Teaching Children To Pray

I want to share an idea that our family has used over the years as tool to help us pray together. We stopped using this for a while when my youngest came along, but I am resurrecting it this year.

First, allow me to step on my soapbox. I am passionate about praying, and I believe that children need modeling in order to develop their prayer life. Our Family Intercessory Prayer File helped my kids to expand their prayer lives toward less self-focused prayers (“Dear God, please bring me a Wii.”). It also has enabled them to develop a heart for people and issues beyond their own inner circle. Intercessory prayer is a type of prayer defined as praying on behalf of others. It is necessary, it is a calling for all Christ-followers, and God chooses to move when we pray. He really does! Imagine Him looking around, seeing a child on his knees for another, and then moving to answer. That picture excites me! It thrills my heart when we hear an ambulance siren, and my youngest’s first words are, “Mom, let’s pray for whoever’s hurt!”

Stepping off my soap box now. There are plenty of books on the topic of prayer. But here’s a fun and organized way that we’ve prayed with our family at dinner time for years:

Here’s all you need:

~A little binder that holds the two-hole punched index cards. Or you could use a little recipe-type box.

~Eight different color categories of index cards.

~A pen.

Simple enough so far, right?

Here’s what we did:

Take eight different colored index cards, and label with these topics:

~Day One: Pray for Missionaries Around the World.

~Day Two: Pray for a Family Member.

~Day Three: Pray for a Friend.

~Day Four:  Pray for a Current Event.

~Day Five: Pray for Our Community, State & Country.

~Day Six: Pray Your Dreams.

~Day Seven: Any Prayer Request.

~Answered Prayer.

Here’s what we do: This is the fun part. Put each index card into the binder. If you choose the color pink for the first category, fill out pink index cards with all the countries you want to. We happen to know a few missionaries, so we include their names as well. File the pink cards you’ve filled out in the Missionaries category. On Day One, everyone takes an index card  and prays for the missionaries in that particular country.

Our Family Members index cards are green. I include each of the five of us, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on those cards. We each take a green card on Day Two, and pray for that particular family member.

The Friends and Current Events I leave blank. We pray whomever God puts on our hearts. Perhaps there is a friend who is currently sick, or one that is struggling in some way. For Current Events, we think of stories that are in the news. Is there a missing child? A family who lost their home in a fire? A country that is devastated from an earthquake? Whatever moves our hearts is where we know God wants us to pray.

Our Community, State & Country category has us praying for our neighborhood, schools, church, public servants, the homeless, our governor, the military, the president, etc. I teach my children not to  complain about political leaders if they are not covering them or our nation in prayer.

Praying Your Dreams is simple enough. I write down our dreams, big and small, and we pray them to God. Since they are kept in the file, we can see how God answers them over the years. I prayed for God to expand my territory one year, and He answered by sending Ben to us.

On Day Seven, everyone prays for whatever they want. Anytime a prayer is answered, I write it down or take it out of its previous category and file under Answered Prayer. This is a way to catalog God’s faithfulness to our family’s intercession.

We keep it all simple when we pray as family. When dinner is finished, we light a candle to remind us that Christ is present, and we begin. One or two sentence prayers per person are perfect. This keeps my children growing in knowing how to pray in one accord within a group. I’ve experience many a church group where someone prays such a long, flowery prayer I feel myself dozing off.

Maybe different prayer topics would work better for your family. This is what has served our particular family well. The important thing is stand before God as a family committed  to praying together  for others. Then rejoice in the creative ways God answers!

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