The typical bedtime prayer was repeated often when I tucked my children into bed at night. Each night, I would ask them if they had anything else they wanted to talk to God about. If I made suggestions, they were very open to adding them, but rarely would they initiate deeper conversation with their Maker.
I contemplated that perhaps they needed training when it came to prayer. I certainly spend a lot of time teaching them how to put their clothes away, put the toothpaste cap back on, and say please and thank you. Scripture supports this idea of learning to pray. The disciples said in Luke 11:1b, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”
Jesus then proceeded to teach them the Lord’s prayer. This model prayer includes several elements. As a teen, I learned the acrostic A-C-T-S which is taken from the basics found within the Lord’s prayer. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. But these are big words for my 5-year-old, twin 8-year-olds, and 11-yearold, so I asked God to help me teach them to pray in a way that would go deeper than their surface prayers for a good day. We broke down the simple acrostic I had learned before in this way.
To avoid praising God each day in a way that would get rote or mechanical, we spent one night brainstorming things about God that were good, powerful, loving, awesome, holy. They had fun coming up with words about God. Then I asked them some of the names for God found in the Bible. With a little coaxing they thought of Rock, Shepherd, Jesus, and King of Kings.
Soon we had filled the page with different ideas. I bought a cute picture frame and hung the list up where they could see it. At bedtime they each picked one of the names on the list to begin their prayer.
Surprisingly, on our first night, none of them could recall one bad thing they had done that day. I was floored. I had a long list for each of them fresh on my mind, but I held back and simply got them started with a reminder. I turned to one of them, “What about hitting your sister today?” Then on to the next child, “Remember how you threw that fit and got in trouble this morning?” Once reminded, they were all very willing to confess their sins to God and even excited that they had something for this part of prayer. They just needed some training and direction.
This step comes most naturally when children pray. My children are always grateful for a “wonderful day.” But now we encourage them to be more specific. What are we thankful for? Yes, we had trips to the park, friends over, and new toys to thank God for. However, we also talk about some basic things that we often take for granted: freedom to worship, our own copy of God’s Word, clean water, food, eyes to see, legs to run. They don’t always remember these blessings in day-to-day life when surrounded by ads and commercials tempting them to want more. However, at night when their hearts are soft, they often recognize God’s provision when a loving parent reminds them of all He has done.
I explained that this was basically just asking God for things. We can ask for things we need or want, but we also want to pray for others. A friend of mine shared a great system that she uses to help her kids remember what they are praying for each day. We made another poster for the wall that looked like this.
Monday — Missionaries.
Here we wrote the name of two specific families we know and support. We pray for their children and try to remember to share any details about their families we get in regular prayer updates in their emails or letters.
Tuesday — Teachers.
Each child prays for their own school teacher. We also include their piano teacher, Sunday School teacher, and coaches. If they don’t know what to pray, we asked God to give their teachers wisdom and endurance.
Wednesday — Widows and orphans.
We pray for specific ones we know — Great-Grandma, a woman at church, and for little Alex and Robelina who we support through an organization that provides opportunities to sponsor needy children.
Thursday — Those who don’t know Jesus personally.
Each child knows plenty of people who are friends, neighbors, or extended family members that they hope they will get to see in heaven one day. It made the celebration that much sweeter when we saw a family we had been praying for come to know Christ.
Friday — Friends and Family.
Our list includes cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and a few special friends. Praying for family helps my kids feel more connected with people that live far away and they may only get to see once a year.
Now that we’ve implemented our new approach to prayer, we’ve found our kids’ prayer lives growing stronger. It isn’t a perfect system. However, they’re learning that prayer is talking with God about anything and everything. They’re remembering who He is, where they fall short, what they’re thankful for, and asking for God’s help for others. Even without looking at the lists on the wall, we’ve moved past talking generically about a “wonderful day” to deeper connection with Christ. We’re still working on that toothpaste cap though.
This article is courtesy of ParentLife Magazine