We want kids to pray and trust God for answers, but
when it comes to the really big prayers — the ones that need a
miracle — how do we pray with kids?
Whether quiet whispers in the darkness or stark
supplications during the day, the collective voice of the faithful
is perpetually raised in prayer — echoes of silent and spoken
requests and gratitude. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to
imagine this millions-strong chorus of voices raised, seeking its
way through the heavens to God.
Prayer is a primary force in our relationship with God; it oils the
gears of faith and nourishes our souls. There’s perhaps no more
direct line to God than through prayer. It’s no wonder, then, that
when we take a child’s hand to guide him or her into a relationship
with God, one of our primary focuses is to teach that child about
the power of prayer.
By the same token, we know that life is a journey, one that can be
fraught with the unexpected and life-altering — death, illness,
strife, trials. As adults we traverse the rockier landscapes
carrying our personal experiences and plenty of realism. We see
situations that seem hopeless. Children get sick and die. Parents
get divorced. Tragedies occur. Life is at times cruel. In these
places we lean on God for strength and comfort, and we encourage
kids to do the same. We tell children to put their faith in God, to
set their worries at his feet. And we pray for healing,
reconciliation…miracles. Even when we foresee an unhappy outcome,
we pray for God’s divine intervention.
It’s in our DNA as Christians — we praise God in times of joy and
lean on him in times of pain. We pray without ceasing. And we teach
But this aspect of Christianity creates an interesting tension in
relation to how we teach — and model — faith and prayer to
children. How do we guide kids to pray in situations when our
experience and knowledge tell us a miracle won’t happen? Is it
right to pray with a child for his father to be healed from brain
cancer as he lies on his deathbed? Is it ethical to pray with kids
to be reunited with their mother, even though courts have legally
separated them from her care as a protective maneuver? Is it wrong
to sit side-by-side with a child and pray for something we believe
to be outside the realm of what’s possible? And what impact does it
have on a child’s faith to pray these really “big” prayers — only
to have the very worst inevitably happen?
On the other side of this tension is the alternative approach: If
we “pray on the side of caution,” coaching kids to pray for the
possible things — safe things — what does that tell kids about
our faith? Is it possible to have “faith that can move mountains”
if, deep down, we’re afraid to pray for miracles? And at what cost
do we model such a safe approach to prayer to kids?