How can we teach children to pray without ceasing?
“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples’ “ (Luke 11:1).
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“Teach us to pray.” Even the grown men who followed Jesus needed instruction in prayer. How much more must we teach our kids to pray! And to pray constantly! First Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Never stop praying.” That can seem like a daunting task for a child (or for an adult).
PRAYER IS AN ATTITUDE
Praying constantly is an attitude. It’s an awareness that God is here.
“[God] is ever in my thoughts. I am ever talking to him in my mind as I go about my day,” says Annie Meier, who leads behind-the-scenes prayer for various ministries at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Renee Gray-Wilburn, author of the PrayKids! prayer card, “Praying for My Brothers and Sisters,” says, “It means to never go long without making a mental connection with God and by doing our best to be aware of his presence.”
It’s “a constant God-consciousness,” says Arlyn Lawrence, co-author of the book Prayer-Saturated Kids and former contributing editor of Pray! Magazine.
This doesn’t mean we’re solely focused on God and nothing else throughout the day. But much like breathing occurs even as we go about our lives, we can also sense God’s presence with us regardless of our circumstances.
Teach Kids to Pray
Teach kids to have a better awareness of God’s presence throughout their day. Form pairs. Tell kids they’ll need to count how many times they take a breath as they each tell their partner everything they’ve eaten so far today. After two minutes, ask kids how they did.
Try the activity again, only this time, tell them they don’t need to count their breaths. After two minutes, ask: “How did counting or not counting impact how you breathed? How is breathing like or unlike God’s presence? How does God’s constant presence affect the way you pray?”
Tell kids that just like air is always flowing through us, God is always with us. We can feel his presence even while we do other things.
PRAYER IS A ROUTINE
Our prayer attitude is shaped by regular times with God. Meier says kids can learn to pray regularly “by being encouraged to begin their days with a simple prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to walk and talk to them all day long. And, then, to finish each day before bed with a time of prayer reflecting upon how they felt the Holy Spirit walk and talk with them that day.”
Lawrence observes that teaching kids to establish regular times to “check in” with God about the events of their day can remind them to pray and to experience the things they’ve prayed about. By establishing routine times to talk to God–not out of obligation but out of love–kids can learn to pray without ceasing.
Teach Kids to Pray
Help kids practice a prayer routine with this rewind/fast forward activity. Have kids rewind their minds to the beginning of their day. Tell the kids to pantomime in fast motion all the things they did before they left the house that morning. When you say, “Freeze,” kids must freeze in their pantomime and think about what was on their mind as they were in that moment earlier in the day. Then, holding their frozen position, have kids silently pray about what was on their minds.
Repeat the game, this time asking kids to pantomime what they’ll do to get ready for bed tonight. This time, when you call “Freeze,” have kids pray about something that happened today. Afterward, encourage kids to talk to God about their day every morning and every night.