Establishing a heart of prayer in our children is a crucial part of raising up the next generation in the ways of the Lord. Children are more than capable of praying, and they’re more willing to pray than we realize. We cannot afford to miss the amazing opportunity of nurturing and growing our children in prayer while they are still young. The habits we build early in life are the ones we carry into adulthood. We don’t just want praying children, we want children who love to pray!
However, in order to have children who are thriving prayer warriors, we must embrace the way they pray. We must not look down on their prayers or assume they’re less valid. Children are important vessels in the Kingdom of God now. They are rich in faith and pure in heart, both of which are excellent qualities for effective prayer (see James 5:16 and Matthew 5:8).
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)
Raising children who pray requires a mindset shift on what we think prayer should look like. Often times children can pray prayers that seem simple, short, or disingenuous. But God doesn’t ask for long, complicated, or even well-worded prayers (see Matthew 6:7). God is much more concerned with the heart than the outward appearance of a “good prayer” (see 1 Samuel 16:7).
A while back my oldest daughter was having some trouble sleeping at night. She drew a picture of her bed in her journal and wrote: “God, help me sleep.” That was it—short, simple, and to the point. However, this prayer came from a deep place of need in her heart and was every bit as valid as any prayer could be. God heard her prayer and she is sleeping much better at night!
Another way to foster a love for prayer in our children is by giving them real things to pray about and recognizing their need to connect with their heavenly Father in a deep and personal way. Children do not lack the spiritual capability of intimacy with God. If they are a believer in Jesus Christ, they have the same Holy Spirit we do, and they can pray just as effectively as any adult.
We must not patronize our kids by involving them only in prayer at the dinner table, or before bed. While these are excellent ways to incorporate prayer into our daily lives, we must also give our kids real needs to pray about and opportunities to connect deeply with their heavenly Father. Our children must see a purpose and a point to the praying. We wouldn’t be very motivated in boring or shallow praying, and kids aren’t either. Let’s not forget that kids are intuitive and can tell the difference between heartfelt prayer and simply going through the motions.
So, go deep in prayer with your children and expect that they can and will be deeply moved in this type of prayer. Remember, effective prayers come from homes, churches, and schools where genuine, sincere, and deep prayer is continually encouraged and modeled.
Another important aspect of raising effective prayer warriors who love to pray is embracing the developmental level of each child praying. There are so many ways to involve children in prayer. It does not have to be religious, forced, or boring. Prayer can be fun, purposeful, and Spirit-filled. Jesus Himself was very conscientious of how He ministered and spoke. He used stories and parables to help the people understand. Likewise, we must pray with our children in their “language”, in ways that they can best engage in.
For my two-year-old daughter, sometimes this looks like holding her on my lap while we trace her hands on a piece of paper and I bless her hands to heal, serve others, and work for the glory of God. She thanks God for her hands and repeats short prayers after me or comes up with her own. For my eight-year-old daughter, she connects well with prayer stations. She loves to learn, explore, and is ignited in prayer by visual aids, hands-on activities, and hearing the heartfelt needs of people. (For numerous ideas on how to engage children in prayer, please see the list of resources at the end of this article).
May the Holy Spirit lead, guide, and direct you into whatever works best for your children, or children’s ministry. No time spent on raising up a generation of children who pray will ever be wasted! So, put your time and energy into investing in something of eternal value, like fostering a love of prayer in the children in your life!
Heavenly Father, I pray that each person reading this article will be moved by the Holy Spirit to invest in the prayer life of any child in their sphere of influence. Give them wisdom, discernment, and creative ideas to engage children of all ages in prayer. Father, may you be glorified in the lives of our children. May you draw each child to pray and stir up a love for prayer. May our children hear your voice clearly and develop a powerful and effective prayer life as children that carries into adulthood! We love you Lord, Amen.