirens on. Someone is in trouble! As you’re driving with the kids, you can pray for God to have mercy on them, to give the first responders wisdom, help, and courage, and for Jesus to minister to the person who is hurt.
Are you going into a store to look for something you need? God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), and he loves to provide. Before you go to the store, you can stop and ask the Lord to provide just what you need.
You can share the burdens of your heart with the Lord in the hearing of your child. You can also invite your child to bring their cares to the Lord as well. When they fall and hurt themselves, when they are heading off to a sport, when they tell you they are sad, when they tell you something they desire, when they have hopes for the day, when they are disappointed and sad, when they go to the doctor, or when they are getting ready for their friend to come over—teach them to say, “Can we pray about it?”
The more specifically you pray, the more you will recognize the Lord’s specific answers. Don’t forget to praise God as a family when you witness the Lord’s work in your family’s life in direct answer to your prayers. That will be such a joyful experience!
Pray about anything and everything, trusting that God loves you and will respond to your prayers!
What to Pray as a Family
To start becoming more of a praying family, you just need to pray, pray, pray! Together, individually, about anything, and everything. Make the Lord part of every conversation. But, you may still be wondering, “What do I say?!” Jesus’ own disciples had the same question!
Here are a few directives from God’s Word about what to pray.
1. The Lord’s Prayer
The disciples had the very same question you do! They asked Jesus to teach them how to pray and he responded with what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” which is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. Jesus gave this prayer to his disciples as an example and framework for how to pray, not as one prayer to repeat over and over again. Consider praying through the Lord’s prayer as a family. If you don’t know how to do this, here’s an article we wrote for you on how to pray the Lord’s prayer.
There’s an acronym often used to teach people how to pray called A.C.T.S. This acronym stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. In other words, praise God for who he is, confess your sins to him, thank him for his goodness to you, and ask him for what you need! This is a wonderful way to structure your prayers as a family.
3. Don’t Worry Over What to Pray
God cares so much more about our hearts than our words. In fact, God doesn’t ever want us to worry about what to pray (Matthew 6:5-8). The eloquence, clarity, or choice of our words has no impact on how God responds—he looks at our hearts as we voice our concerns to him. And, he tells us something absolutely amazing—he is always praying for us. God’s Word gives us this great comfort:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV)
The Holy Spirit prays with us as we pray! We never need to worry about having the right words.
Start Praying More as a Family Today!
We hope you have a better idea of how to pray as a family. Know that God delights to hear your voice and the voice of your children, however that happens.
The Bible tells us the wonderful truth that God has spoken to us, and we pray that God’s Word is honored and treasured in your home. But God wants a relationship with us—he wants you to know him, but he also wants to know you and your kids!
The Bible welcomes us into the wonderful experience of speaking to God. May God give you and your children the faith to approach him with confidence always, and may prayer become a joyful regular part of your life at home.