Little Disciples #3 – Children and Prayer

An American writer called E.M. Bounds wrote this about a 100 years ago:

“To men who think praying their main business and devote time to it according to this high estimate of its importance does God commit the keys of his kingdom, and by them does he work his spiritual wonders in this world.”

Obviously, as 21st century Westerners we’d want to change the “To men…” to “To men and women…”

But what if we realised that we could also change it to “To children…”?

What if we persuaded an army of Christian children that God isn’t waiting for them to grow up? That God chooses to act through the praying of his people, whether the hands clasped together be large or small?

Could you imagine what might happen if God so stirred the hearts of our kids that they used their extensive free time usually given to Lego, YouTube videos and petty squabbles to pray for the nations? For Everyday Church? For you?

With our extraordinary God, I don’t think that this is too ambitious.

As Everyday Church we want our kids to connect UP with God. In “Little Disciples #2” we saw the importance of reading the Bible with children, and it’s in those same Scriptures that we discover the power of prayer.

Now, prayer needs to be taught and caught.

Taught, because Jesus himself taught  his disciples in Luke 11:1-4:

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

Caught, because Paul confidently says in 1 Corinthians 11:1:

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Alongside Weetabix, kids eat hypocrites for breakfast. Children will point out in painstaking detail the inconsistencies of your life. Usually whilst you’re entertaining guests.

So let’s begin with taught. Despite the fountains of ink being spilled “unlocking prayer secrets” and other nonsense, we can’t really do better than Jesus’s teaching. Funny that.

Because of this, teach your kids the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 or the Luke passage above. Use a Bible translation that suits their age (see my last post) and as they get older, change their Bible translation and teach them the Lord’s Prayer from that.

Use each line of the prayer as a springboard:

Father, we pray that your name will always be kept holy… God, you’re so different to us! We praise you that although we sin and get things wrong and can’t do everything, you can!

…your kingdom come… Father, please make my friend Theresa become a Christian.

And so on!

You might like to sprinkle your week with specific things to pray for. A kids worker from a church in East London has “Truth-Filled Tuesday”, “World Wednesday”, “Thankful Thursday” and “Family Friday”.

Her family pray “shopping list” prayers on Tuesday. The first person says “God is…” filling in the blank with a word that describes God. The next person says that word and adds their own. They keep going until it’s just too hard to remember all of the wonderful truths about God.

On Wednesday it’s “timer prayers”. In 1 minute, how many countries can we ask our big God to be saving people in?

Thursdays have an “alphabet thanks” time. Going round the circle, the first person thanks God for something beginning with “a”, then the next person thanks him for something beginning with “b” all the way to “z”.

“Family Fridays” involve “Chinese whisper prayers”; passing on a whispered prayer asking God to look after a family member or friend living on their own during lockdown.

So prayer needs to be taught. But it also has to be caught.

Your kids need to see you praying, and they need to hear you praying. Jules, our families worker, encourages parents to talk out loud to God. Regardless of whether we’d prefer to pray in our heads, if we make it a habit to pray out loud as we go about the business of the day, then our children will realise that we’re practicing what we preach. They’ll see your relationship with God and see the answers to your praying as you point them out.

“God, I can’t find Bilal’s school book; please help!… oh, there it is… thank you so much, Lord, for helping me find it. You’re so good!”

“Father, we just don’t know how to do this homework. Please help us!… Wow, thank you God that you led us to just the right website!”

This sort of “horizontal praying”, where you’re teaching others whilst you address God, is all over Scripture. Jesus even tells us he’s doing it in John 11:41-42:

“Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

As well as horizontal praying”, don’t be afraid to ask your kids to pray for you. They’ll feel honoured, and it’ll teach them that it’s not “less spiritual” to ask for prayer.

Finally, as we teach our kids to pray, let’s enjoy this wonderful point that C.S. Lewis makes in his children’s book, The Magician’s Nephew:

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked? Said Polly. “I’ve no doubt he would” said the Horse…”But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”

Further resources

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