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Teaching Your Children to Pray

child Teaching your child how to pray is one of the best life skills you can teach them. I realized a few months after my daughter could start putting sentences together that I could teach her how to pray. She also goes to a Mother’s Day Out program at my church and she prays at school. It occurred to me that she didn’t pray at home.

I believe prayer is real and God hears our hearts. He wants to speak to us. I want to teach my daughter that she can always pray and that God is accessible anywhere. This is a life lesson that I don’t want to fall short on teaching her. I am also excited that later on I get to teach her how to hear God too.

This fall we began praying with my daughter as part of the bedtime process. Here are some tips that can help you with praying with your children.

1. Keep the prayer simple.
We pray the same prayer every night. We sit together, close our eyes, and each of us clasps our own hands together and pray. This is what we pray, “Dear Jesus, thank you for today. Bless Mommy, Daddy, and Brother. Help me sleep well. I love you, Jesus. Amen!” It is fun, because sometimes my daughter will include others in the list of blessing. She doesn’t always say the whole thing out loud, but we ask her to say “I love you, Jesus. Amen.” We made up this prayer, but you can make up your own too! Just keep it simple.

2. Sing a song. I have some friends that know prayers that are like songs. It is is seriously adorable to hear them sing their prayers. You can sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ or other songs like this one.

God is Great
- With these additional lines, it is sung to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star“:

God is good and God is great.
And we thank him for our food.

By his hands we all are fed.
Thank you, Lord, for our daily bread.
God is great and God is good,
And we thank him for our food.

3. Make a routine. The best way to remember to pray with your kids is to include it in a routine every day. It can be done before they eat a meal or in a bedtime routine.  Here is an example of a meal time prayer:

Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

4. Pray for someone when they get an Ouchie. You can teach your child how to pray for their friends when their friend gets hurt or doesn’t feel well. I have seen a friend’s child do this and it warms my heart to see that child learn compassion. The prayer can be something as simple as “Dear Jesus, please heal my friend. Amen.”

5. Be an example. Pray in front of your kids! Let them see you reading your Bible and praying. Include everyone in the family when praying with your child. In our bedtime routine I may read the bedtime book, but Daddy always comes in for the prayer time. We all pray out loud together. You can also model it by having Daddy pray for Mommy or the other way around. They may not seem that they are paying attention, but it certainly sets the tone that prayer is a normal part of life.

How have you taught your children to pray? Do you have it in a routine? What sing-songy prayer do your children pray?

35 Responses to Teaching Your Children to Pray

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heather
    December 15, 2009 @ 4:21 am

    I made a prayer board for my kids. I laminated wallet-size photos of family members and friends and put a piece of magnetic tape on the back. The pictures went up on a magnetic message board that I hung in their room. Every night they to pick 2-3 pictures to pray for. Sometimes we talk about the person they picked and what we might pray for them. It has provided opportunities to talk about the many different things we can pray about and how God takes care of all of our needs.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Susan
    December 15, 2009 @ 8:47 am

    Wonderful thoughts to share. I think we often forget about the importance of this and how we truly need to start young and incorporate this in our homes. Be an example is the best thing you can do – thank you for the reminder!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy
    December 15, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

    We pray every night before dinner. The 18-month-old has already started to make “prayer hands.” It’s very cute!

    Here is one you didn’t mention…
    Thank you, Father (Thank you, Father)
    For our food (For our food)
    And our many blessings (And our many blessings)
    Amen (Amen)

    It’s a song. And everything in parenthesis is an echo.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Janice Green
    December 15, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

    I love your blog post and intend to link to it from my http://www.honeycombfamilies.wordpress.com which is pretty new. I will check back often.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Gloria DeGaetano
    December 15, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful summary and reminder, Amanda. Although my little ones have flown the nest and are now adults, praying on their own, I can tell you from this mom perspective I am so glad I developed this habit early on in their lives. Nurturing an interior life is a pre-requisite to learning how to pray…Maria Montesorri used to say, we have to let children “make silence.” I agree with you and her–it’s in that silence they hear the voice of God. Blessings to you, the mom crowd and your families this holiday season and throughout the new year.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Breanna
    December 15, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

    We always pray with our kids before bed and they are beginning to enjoy praying on their own. If we walk out of the room at night and forget to pray, well… they let us know! I think it’s cool that now when we’re driving down the road and see a wreck or something, my daughter says, “Mom, we need to say a prayer for them.” And she’ll pray. I have to remind myself sometimes that this is one of the most important things we can teach our kids.

  • Comment by Christy
    December 15, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

    Great post again Amanda… I truly believe that once they start to talk, they are ready to pray. I have even been praying with our youngest every night since she was born. She started saying her own prayers when she was 18 months old. It’s too sweet! We also pray for “ouchies”. Everytime we see an ambulance, we stop and pray for the people in it and for the medical personnel who are treating them. In our family, we have dealt with enough illness that we all understand the importance of prayer during that time.

