Teaching about prayer

Are your children praying? Not just over their meals, but do they know how to get a prayer through to God? As a parent, you can’t be available to them 24/7, but God is everywhere all the time and can answer their prayers in His perfect timing. Just as you can decipher the urgency of your children’s request—how much more does your Father in heaven hear the cries of His children (both young and old) and answer according to His will?

You must instill your faith in God into your children by teaching them to pray at the earliest age possible. If you missed the boat in this—there is still much grace from God to begin today:

#1) Start by Example

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 11:1)

Is prayer an important part of your life? Do you pray with your children on a daily basis? An active, intentional prayer life keeps you sharp and connected to God. It will give your children great hope and assurance when they know you are praying for them. They will more likely begin to pray for themselves and others as they watch your prayer life.

#2) Use Prayers from the Bible

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)

The “Our Father” is one of the most widely known prayers in the Bible that brings incredible unity in the body of believers when prayed together. Find the prayers of Moses, Nehemiah, David, Solomon, and Jesus for starters. Begin the practice of memorizing and reciting prayers together as a family.

#3) Pray Scriptures

“For the word of God is alive and active.” (Hebrews 4:12)

You must instill your faith in God into your children by teaching them to pray at the earliest age possible.

When my son was younger, he was afraid of the dark. I taught him to pray “God, you haven’t given me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and of a sound mind” from 2 Timothy 1:7. Eventually he’s grown up to know that he can translate any of God’s scriptures to a prayer language. God’s word is the sword of the Spirit that our children can use to impact the world with powerful prayers.

#4) Practice A-C-T-S 

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant.” (Daniel 9:17)

Years ago I learned how to pray A-C-T-S as a guideline and taught it to my children. The acronym is: A (give adoration to God), C (confess our sins), T (to give thanks), and S (to make supplication or requests). For our family devotions everyone participated in this prayer with confession being a silent prayer between God and the children. This became an effective tool for prayer that they still use today in their personal prayer time.

#5) Demonstrate Body Posture

“When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.” (1 Kings 8:54)

Whether standing, sitting, kneeling, or stretched out —your outward expression of faith in prayer helps keep you focused. Children can be accustomed to a certain position of praying out of habit. By changing the prayer posture from kneeling to standing with palms open—your children learn to physically engage in their prayers and experience the practice of humility before an awesome God.

#6) Encourage your Children to Pray out Loud

“A time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when asked to pray out loud? There’s a time for silent prayers, but your children may have opportunities to speak out loud when praying. You can use your family devotion times as a chance for them to practice in a safe, comfortable place. Their confidence will build so they will always be ready to pray out loud in school, church events or wherever God leads them.           

#7) Look for Opportunities to Pray

“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Driving past an accident, a classmate whose parent’s are divorcing, trouble with grades, etc…all of these circumstances need prayer. As you keep alert to intercessory opportunities, your children will eventually bring their requests to your devotional time together. Let your children hear “let’s pray about it” from you when life throws a curve ball at them. It will build their faith in God to answer according to His will.

#8) Keep a Family Prayer Journal

“Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered.”
(Exodus 17:14)

Wouldn’t it be nice one day to go through a family prayer journal like you peruse through old photographs? Writing down your prayer requests and God’s answers can speak volumes to a child’s faith. It gives credence of God’s faithfulness and encourages them to seek out His face on a regular basis as well as stretching their faith in praying for the impossible.

These tips are just guidelines to get your family started on a greater journey of faith. God blesses you with so many opportunities to reveal His hand, His love, and His presence in the lives of your children. Make prayer a top priority for your family—one day you may be the beneficiary of your children’s children prayers!

Looking for more tips? Take a look at the collection:

Advice & Tips for the Christian

Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Have you ever heard a child pray?

If so, you can probably agree that it is one of the most precious things to hear. Children have an innocent faith about them and if they are praying about something, theyre usually praying right from the bottom of their heart speaking to God with childlike faith.

If youre wondering how to teach your children about prayer, I commend you for your desire to teach such an important principle to your children.

Prayer is a powerful tool and if taught to children while they are young, its likely that they will pray throughout their whole lives.

teaching about prayer

Here are some practical ways to teach your children about prayer…

Lead by Example:

Children will learn a great deal about prayer as they hear you pray. Pray in the morning, before meals, during family time, when someone is ill, at bedtime, or anytime for that matter!

