Use these 15 ways to fill your ministry with prayer—just as the disciples asked Jesus when he taught them the Lord’s Prayer: “Teach us to pray.”
“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.
3. New Year’s Prayers
One month prior to the beginning of a school or calendar year, I send a note to each parent of a child in our preschool through fifth-grade departments. I ask parents to create a New Year’s prayer letter to be read aloud as an affirmation to their children.
Parents are given practical ideas of things to include in the letter, such as praising God for their child’s past accomplishments and character growth. They’re also encouraged to select a specific Scripture to encourage future accomplishments. I provide decorated paper to write or type the prayer on. Each family does this in secret and returns the prayer to me by a specified date.
On the designated Sunday, I read the letters aloud as each child beams with delight. At the end of the session, children can choose to keep the letters in their Bibles or share them on a bulletin board at church.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
4. A Child’s House of Prayer
In our children’s worship center, we’ve posted five areas of prayer needs: relationship with God, healing, family, friends, and other needs. We also purchased miniature globes to represent prayer for the children of the world.
Immediately following our musical worship each Sunday, we announce prayer time. Children who have needs can go to any of the posted areas or choose to remain at their seats and hold a globe. We discourage playing with the globes by reminding the children that “God’s got the whole world in his hands, and he holds it carefully. Hold the world as God does.” The rest of the children circulate to pray for those who’ve expressed a need. Once a child has been prayed for, he or she may choose to go pray for others.
Children are scattered all over, but it’s great because they’re truly focused on prayer. We always play appropriate background music to keep a reverent tone. Our prayer times have grown to 10 or 20 minutes, and it’s touching to see the children praying for each other. Our first-time guests get involved in this nonthreatening time, and all the children come away refreshed because they prayed or were prayed for.
Castle Rock, Colorado
5. Teacher’s Prayer Guide
If you run out of things to pray for the children in your class, use this helpful daily guide.
Pray for children’s faithfulness. Ask God to help children be faithful to
Pray that God will spark each child’s memory with the Bible story and Scripture verse you taught and show the children how to apply it to their lives.
Pray about temptation. Ask God to help each child resist peer pressure and overcome difficult home situations.
Pray for wisdom. Ask God to give each child discernment to make wise choices and a heart to seek God’s will.
Pray for thankful hearts, positive attitudes, and lives reflecting God’s joy.
Pray for families to provide sound spiritual direction and for peace in each child’s home.
Pray for spiritual sensitivity and that God will prepare each heart for another week’s lesson.
6. Bandage Prayers
I wanted my sixth-grade class to know that we need to pray for conditions and “hurts” beyond our small rural area, so I bought assorted sizes of adhesive bandages. At home and school, the children searched newspapers and magazines for stories about the world’s hurts.
In class, each child wrote the hurt they felt needed prayer on an appropriate-size bandage for how big they felt the hurt was. Then each child stuck the bandage on a globe on the area where the hurt was happening. As we prayed, we slowly spanned the globe.
The kids’ interest in this project over the course of the school year never waned. We eventually had to stick the hurts on a poster that we titled “Lord, hear our prayers for…” I was amazed at the areas of concern these young people had. The project was a learning experience for everyone.
7. Prayer Walk
Take a walk around your church grounds or neighborhood with the kids. Stop every 50 steps and invite the children to look around for:
- Something to praise God for creating,
- Someone who has a need, and
- Something that reminds them of a blessing God has given them.
Allow 30 seconds for children to look around and 30 seconds to pray silently before resuming your walk. When you return to your meeting area, discuss the most surprising thing that each child found to pray about as they walked.
8. The Lord’s Prayer
Give each child a sheet of paper. Provide identical stencils and markers. Have the children use their stencils to create a design on their paper and decorate the shape in any way they’d like. When they’re finished, have them stand in a circle as they hold their creations.
Together read or repeat the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Then discuss how the Lord’s Prayer is like the pattern they were given to create the shapes they’re holding. It gives us a basic outline to know how to pray. Just as they each took the pattern you gave and came up with totally unique creations, they can use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for praying and still talk to God in their unique ways.