  • Gravatar December 16, 2009 @ 4:13 am

    [...] Teach about Jesus year-round and not just at Christmas – The more your children hear about the goodness and mercies of Jesus all year, the easier it will be for them to understand the importance of Christmas.  Daily read books and the Bible with them and encourage them to pray.  Amanda gave some great tips on teaching your children to pray yesterday.  [...]

  • Gravatar
    Comment by meagan
    December 2, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

    One day I went to my kids’ daycare to pick them up early for a drs. appt. and I got there just in time to witness the entire 2 year old class “sing grace”. Turns out they did so every day at lunchtime and snacktimes too. My daughter is now 4 1/2 and my son is 3, and they both get such joy and a sense of pride when they lead us and others in singing grace.

    Here are the words, I believe it’s sung to the tune Frere Jacques (or Farajaka for the phonetically inclined):

    God our Father, we are thankful
    For our friends, for our food.
    Bless us all together, keep us safe and healthy
    Ah-ah-men, ah-ah men.

    So simple but so moving to hear my children sing this in unison with at the table.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Anna Lee
    December 8, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    i appreciate this article but i don’t necessarily think that praying should be the same every night or a routine. Thats not what prayer is. Prayer is just a conversation with God and should be whenever and whatever our hearts feel led. When we limit that with kids at an early age that could limit their prayer life in the future, and ultimately limit their relationship with God. Any thoughts on that?

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Stacy
    December 11, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    I made a book in iPhoto on our computer for our two year old. Each day there’s a “generic” opening prayer (Dear God, thank you for Mommy, Daddy, and my baby sister, Boston. Today I pray for ____”). Then each day has a different “group” (mommy’s family, daddy’s family (x2), friends in California that we miss, friends in Paraguay where we’re living now, leaders in our church). There are about five pictures for each day. I hit play (each slide shows for about 10 seconds) and we pray for a specific need for that person/family. Not only does it help teach her how to pray, but it also has helped with facial recognition of important people that we only see once a year now that we’re living overseas.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Carissa
    December 17, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

    @Anna Lee, I think you have a valid concern about prayer not just being a routine. However, at a young age, I think it is more appropriate to make it very easy for them (such as a simple prayer repeated at the same time every day). Meal times and Bed times are great examples of this. But adding onto that lesson as time goes and throughout the day is what makes the difference and expands on the power of prayer. God and Prayer need to be talked about (and practiced) outside of the set routine to prevent the limitations you speak of. With our sons we have a “set” prayer they say every night, but allows for them to add on to as they are lead to (and encouraged). And to be honest…they “set” the prayer themselves. We were trying to encourage them to say something different every night and they came up with their own made up prayer they say every night and we have learned it is better for them this way and allows us to have better conversations about God and Prayer (the oldest is 3 1/2).

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Valerie
    December 28, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    We have never said a model prayer. Not for blessing meals, bedtime, ever. We always want our kids to know that prayer is talking to God about any and everything, anytime. We started early by taking prayer requests at the dinner table and taking turns praying. My kids are six and eight and have no trouble leading a prayer for most any occasion now. Most nights, they lead the blessing; if it’s been a few nights since one of them has taken a turn, we encourage them by telling them how much it thrills God to hear their precious voices calling out to Him. And we’ve taught them that prayer is the best weapon to use against the devil! Yes, we are blessed!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jennifer
    January 6, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

    We sing the following song:

    Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
    Bless the bed that I lie on.
    Four corners to my bed, four angels round my head.
    One to watch, one to pray, and two to bear my soul away.

    I love to hear my 3 1/2 year old sing it.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jacalyn
    January 6, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    My kids are now adults, but because we began this practice of praying at bedtime and mealtime, as well as other times when they were young, it feels very comfortable to talk openly about praying about what is going on in their lives today. So the praying as a family continues…sometimes with just a little more distance and the help of the phone!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jamie
    January 16, 2013 @ 10:53 am

    The beauty of this topic is that we cant go wrong. To raise them to trust in and turn to God with everything in our lives IS AWESOME! Way to be ladies.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Camille
    January 21, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    My 3.5 year old says: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to kep. Angels guide me through the night. Keep me in your precious sight. Amen. Deal” I don’t know why he throws the “Deal” in their but it is super cute. After which he says, “Thank you Jesus, I love you Jesus.”

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Reality
    February 1, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    We indoctrinate your child when there is no evidence of a god? Please let them decide what is valuable in life. Perhaps, asking his/her friend what they could do to help out with an ouchie would be more meaningful (e.g., bringing a toy to their home or working on homework together).