As you boldly declare your faith in prayer to God, your children will be more apt to want to follow in your footsteps. They may even add to your prayers spontaneously.

Promote Talking:

Children might be apprehensive if they hear formal prayers and wonder if they could pray so eloquent.

Teach your children that praying simply means talking to God. Just like they would talk to their teacher, parent, or friend, they can talk to God. Let them know that there is really no right or wrong way to talk to God; they can simply share their feelings, thoughts, and concerns.

Read Bible stories together:

There are plenty of times that Jesus or others in the Bible prayed to God. Read Bible stories with your children as often as you can, as they will get to learn more about God and hear how men prayed to God back in the ancient days.

There are many Bible story books available to choose from. There are also childrens prayer books you could purchase and read together.

Write out some prayers:

If your child is struggling with an issue such as fear or ill health, write out some prayers to God that he or she can pray on occasion. I know one child who taped a piece of paper to her wall by her bed that had prayers written on it. She prayed those prayers every night before going to sleep.

Let your children know that they dont have to pray word for word, but to use the prayers as a guide. You dont want them to think that their doing it wrong.

Remind them of answered prayers:

If you and your children have prayed about something and that prayer was answered, let them know.

If you prayed for Aunt Susie to recover from the flu in record time and she did, celebrate the answered prayer with your children. This will act as a faith builder for them and theyll be more apt to pray in the future.

Give them a prayer journal:

Prayer journaling is a great way for your children to learn how to pray. Purchase or make a prayer journal out of a notebook and give it to your child. Tell him to write down prayers, as well as thoughts and feelings. Encourage him to make a note when a prayer has been answered.

This will help him to build his faith and express his feelings and desires to God.

Go through the Lords Prayer:

Matthew 6:9-13 is known as the Lords Prayer. Take your children through this prayer and discuss how Jesus prayed and how they can use the same type of prayer as an example while they pray.

The Lords Prayer can teach them to:

“Honor God

Ask God for daily needs to be met

Ask for forgiveness for sins

Promote protection from evil

Be thankful”

Have regular family prayer time:

Im sure youve heard the saying, A family that prays together stays together. Praying as a family is advantageous in various ways. There is a bond that is formed as people pray together and you can share that as a family.

Your children will come to love family prayer time, as there is much love and devotion during that time. Pray for each other, friends, the Body of Christ, the hurt, lost, lonely, afflicted, and so on. Commit to regular family prayer time and know that your prayers are powerful and changing lives.

Teaching your children to pray is a wonderful act of love and service. The power of prayer is remarkable and to instill that to your children is a worthwhile goal. It doesnt matter how old your children are now; you can begin teaching them about prayer today.

As you esteem prayer in your house, your children will come to understand that prayer is simply a part of life and be more apt to pray now and later in life.

Prayer works!


Prayer:  Talking to God with Your Hands

This children’s message was originally written for a Christian School chapel of 1st – 6th graders.  It teaches the basic elements of prayer and encourages children to establish prayer as a habit in their own lives.  What I’ve written below would be a 15-20 minute presentation, but you can extract the main points for a children’s sermon on Sunday morning. You could also add some additional content for a children’s church lesson.

We’ve also posted some prayer coloring pages for kids. That might be a good activity to add to this Bible lesson.

(Ask the following questions):

  • Does anyone here like to talk on the phone?
  • Do any of you talk on the computer with emails, IM, or Skype?
  • Who do you like to talk to and what about?
  • How many of you have cell phones?
  • How many of your parents have cell phones?  Do they get upset if they lose their phones?

Talking with people is important to us!  We make sure that we can call others whenever we want.  We also make sure people can reach us wherever we are.

So if talking to people is easy and we do it all the time, why is it so hard to spend time talking with God?

(Invite responses such as:  We get busy.  We don’t see Him all the time so we forget.  We don’t know how.  We might question whether God is really listening.  We might think our problems are too small.)

Why is it important to talk with God?

  1. God wants us to know Him.
  2. God really does answer prayer.
  3. God loves us through prayer.
  4. We love God through prayer.

