When my girls first learned to pray, they started by thanking God for things. If they wanted to delay bedtime, they could thank Him for everything from mommy and daddy to every stuffed animal they owned. We used to have to interrupt my youngest when she was praying to say, "Just one more thing." I'm sure she could have listed things for which she was thankful until the sun came up.
As our kids get older, they start to add requests to their prayers. Some kids view God as a Santa-like figure and list off everything they want. Other kid seem to be a litttle in awe of the fact that they can request things from God and will only ask for big things like world peace or that a sick friend will get well.
Teaching our kids to have a balanced approach to prayer, one that includes all aspects of a conversation with God can be tough if we don't have a balanced approach to our own prayer life. The Bible tells us that we can pray about anything. Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." That means we can and should pray about anything and everything. Nothing is too small to cover in prayer -- God cares about all of it.
But our and our children's prayers should include more than just requests to God. He's not Santa Claus, and you don't want your kids to look at God as if He is. Help your kids include praise for God, thanksgiving for the things they have and teach them to confess their sins through prayer. Christ modeled this type of prayer for us in Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus showed His disciples how to pray. His prayer included all four things: praise for God, confession of sins, thanksgiving and requests. The Lord's Prayer isn't just something to recite, it's an outline of what to pray about.
As we have learned in the past two days, the easiest way to teach your kids to pray is to model a lifestyle of prayer. Use these tips to help you model that lifestyle:
- Give each child a piece of paper. Tell them to choose a simple task that they know how to do. Have them write down the instructions for that task as if they were telling someone else how to do it. Read Matthew 6:9-13 with your kids. Explain to your kids that this prayer is like the instructions they just wrote down; it's intended to tell others how to pray. Talk about the types of things Jesus prayed about. Point out the four things that Jesus included in his model prayer.
- Explain the ACTS model for prayer. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (which means asking for something). Explain that prayer can contain all of these things and Jesus' example prayer contained them all. Pray together. Start with adoration and have each person praying pray a sentence prayer of adoration to God. Go arround again and have everyone pray a sentence prayer of confession. Continue through all four letters. Have an adult close the prayer time with a short prayer that includes all four themes.
- Look for opportunities to remind your children to take situations in their lives to God in prayer. If your child is struggling with a friend or a certain subject at school, remind them that God cares about even the seemingly small things in their lives, and He wants to hear about them.
Tomorrow we'll look at the Why of prayer. Why do we pray, and what do we tell our kids when God doesn't answer their prayer the way they wanted?