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heather
    February 2, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

    Great Tips. Wil keep this in mind for when we finally have a baby. At my grandparents we always said the little prayer/grace from #3 above. Once before we he had truly learned it, when he was about 2, my brother bowed his head, put his hands together, and just jabbered some wrds together, said Amen, and set up to eat. Grandmother said it was so cute. We also learned the now I lay me down to sleep…. And kneeled by our beds together with our grandmother every night to say it. I am very thankful for the love of God and importance and power of prayer she instilled in us at a Rey young age.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kaidee
    February 3, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

    When our kids were really little we attempted to get into the habit of reading the Bible with them every day. This was a bit hit and miss for a while until we began including it into our bedtime routine. Brilliant! Now it’s part of almost every day, along with prayer.
    And a comment to “Reality”, I guess you’re assuming there ISNT a God, and if there isn’t, your comment is true. I’m assuming there IS, and therefore a) they are totally missing out if I neglect to teach them about Him and b) I’ll be answerable to Him for what I did/didn’t teach them.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Claire
    February 3, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

    These are great ideas.

    Response to Anna Lee: Yes, prayer is a conversation and should not be so routine that it loses meaning, but it’s easiest to teach young children about concepts like this in concrete terms they can understand teach them to do things in a routine.

    Response to Reality: I see evidence of God every day in my children and in the world He created. Just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean others can’t. I teach my children what I know to be true. If you don’t believe in God why are you reading an article like this? Are you trying to start an argument?

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Anna
    February 4, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

    We pray the same prayer every night. “Dear Jesus, we thank you for the clothes on our back, food in our tummies, roof over our head and all our blessings. Amen.” My 3 year old looks forward to praying every night. It’s so cute to watch him close his eyes and smile while he says it.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heidi
    February 6, 2013 @ 10:42 am

    We pray regularly at night and throughout the day, but I found my 4.5 year old was struggling. We started doing popcorn prayers ( jumping like popcorn and saying on prayer per “pop”). I also put prayers on colored Popsicle sticks yellows are pray for family, friends, home etc. , red are asking god for forgiveness, and green are thanking god. Just a couple of ideas of new ways to pray with your kiddos! Thanks for you post!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jorie
    February 14, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

    Our prayer is one I found online:

    “Father in heaven hear our prayer, keep me in thy loving care. Be my guide in all I do and bless all those who love me, too.”

    My daughter is almost 20 months now but we have prayed this out loud at bed time since she was born. She definitely associates it with bedtime while she doesn’t repeat any of it yet. Occasionally when we begin she’ll rest her head and rub her eyes to show she’s ready for bed. More often lately she’s fighting bed so as we begin we get an emphatic “Noooooo!”. Hopefully it won’t be long before she’s ready to speak the prayer with us!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Elizabeth
    February 15, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    The nightly prayer I grew up with is,

    Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my sould to keep. Guide me safely thru the nigh and wake me with the morning light. Amen.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by brenbren
    February 23, 2013 @ 8:36 am

    I love seeing others teaching their children of God. I think a belief in a Heavenly being makes people better. With our young children we didn’t teach them the words to their prayer, they just decided what they wanted to say and say pretty much the same thing every night. I remind them to just say what’s in their hearts. My 4 yr old frequently blesses our silverware and dishes. It’s so cute! Thanks for this.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Momof2soon3
    February 25, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    I have more of a question than comment. How do you encourage them besides routine? I struggle with the fact that my husband and I do see differently but he’s not objective to it, just on his own battlefield now which makes it difficult for him. My oldest goes to a Christian/Catholic preschool now but will have to go to public this fall so he will no longer have his prayers at school. My issue is that at home I often get the exasperated “Do we have to pray every day!” No matter if its the meal or at bed. I try to explain that we should thank God every day for what He gives us and that its important to pray for others and ask for forgiveness. (Before you think I’m over his head, my 5 year old understands a lot more than a lot more of his classmates so while I try to simplify it’s not something I feel would be hard for him to understand)
    Any tips/suggestions to no longer make this a chore?
    I grew up with the Wee Sing Bible Songs and was amazed to find it and immediately bought it for my children seeing it was still around so we do try to incorporate some music but even then he starts to shut down.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Momof2soon3
    February 25, 2013 @ 8:10 pm

    I also want to add that I’ve also gotten a kids devotional book and it comes with music to play. That lasted a short while and then once I started falling behind he lost interest and I couldn’t get him reincorporated into it.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kim
    March 13, 2013 @ 9:10 am

    We use: ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, may angels watch me through the night, and wake me rested with morning’s light. Amen.” My two year old says it with me when I say it for her and can say most of it now herself. My now 4.5 year old says it on her own and also then asks God’s blessings on a list of people she choses (God bless mommy, god bless daddy, god bless me, god bless god, god bless Grandma and help her knee heal…) We also attend sunday school and church together so she gets more prayer practice there.

