Prayer Begins at Home.
“The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14 NIV). That’s what Jesus said about children as they scrambled to be near him. They have a simple, trusting faith and a natural, honest response to God. The prayers of children must be some of the sweetest sounds in God’s ears.
What could be more important than making prayer a priority in our homes? What more precious responsibility do we have than leading our children into God’s presence? And yet, in our daily reality, prayer can sometimes be pushed aside by the busyness of family life. Or perhaps we feel uncomfortable or inadequate when it comes to prayer, so we shy away from it.
But you can make prayer a regular part of your family’s day. Here are a few ways to get you started.
1. Make Prayer a Habit
Like anything worth pursuing, we may need to put in a little extra effort up front. Making prayer a habit is not about turning it into some automatic, lifeless exercise. It’s about creating a regular space for an encounter with God. When prayer becomes a habit, we find our thoughts and words naturally turning to God. What could be more life-giving than that?
Beginning a new habit takes a plan. Where and how would you like to pray more with your kids? First thing in the morning? Mealtime? Bedtime? Would you like to include more time for thanksgiving? Pray consistently for the people and needs that are important to your family? Or speak words of blessing over each of your children?
Set a goal. Then start small. Pick one way to increase prayer time, and keep at it until it becomes a part of your family’s rhythm. It takes time to form new habits. Be patient, and be persistent. Another tip: hitch your new prayer time to something you already do every day. At home with my preschoolers we always pray with our morning snack. It’s become such a habit that the kids are quick to remind me if I forget!
2. Model Prayer
The best way to ensure prayer becomes a regular part of your child’s life is to make sure they see it as a regular part of your life. Let them see you pray. Let them hear you pray. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t have to sound like anyone else’s prayer. What’s important is that your child hears their mother or father talking to the Heavenly Father. What impacts them most is the evidence that you have a personal connection with God. Children are great imitators. When prayer is natural to your lips, it will become natural to theirs.
How do you model prayer for your kids? Do you approach it as a duty or bore, with the same enthusiasm as taking out the garbage? Or do you come to prayer with anticipation, reverence, and joy? Attitudes rub off even more than words.
Prayer is a wonderful, holy privilege, with life-changing implications. It should be real and vibrant in our lives. If it’s not, perhaps it’s time to look at our own priorities as parents, and make time to revitalize our relationship with God.
3. Make Room for God
If you are making prayer a habit in your home and modeling it for your children, you are giving them an open door to an audience with God.
Each child will have their own way of responding to God and expressing themselves. Encourage them, but don’t force them. Let them experience the joy of opening their hearts to God in prayer. Don’t belittle their beginning efforts. You may be surprised by the powerful simplicity of their prayers. “Let the little children come unto me,” Jesus said. We can be their guides in a life of prayer, but ultimately they must each make their own connection with God.
Some of the most poignant moments I’ve had as a parent are when my children have caught me off guard with their spontaneous prayers.
“Dear Lord, please heal our neighbour’s mom and take her cancer away.”
“Thank you God for tractors!”
“Mommy, I want to ask God to give me a new heart.”
Sometimes they jump at the chance to say grace before meals, other times they balk. Sometimes their prayers are a little unorthodox, like the time we prayed for the characters in a storybook! Sometimes they fidget and fuss, and I wonder if they’re getting it.
But, God hears. And this is the wonder. I know he bends down close to capture every word. I know He is delighted just by their presence.
And at the end of the day, we are all learning together, leaning into God together, listening together. As parents, we have much we can teach them. And as children, they have much to teach us about running freely into Jesus’ arms.
Lindsey Gallant is a wife, mother, and writer with a love of everyday theology. She grew up in the Northwest Territories, but has chosen Prince Edward Island as home where she lives with her husband and two children on their tiny homestead. Check out Lindsey’s blog www.TheRedLettersBlog.com