Today we’re going to learn how to pray.  Remember that it’s as simple as talking to someone you love.  (Write out the word TALK as an acrostic on a whiteboard/chalkboard.)

T:  TAKE the TIME: (Have children point to a pretend watch on their wrist.)
Find time in your day to talk to God.  Pray at the same time each day.  Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth.  Ya’ll brush your teeth, right?

A:  AHHHHHH…. Quiet: (Have children take a deep breath with you.)
Find a quiet place in your home.  Turn the TV off, your music off, and find a way to escape from your little brother.  Sit under a table, go in your closet if it’s big enough, make a fort, whatever!

L:  LEARN from God’s Word. (Have children place hands palm side up as if holding a Bible.)
Read one verse a day.  If you’re up for the challenge, read one chapter a day.  Try to understand what God is saying to you.  Ask a grown-up who knows Jesus for help if you need it.

K:  KEEP a Prayer Plan. (Have children pretend like they are writing.)
Write down how to pray.  Pray that way.  Write down praises, prayer requests, and verses that mean a lot to you.  Keep it simple or else you won’t keep doing it.

(Repeat each component at least once, if not twice to ensure retention.)

Do any of you like to talk with your hands? (Mimic people who talk with their hands:  chefs, airline stewardesses, tour guides, photographers, pastors, etc.)

Today our hands are going to help us learn how to pray.  As long as your hands go home with you today (please tell me they will!) you should remember our lesson.  You’ve got five fingers and we’ve got five parts of prayer.  You ready?

1.  PRAISE: Praise is saying what you love about someone.  It’s saying, “God, I love that you are good.  I love how you made the ocean.  I love that you sent Jesus for our sins.”  (As you list each example, number them with your fingers and invite the children to do the same.)

2. CONFESS: Confession is a big word for spit up.  It means to get the junk out of your life.  It’s when you ask for forgiveness of your sins.  It’s saying, “I’m sorry that I lied.  Forgive me for getting in a fight with my brother.  I’m sorry for not loving you like I should.”  (As you list each, use your hands to mimic throwing up.)

3. READ: Reading God’s word helps us see ourselves as in a mirror.  It helps us understand who God is and who we are.  It helps us to pray because we know who we’re praying to.  (Mimic turning pages or holding up a mirror.)

4. ASK: God says in Matthew 21:22 that, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  Pray for others.  Pray for yourself.  Ask for people to be saved, for God to provide, for wisdom to understand, for help in temptation, for people to be healed.  (Invite children to fold their hands as in prayer.)

5. THANKS: God has done so much for us.  What can you be thankful for today?  (Invite children to list items.  Lead the children in a lively worship song of praise/thanksgiving such as “He has made me glad.”  Have them clap their hands in thanks.)

(Review each of the parts of the Prayer Plan with the hand motions to cue the students’ memory.  Review a second time with only the bolded words.  Have students demonstrate the hand motions for each.  Close the lesson in prayer.  Follow the prayer plan, keeping it brief to hold students’ attention.)

Length: 14:12


Today, we are talking about teaching prayer to children. We need to develop a vocabulary to communicate the significance of prayer in terms that they can understand and apply to their own spiritual lives. And then, we’ll need to offer them opportunities to put it into action. We should pray with them and encourage regular family prayer times.

Now, parents have a lot of control over this. We can personally implement family prayer time. As Sunday School teachers and Youth Ministry leaders, we can train our students about prayer and open their eyes to its meaning and blessings. And we can also send them home with tools to equip their parents to take on family prayer time.

The first question is: How are we teaching what prayer is? We can explain that praying is like talking with God, and children largely understand it. I like to talk with children about Genesis; about the narrative of man’s creation. God makes man in His image, and then talks with him. He creates a beautiful garden for him, offering him all sorts of delightful plants and animals to enjoy.

And even as we discuss man’s fall, we see that Genesis 3:8 reads, “Then, they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden that afternoon.” This was a routine occurrence. Adam and Eve were accustomed to walking with God; enjoying conversation and communion with Him right there in their beautiful home. That’s what prayer is. Prayer is our opportunity to commune with God in the garden. God wishes to spend time with us, and this is how we do it.

