Teaching Kids to Pray
by Maribeth Pipkorn
“I’m in a concert on Friday, and I’m really nervous. Pray that I will do a good job!”
“My cousin is really sick. Pray that she will stop having seizures.”
“Please pray that my parents will stop fighting. I’m scared they’re going to get a divorce.”
From the mundane to the serious, children have many needs to bring to God. But they may think their problem is too small for Him to care about or worry they won’t say the words just right. Or perhaps they’ve never even realized that they can have a conversation with God that goes beyond the rote “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
You can use the acronym PRAY to teach the kids in your class how to talk to God.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” (Psalm 100:4a) Teach the children in your class to spend part of their prayer time praising and thanking God for who He is and what He has done. The idea of praise can be a bit nebulous for a child, so make it practical and model it for them in your class. Here are a few activities you can try:
- Pass a ball around the circle. When the ball comes to you, say “God, I praise you because you are ____” and fill in the blank with one of God’s attributes. (You may need to help the children think of truths they know about God: He is holy, loving, patient, kind, etc.)
- Pray from head to toe! Have kids start at the top of their heads and work their way down their body thanking God for the amazing way He made them: “God, thank you for a mind that can think”, “Thank you for eyes that can see all the beautiful colors in the world”, “Thank you for a nose that can smell delicious food,” etc.
- Pray Scripture. Teach through a Psalm (such as Psalm 23) one verse at a time, pausing after each verse to thank God for the truth it teaches. (e.g., “God, thank you that you are the Good Shepherd who gives us everything we need.”)
Encourage the saved kids in your class to get into the habit of regularly confessing their sin to God and seeking His help to turn from their sin and do the right thing. Remind them of His promise to forgive! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The idea of praise can be a bit nebulous for a child, so make it practical and model it for them in your class.
Ask for others
Challenge the children in your class to intercede for the needs of others. Like all of us, kids are naturally selfish and tend to focus on their own needs first. You can ask questions to help them start thinking about the people around them and how those people might be struggling. When you collect prayer requests to put in the “God Can”, you might provide a prompt such as, “Who do you know that’s sick?” or “Pray for someone who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior.”
Your own needs
While prayer should never just be a laundry list of our own needs and concerns, let kids know that God does care deeply about their problems and concerns. 1 Peter 5:7 encourages them to be “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Let them know that no worry is too small for God to care about and no trial is too big for Him to handle. Make your class a safe place for children to share their personal prayer requests without fear of being laughed at or dismissed.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
God’s Answers to Prayer
It’s happened to all of us, and it will certainly happen to your students: They pray for an A on their spelling test and get a C instead. They pray for a grandparent’s healing and that person is still sick. Help kids in your class understand that while God promises to answer the prayers of His children, He doesn’t always say yes. In fact, there are three answers God gives to prayer:
- Yes. When we pray according to God’s will, He is eager to give us what we request. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
- No. Sometimes God says no to our prayers because He knows that what we want isn’t really what’s best for us. I’ll often use the analogy of a loving parent: “Do you think your mom would say yes if you asked to eat ice cream for dinner, drive her car without a license, or jump off the roof? Of course not! She would say no, not because she doesn’t love you, but because she DOES love you and wants to keep you safe.”
- Wait. Sometimes when it feels like God is saying “no,” He’s actually just saying “wait.” Think of the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in John 11. Jesus didn’t come right away when Lazarus got sick; in fact, He stayed where He was until after Lazarus had died. But then Jesus came in response to Mary and Martha’s request, and He raised Lazarus from the dead! The answer they got was so much more than they could have imagined—they just had to wait for it.
Help children in your class to know God is eager to hear from them in prayer and that they can count on Him to answer. He promises in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
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