    I feel they need a simple base to start understanding prayer and they can build it in to their own conversations in time as they grow older. We still say the Lord’s Prayer in addition to our personal conversations with God so I dont’ have a problem with a ‘scripted’ prayer each night.

    Another side note, is that now my daughter is learning to read, I wrote the prayer out so she was saying and understanding her prayer more and practicing reading to boot!

    I have no problem letting my children chose their own path to faith when they are old enough but I have to give them the values I believe in while I raise them through these early years when they are too young to choose for themselves.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jessica
    March 14, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

    I agree with Reality. Whether a parent personally believes in God (or any other higher power) or not, I think every parent should let their children decide what they believe for themselves and I don’t think a toddler/child is able to comprehend what’s in the Bible (or any other religious text). It’s all really heavy stuff!
    Claire: I can’t speak for Reality, but I got linked to this article through Pinterest and I was curious. I don’t think Reality commented to start an argument and that’s not what I’m trying to do either. I just wanted to throw my two cents in, even if it is a very different point of view from everyone here.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Grace
    May 2, 2013 @ 7:04 am

    Jessica,
    Thank you for setting such a peaceful tone! To add some anecdotal perspective, I was raised by Christian parents, went to church and sometimes a Christian school. That said, my parents weren’t big into a routine of prayer. I know they read the Bible and prayed by themselves but it wasn’t a family thing. However, I learned to read early and had my own Bible. I started really reading it around 9 or 10. I can tell you that children can understand much more than you would think! That said, because God is God, there is a lifetime of learning and developing for anyone who seeks it. I am still learning and growing. I don’t feel my parents forced me into my faith, but set an example by how they lived, and I hope to do the same for my children. I do think toddlers can understand talking to God and asking him to help others. It’s not just about teaching prayer though, it’s about teaching compassion as well.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Melanie
    May 10, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

    I’m curious, @ reality and Jessica: if you don’t think it’s a parent’s place to teach a child about faith and truth, then who’s may I ask is it? It is my responsibility to rear my children in a way that I know is right. I would not let my child walk out unattended into a street of heavy traffic for fear of their mortal body. In the same way, I would not leave my child uninstructed in faith for fear for their immortal soul, which is immensely more valuable. Just as most parents would teach their children the basics of playing nicely, sharing, etc, for the women that read blogs such as this, the existence of God is a fundamental truth. I have to reiterate the question posed, if you don’t believe in God or in the power of prayer why would you read a blog about teaching children how to pray??

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sarah
    May 19, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    I appreciate this emphasis on teaching our children to pray. And I’ve heard Jessica’s and Reality’s concerns and perspective before. I understand it is a popular view in our world today to allow our children to decide what they believe on their own and not sway our children in our religious beliefs. I just want to point out that this perception has a very huge hiccup. The problem is that the world is teaching our children and our youth and it starts at a very young age. Just think what magazines, TV, media, music, movies and the world teaches our children about what is valuable and how to be happy. I don’t agree that my daughter can only find value by wether or not men find her sexy. I don’t believe that a lot of the things the world teaches about how to be happy is true. The truth is, If we don’t teach our children our values, faith and beliefs, they will undoubtedly learn it but from all the outside influences. So not teaching our children is like throwing them to the wolves. I believe there is an adversary just as much as I believe in a loving God. It is one of Satan’s deceptions that we should sit by and let our children learn for themselves. Because the truth is they are learning. If we are not teaching our children, the world is.
    We sing a song and have a family prayer every night before bed. We pray over each meal together. We read scriptures together at breakfast and pray together first thing in the morning. Each child takes turns praying. We help our two year old as he repeats the words we say. It’s never the same prayer. They learn to use their own words when they choose to say it with out any help. And before they run out the door to school each day, they say out loud, “I am a child of God, born to be exceptional!” Knowing who they are gives them the courage and confidence to make good choices. It’s grounding and reassuring to know that they are loved not only by earthly parents but are divine and are children of God, as we all are. That knowledge is so powerful and I choose to teach my children from day one, about who they are. I believe it to be a very sacred duty as a mother, wife and parent to teach my children in every way. And I enlist the help of God in prayer as I try to do so. God bless you all, as parents.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Erin
    May 22, 2013 @ 8:15 am

    Our prayer for meals and at bedtime goes:
    Oh the Lord is good to me
    And so I thank the Lord
    For giving me the things I need
    The sun, the rain, and the apple seed
    The Lord is good to me, amen.

    It is the cutesy thing in the world to watch them sing this prayer with their hands clasped

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sara
    May 24, 2013 @ 8:14 am

    I’m pregnant of my first little girl and I’m so gland to read this list, because I think is important to teach your children’s how to love and keep a relationship with God,also is very important as a fathers transmit the faith to the new generations. :)

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