Now, on the other hand, it is also important to communicate with children that prayer is not exactly the same as a conversation between people. The very young ones are concrete thinkers, and they can be troubled by the idea that they are talking to God, and He is not answering. They say words and ask questions, and they aren’t getting words back like they think they should. This can be confusing and frustrating, and it can lead them to abandon prayer as a worthless project.

Children need to understand the subtleties of how God communicates with us. And I find that the image that has served me best, both with my own children and in my Sunday School class, has been the soft heart, which we read about in Ezekiel 36:26 where God says, “I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall take the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” We may have hearts of unfeeling stone, but God can replace them with soft hearts of flesh.

Children can easily grasp the idea that our souls have hearts, much like our bodies. Now, this is not the same heart that beats and sends blood to our organs, but it’s the heart that hurts when we’re rejected or lonely. Kids understand whether this heart is hard or soft already, because they’re seeing it on the playground all the time.

Some of their peers are hardhearted, teasing other children and feeling no compassion or sympathy for the pain they cause. Others have softer hearts, which are easily bruised and which ache for people in pain. We can teach our kids to develop softer hearts by using the tools that God gives us – prayer, fasting, attending church services, charity and service work, and study.

In particular, prayer changes hearts. As we spend more and more time in the presence of God, he transforms our hearts from stone to flesh. You might offer them a piece of clay to rub in their warm hands. The clay begins hard and almost solid and impenetrable, like our hearts, but as we work it with our hands, the warmth makes the clay soft and pliable.

God’s warm presence does that for us. It transforms the hardness of our hearts into softness, and just like that clay, our hearts might just grow hard again if we stop praying for awhile. But simply returning to prayer begins to warm us up again. Kids can really hold onto this analogy and understand it. Once they have this concrete image in their minds, we can present them with the key piece of information. A soft heart loves more, feels more, and most importantly is more able to receive God’s love and mercy and His messages.

If we want to walk in the garden with God, we need soft hearts so that those hearts can feel the messages that God sends. Now, this makes a lot of sense, because God is love. And a soft heart really feels love more intensely. Indeed, Christ teaches us to love one another as we love ourselves, and a soft heart has empathy. It feels the pain of others.

Children can understand this concept and make it their own. This idea clarifies the purpose of all sacraments and worship. We spend time in the presence of God in order to soften our hearts that we might feel His presence and live in His love.

Now that we have the concept of prayer and its purpose, we need to give our children the opportunity to practice prayer and to see its effects firsthand. In the Sunday Schools and Youth Ministries, we should be sending home kits and practical tips for making this happen in every family’s home. And as parents, we must be consistently creating family experiences.

Now, of course, most families are already coming together for some evening family prayer time. But here are some ideas to make sure the kids are active participants. Even if we already have a solid tradition working in our homes, it can be invigorating to mix it up a little bit; to introduce something new to bring it alive for our children.

The first obvious questions about family prayer time are when and where? For most families, evening prayers are the logical time to bring the family together for prayer. In some households, this is best done right after dinner. While in others, it’s the last thing to do before the children are tucked in for bed. In a large family like mine, with children spread in age from toddler through middle school, it’s a tricky question. We like to bring our family together for prayers just before the first child heads off to bed, though it will be a few hours before the oldest ones retire.

Once a family has found a good when, they need a good where. And the clear answer is to create an icon corner. Having a small space set aside for prayers is such a beautiful Orthodox tradition. And I love how we literally carve out a space for Christ in our homes. Although of course, He’s welcome throughout the house. But how wonderful to have a sacred space in the home – a space reserved for Him. I think of Christ preparing us rooms in His Father’s mansion, and I smile to think that we’ve prepared Him a room here too.

Now generally speaking, the icon corner is the space where the household keeps its icons – certainly one of Christ and one of His mother, the Theotokos, and then some icons that are special to the family. Perhaps there’s a little table or bookshelf, which holds candles or prayer books and incense. Many people set this up in the parents’ bedroom, which is beautiful because it’s a distinctly private and intimate space, protected from the more public spaces in a home.

On the other hand, in my house, our icon corner is right up front near the entryway. I like that too, because it makes a statement in the public place that this house is dedicated to God. But the real reason we have our prayer space out in the open is because we’re a large family, and we need some elbow room when we gather our five children and two parents for prayers. I also like the idea that the kids can approach the prayer corner at any time day or night, without disturbing the rooms inhabitants.

