The Bible is full of honest prayers. See Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. Or Moses at the burning bush. Or Paul in prison. Or Job in his struggles. God is not bothered by honesty. I believe He is bothered when we do not bring ALL to Him in prayer. It’s okay to question but don’t get stuck there. Allow God to do what He does best—work things for your good, if you belong to Him.
Be honest about your needs in your prayer time with your family. Don’t hesitate to ask your children to pray about certain issues. Of course, you don’t discuss anything they don’t need to know about. When they see you have prayer needs as well they will be more willing to open up in your prayer time. (Heb 13:18 )
No need to be stuffy or formal in your prayers. Kids might question your authenticity if you don’t pray to God like you speak in your everyday life. Remember, it’s a conversation, not a speech. If you are willing to pray instantly, your prayers will be authentic and come from the heart. Get in the habit of praying without ceasing.
Be quick to show answers to prayer too. And keep record of them. It will build your faith and bring more authenticity to your prayer time because you have specific praise to bring to Him and not vague “Thanks for this day” prayers.
You are an example. Model prayers that will last. Jesus did just that with the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13) Allow the Holy Spirit to help you pray God’s will (Rom 8 ) and you will most definitely be authentic.
Family prayer, in its highest form, involves the whole family. Does God only speak to adults? Do children, even young ones, not need to bring adoration and supplication to their Heavenly Father? We must be careful to include even the youngest of our clan to talk to the Lord, and to hear from Him.
Let everyone express the Lord in their own ways. (1 Cor. 12:4-12) We all have unique ideas and vocabulary (especially children!) and prayer is not the time to be restrictive. Be careful correcting grammar or topics of prayer. When I pray with my children I take care that they are praying according to Scriptural guidelines, but aside from that I let them talk. I would not police their conversations with friends or grandparents, so why would I with God? Maybe they would rather draw a picture of their prayer, sing it aloud or write it in a poem. These are all wonderful ways to express prayer that everyone can join in on.
There are several examples in the Bible of the Children of Israel coming together for prayer and fasting, from the oldest to the youngest. They all called upon the Lord together. Parents are admonished to teach God’s ways to their children at all times. And make a study of the different types of prayer and how people expressed their individuality. Even a two-year old can pray simple prayers, even if they are repeated, until they can express their own thoughts.
Expect everyone to participate. Give opportunities to all. Anticipate what God will do in the hearts of your children as you encourage their prayers. If you expect more, they will rise to it.
We are not talking about hype or entertainment. It’s more meaningful than that. When we speak to our living God we should be full of anticipation, excitement and joy.
Make it real. Kids know when you are just going through the motions, and those prayers are a drag. It’s okay to bring needs to family prayer. It is humbling (and comforting too) to hear your daughter or son pray for your bad attitude or your upcoming job evaluation.
Encourage them a lot. Ask them what God is speaking to them. Talk to them as the spiritual beings they are. Give them a chance to tell you and then check it against God’s Word together. I always do that with my kids’ prayer group. Every time someone felt God was speaking to them we went to the Bible to verify it. The kids would light up when they found it in Scripture and realized they really heard from God.
Discuss similar situations from your own life and how prayer helped you (or could have helped you). Children enjoy practical examples and a personal story can go a long way in encouraging and inspiring your young ones.
Look for examples in the Bible together. Search out answers to your prayer needs, look for prayers, and how people handled situations similar to yours. God’s Word is quick and powerful (Heb 4:12), and it doesn’t get more exciting than that!
Have praise and worship time that gets everyone focused on the Lord. Some of my favorite memories are of the kids and I singing and dancing to some rockin’ praise music, lifting our arms and singing to beat the band. We fall to the sofa on a heap then catch our breaths before regrouping to pray. We got the wiggles out and are ready to focus on God and others.
Ways to make your family prayer time more vibrant include:
neighborhood prayer walks
praying for the sick at the hospital
creating “prayer central”: dry wipe board for requests/needs, map, scrapbook with photos of family and people groups
start a family prayer journal
making collages of nations on your heart
adopting a missionary families
Principle 2: Be Word-focused
When praying with your kids, make sure to include a lot of Scripture. They need to get their prayers from God’s Word, and they need to see what God says about their situation. We must keep our minds fixed on the Lord (1 Cor. 10:3-6).
We can’t know everything about a situation. We must get the mind of the Lord, properly applying the Word to the situation. Heb. 4:12 Our children must learn how to search God’s Word for themselves. Teach them how to use a concordance and how to pray scriptures. One book I highly recommend is Praying the Scriptures by Judson Cornwall.
Show then the Bible isn’t just a dusty old book on the shelf. It is alive and filled with God’s solutions. He will speak to them from His Word just as He does you. Let them own that. Give them opportunities to hear from God through His Word.
When they read God’s Word faithfully, they will increase their spiritual vocabulary. It is the highest form of literature and it will improve their prayers, making them more articulate and spiritually relevant (making more targeted prayers and not simple “bless my mommy” type prayers). They can read the prayers of others and it will inspire their own prayer time.
It will give them ammunition in their thought life. When ungodly thoughts come to mind they are able to combat them with scripture prayers. If fear tries to come, they can pray, “I thank you father, you have not given me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Instant prayers are contained in the Scriptures that come to mind in a crisis.
And speaking of a crisis, make a list of scriptures for emergency situations. When things are swirling, that is not the time to crack your Bible and try to find that scripture you can’t quite remember. One way you can do that is to have a file box in your kitchen or other central location. Use dividers for topics like healing, love, peace, relationships, etc. and write on scripture on each index card and place in the box. If you ever need them, there they are.
I hope you will use your Bible more with your children in your prayer time, not just as inspiration, but as a part of your armor of God (Eph. 6). The sword of the Spirit is a very effective weapon in your prayer time and teaching your kids how to use God’s Word effectively will transform your family prayer time.
You may or may not know that I am the coordinator for kids prayer at my church. I love praying with kids, especially my own. There is such an purity and trust that comes through when they pray. Prayer is simply a conversation with God, and children love to talk to Him–and to hear from Him too.
I have been teaching a series on “The 7 Be’s of Family Prayer” at different churches for over a year now and have had a lot of positive response. I wanted to summarize this teaching to help your family in this area. I hope something that is said in this series will ignite your family to pray together more often.
God rewards faithfulness. Prayer is something that we do everywhere, all the time (Eph. 6:18). Be instant in season and out of season, ready to pray anytime. Make it a lifestyle. When you pray through your day, your children see that you don’t just pray at church or at mealtimes, but God is always ready to talk with us. If you hear of a tragedy somewhere or you pass an accident on the road, take a moment to pray about it. If someone comes to your mind several times, especially if you do not often think of them, pray for them. Pray all events that happen in your family.
Encourage your children to have queit time with God. Even 4 or 5 year olds can listen to praise music or a Bible on tape and have a few quiet moments to think about God. Schedule it into their day and as they grow older it will be a habit they treasure.
Make it a routine, not a stale ritual, to take everything to the Lord in prayer. You will grow closer together as a family, you will have more peace because you allowed God into your daily life and you will have greater joy seeing the answers to those prayers.
If you would like the complete teaching as an mp3 for $4, please contact me. And stay tuned for principle 2.