“God is great, God is good. And we thank him for our food. Amen.”
Great lives of faith have taken root in simple encounters with God such as this. These initial concrete experiences of prayer enable even little children to recognize the presence of God. The rhyme and meter of traditional childhood prayer serve the important function of teaching very young children who God is and how we relate to him.
As kids learn more about their great God, though, their conversations with him can move away from these rhyming tools into rich, full expressions of their hearts. By modeling a prayerful heart and being a kid-friendly prayer guide, you can help children build a loving relationship with their God.
Just as kids learn to swim in a pool instead of on dry land, they learn to pray in the presence of people who pray rather than on their own. These ideas will help you create a climate that’ll bless and encourage kids’ prayer lives.
Building on the belief that each child needs the prayers of several loving adults, we wanted to encourage our congregation to pray for specific children throughout the entire school year. In September, we made individual folders that included a picture of a child along with a short letter from the child, telling about family members and favorite things to do. We identified children only by first names for security reasons. We also included a sponsor commitment card with the child’s name and a space for the sponsor’s name. When an adult agreed to be a “prayer-ent,” he or she signed and turned in the card, keeping the child’s folder.
We monitored the cards throughout the year to account for any changes or moves that might happen, and we reassigned partners when necessary. At the end of the school year, we hosted a special coffee hour to introduce the children to their sponsors. We gave sponsors buttons with their child’s name on it.
These prayer-ent relationships have blessed entire families and formed special bonds between church members. Even several years later, there’s a special connection between some of the children and their prayer-ents.
2. Secret Prayer Pals
We borrowed this idea from our women’s ministry and tailored it to an intergenerational prayer ministry. We explained the program to the older kids and asked only those who were willing to make a weekly journaling commitment to participate. Then we paired each child with a committed adult.
We purchased spiral notebooks that were all the same color, a set of file folders, and a file box. Then we wrote each child’s name on the inside cover of a notebook so it could be used as a journal. We wrote the name on the inside so if children happened to see an adult carrying a notebook, they couldn’t tell whose it was! We also wrote each child’s name on a file folder. To keep the element of secrecy, we put the file box in a place where adults could easily access it without the children seeing them.
Each child opened the written dialogue with his or her adult pal by writing a message in the journal about a prayer need, a fear, a special interest, or an important event. Then children returned the journals to the folders in the file box.
We asked adults to check the folders for their partner’s journal, pray for the child, write a response during the following week, and return the journal to the file box during the next session of Sunday school. They could include a gift to the child on occasion, but the gift had to fit in the journal. This limited the gifts to small inexpensive items such as a stick of gum, a bookmark, or a pencil, but it made the kids eager to check their folders.
We ran the program in four-month sessions, which allowed the children to have three different prayer pals during the year. At the end of each session, adults signed their names to their final journal entry. The kids also made thank you cards for their pals, who often continue to be trusted friends.