This icon corner is generally is something that the parents set up and design, so how can we give our kids ownership in it too? For one thing, I think it’s lovely when the kids are able to select some of the icons on the wall. You may wish to hang icons of each of their name’s saints. Now, our family is of Montenegrin heritage in the Serbian Orthodox Church, where we as a family share a patron saint, our Krsna Slava. In our house, that’s St. Luke the Evangelist, so we have an icon of St. Luke or Sveti Luka, as I fondly think of him.

Along with icons of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His holy mother, our intercessor, the Theotokos, we have all sorts of icons up there. Each of our children were allowed to look through some icon catalogs and select their contribution to the icon corner. One chose the Prophet Elias’ ascension in the chariot of fire. Another chose an image of Christ walking on water and reaching out to St. Peter, because she so loved the children’s song on the subject in Gigi Shadid’s Fruits of the Spirit. We have Christ’s creation of the cosmos for my future astronaut, and St. Mary of Egypt for my lion lover. Each child has a special icon up there, because she loved it, and that invites them into real ownership of this space.

Hanging besides those icons, I have a white plate on the wall. I’ve painted some gold crosses on it and divided it into two spaces – one for the living and one for the dead. With dry erase markers, our family is constantly writing names on this plate. Every night when we say our prayers, we read this list of names and ask the Lord’s mercy on them. Throughout the day, my children are comfortable grabbing a marker and adding a name to the plate. I always know who is absent from school as they are sure to be added to the sick and suffering list.

Whenever we see a news report about a deceased celebrity, that name suddenly appears on our list with additional prayers for their family on the living side. My kids are always on the lookout for people who should be on the list. Perhaps the best, way for them to learn intercessory prayer is to do intercessory prayer.

I absolutely recommend that every family have such a list with a pen right there, so that their children can add names in their own hand; writing the names of their friends and loved ones and even strangers in need to lift them up to the Lord in prayer. Whether we’re using an attractive plate or a white board or a pad of paper, we should all have lists available to our children, so that they can request prayers and then see their whole family come together to offer them up.

Another great way to keep children directly involved in the prayers is to think about our prayer books. Kids who can read should have copies of the prayers we’re praying. And in my experience, even the kids who can’t read like to hold books. I like the little blue book, My Orthodox Prayer Book, published by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Department of Religious Education, as it’s printed in large font, and it uses simple and clear language that children can read and understand. I have enough copies for our whole family on the prayer table, plus a couple of extras for when we have an overnight guest or two.

In addition to the evening prayers we read, I like to select a few other prayers – prayers of thanksgiving or prayers for the sick or the dead; short psalms and neat prayers I found in various places. I print them on index cards. The kids who are old enough to read are welcome to select prayers from this pile and read them during prayer time. In this way, we give them some ownership over our choice of prayers, and we’re also training them to have variety in their prayer life.

I am particularly hopeful that my children will have various prayers memorized (prayers for the sick or the dead, for troubled times, or offered in joyful thanksgiving), so that whenever they need them, whatever happens, they’re always armed with the wise spiritual guidance and nourishment, we find in our rich Orthodox tradition.

These prayers that we read are not just one-way messages sent up to God, but they’re also little lessons in how to approach God; how to think about our struggles and our joys. They teach us the right attitude toward God and toward life, educating us on how to live a good life with God’s love and His peace. We are so blessed with a rich tradition of prayers that simultaneously express our thoughts to God and offer us guidance about how to think about things. Let’s make sure that our children are enjoying this blessing right along side us, and let us hope that they’ll have these words within easy reach whenever they come across a difficult situation or a bump in the road.

So whether you’re a Sunday School teacher offering parents a way to improve their family prayer life or a parent shepherding your own personal flock, let’s take the time to talk about prayer with children. Let’s tell them about how prayer will transform their hearts; how it will soften and warm them so that they can be filled up with God’s love and His mercy.

And then, let’s make sure that they have plenty of opportunities to pray, practicing right alongside their families and teachers. Let’s find ways to make them partners in family prayer routines. Let’s do what we can to equip these smallest saints through a good Orthodox life.


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