A Vision for Children’s Prayers
How do you model prayer to young children? I spend a lot of time worshipping with pre-school children. When I start to describe what I hope happens in their young hearts, I start to picture kids who know how to pray powerful prayers.
Children’s prayers that come from their hearts and reflect the deep connection they feel with Christ. Prayers for others, prayers for salvation, and freedom, and wisdom, and power. Prayers that are sincere and unscripted. But how do you help kids get to that point?
When I start to describe what I hope happens in children’s hearts, I picture kids who know how to pray powerful prayers. #kidmin
Motivating Children Toward Prayer
There is typically a big gap between this vision I have for children’s prayers and what actually happens—both when I am teaching kids at church and at home with my own children.
There are times when you can tell that a child’s prayer is sincere and no matter how simple the prayer, those prayers move me. But there are other times that it becomes obvious that kids just don’t know what to pray–especially in front of others.
In our worship circle, we have a time of prayer where each child has a chance to pray out loud, silently, or pass and let the next person in the circle have a turn. We work pretty hard to protect the circle, so that there is an atmosphere of worship and children feel safe enough to do something as vulnerable as pray out loud in front of their peers.
Work hard to protect the worship circle, so children feel safe enough to do something as vulnerable as pray out loud in front of others.
Just as you can usually tell a sincere prayer from one that is just blurted out to appease others or oneself, I kinda feel like you can tell a sincere “pass” from what I sometimes call the “contagious pass.” Where it becomes the norm to quickly pass on prayer and no one really wants to put themselves out there.
When this starts to happen in our worship circle, I have noticed that my kids start to try this at home during our family prayer time. Hmmmm…… I don’t want to force kids to pray, but I also don’t want them to simply pass on prayer like its an optional practice.
I don’t want to force kids to pray, but I also don’t want them to simply pass on prayer like its an optional practice.
Children’s prayers should be nurtured and protected. I want them to feel like they can talk to Jesus about anything, I want them to give credit to God for who He is and what He has done, I want them to feel the power of God’s presence that happens when we gather in His name.
Using Prayer Prompts as a Practical Tool to Focus Children’s Prayers
I made a set of prayer prompts a couple of years ago by simply gluing pictures onto wooden disks I found at Hobby Lobby. We use them from time to time when for whatever reason the kids don’t seem interested in praying as part of our time together. After a couple of weeks of the contagious pass, I pull out these prayer prompts and give each child one thing to pray about.
This is just a practical way to switch things up a bit and help them forget that they didn’t want to pray by helping them get over their self-consciousness.
They still have the option to pass or to pray silently, but for most of the children just having something to hold in their hand and one thing to focus their prayer on, helps get them past the pass.
As much as possible, I let them choose which prayer prompt they want to pray about, but sometimes we just pass them out and they get what they get…and hopefully don’t throw a fit.
Warning: Their favorite thing to pray about is their family. We had some not so healthy competition arise from trying to get that particular prompt. I eventually had to put the prompts away for a while and reintroduce them after the kids had forgotten about them for a bit.
Now that you have heard how we use these prayer prompts, here are some additional ideas for using them to guide children’s prayers:
- Use them with children who are just starting to grasp language. They may not be able to formulate their own prayer, but may be able to repeat a simple prayer after you while holding one of the prayer prompts.
- Use them with an individual child, to help them to pray about a wider variety of things. You could start by
leading the child through each prompt, but as the child becomes familiar with the pictures, he or she could use them to pray independently, perhaps even in a playful way by sorting and switching up the order of the circles.
- Give them to an older child who feels self-conscious about praying out loud. Perhaps having something concrete to focus their prayer time will help them.
- I know our dinner time prayers usually aren’t overly sincere. Just check out this post I wrote about prayer in my house here. Maybe use them as a family and have each person pray for one thing. These aren’t overly deep prayers, but they do give credit to God for what He has done in our lives which is a foundational principle for maturing faith down the road.
- You could take one of the prayer prompts and center your prayer time around that one item, having each person thank God for something related to that topic. For example, for the Thank you God for your world prompt, each person could thank God for something or someone He created. Or for the Thank you God for my friends, each person could thank God for one of their friends. You get the point..
We use the prayer prompts for a couple of weeks and then switch it up again and go back to going around the circle letting children have a chance to pray out loud. After a couple of weeks with the prayer prompts, more people pray instead of pass even without the prompts.
These prayer prompts offer a good way to bridge the gap between not praying at all and praying from the heart and are just one way of involving children in learning the practice of prayer in their lives.
When I made the set we use in our church, I wasn’t blogging or thinking about how to share resources with others so I simply printed off some pictures off google and made the prompts. But because I want you to be able to use this tool without going through a bunch of work to find the pictures, I made you a set with pictures from the public domain so I am not infringing on any copyright laws….whew!
They are a little different than what we use, but in some ways I like them better. Maybe I will have to update our set😀. Here is a preview of the new prayer prompts I made for you to use as a tool to motivate and focus children’s prayers.
I used 2.5 inch (3 inch circles would be fine) wooden circles and mod podged the pictures onto the disks. Gluing the pictures to the wooden circles makes them really durable so they can be used again and again. You can pick some up at a craft store or on Amazon. With this pack of circles, you can make two sets. I think the circles I used are thicker than 1/8″ though….more like 1/4″.
More Ideas for Children’s Prayers
We also do some corporate prayer activities to help the children get used to participating in the prayer time. Sometimes we sing the doxology as our prayer, sometimes we go around and each person says one thing they are thankful to God for and then I pray at the end, and sometimes we teach a short prayer or Scripture we can say together as a prayer.
Sometimes we all pray about one thing and that helps get more children to participate–especially when we pray about a real need one of the children is experiencing in their life. We have prayed for children who are going to have surgery, or those waiting to be adopted, or those who are in the midst of some type of difficulty. These have been some of my favorite prayer times as I have seen the level of empathy and compassion the kids have for one another show up in their prayers.
Here are some other resources for deepening children’s prayers. Follow Me on Pinterest for more ideas!
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I would love to hear what you think of these prayer prompts and any other ideas you have for using them to motivate and focus children’s prayers. Show some love in the comments below or give this post a little share, so others can check out Grace and Wondering.