Pray one line of the Lord’s Prayer, and allow children time to express that thought to God in their words, either silently or aloud. You can complete the entire prayer in the same way, or follow the same process in subsequent sessions.
9. Prayer Detectives
We give each child a pocket-size spiral notebook with a magnifying glass sticker on the cover. Then we write the text from Hebrews 4:16 and Matthew 7:11 inside the front cover to help kids remember that it’s a privilege to pray and that prayer is a gift they can give to others.
We encourage students to use these notebooks to keep a record of their “prayer suspects.” On each page, they write:
- Who: The name of someone they want to pray for. A different name can be listed on each notebook page.
- What: A need each person has. If children don’t know a specific need, they can intercede for God’s blessing or ask God to reveal a need.
- When: Space under each need to record when and how God answers the prayer.
- Where: Notes about where kids see their suspects and a reminder to say a short, silent prayer for the person whenever they meet.
We encourage our kids to keep their notebooks in their pockets or backpacks.
10. Kids as Intercessors
Every Sunday we offer kids the opportunity to come 30 minutes before Sunday school to be trained as intercessors. We spend about five minutes teaching them about prayer. We’ve taught about how God wants us to pray for people in authority, for missionaries, and for issues in the news. We’ve also taught about different types of prayer, such as petition, praise, and thanksgiving. We write prayer requests in an intercessory journal and review the answers to prayer weekly so the children can see the fruit of their prayers. The rest of the time is spent in prayer.
We started the group because as our church grew, it became harder to address each individual need during the service. The children’s intercessory prayer group is growing. We now have parents coming and praying with their children. Everyone, including the adults, has gained confidence in praying aloud, and the children are experiencing the joy of being part of a vital ministry.
11. Bearing Burdens
Give each child a sheet of paper and a pencil. Have them write in the center of their paper a prayer concern they’d like to tell others. Then gather the children in a circle (or several circles if you have a large group), and have children hold their sheets of paper. Have the first child share the concern he or she wrote, then pass the paper to the person to the left. That person will say a short intercession for the child and rip off a piece of the paper. Continue around the circle until each child has asked God for help with that need and torn off a piece of the paper. Then have the second child share his or her need, and so on until all the children are prayed for.
Afterward ask, “What happened to the papers?” Explain that in the same way that our papers became smaller, so our burdens seem smaller when others pray for us.
Write the word “faith” on a large piece of butcher paper. Have each child write on a strip of masking tape a prayer that God has answered. The prayer can be their own, someone else’s, or a situation from the Bible. Use the children’s tape strips to attach the butcher paper to the wall.
Discuss with children that it’s important to share answered prayers because they encourage people’s faith. Seeing how God has answered in the past gives us faith for the future.
For kids who have prayer requests, have them write their requests on the faith poster as an expression of their belief that God will hear and answer their prayers. Each week highlight requests that God has answered.
13. Scatter-Gory Prayers
Write the following categories on separate cards made from half-sheets of poster board: family members, favorite places, things about school, things about church, my talents, who God is, and what God has done.
Form groups of three. Give each group a pencil and a sheet of paper. Have each group choose a “Counter.” Tell the kids that you’re going to have a praise-fest. You’ll flash a card, and all the groups will say as many things as they can think of to praise God for in the category shown. Each group’s Counter will tally the spoken responses as they’re given.
When you’re out of cards, ask each group to count their tally marks. Combine all the groups’ numbers. Then pray in closing, “Lord, thank you for the things we praised you for. Help us never stop looking for ways to praise you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
14. Pick a Prayer
Have each child write one prayer request on a paper strip. Roll up each request, and insert the slip into the mouth of a balloon. Blow up and tie off the balloons.
At prayer time, form pairs. Toss the balloons in the air as you play music. Stop the music and have each person grab one balloon. Let the pairs pop their balloons, then pray for the requests.
15. Kids for Kids
Each week every child fills out a communication card with his or her name, address, and phone number. On the back of the card, the child writes a prayer request. We collect the cards and pass them back out so each child has someone else’s request. The kids take the requests home and pray for each other during the week. The following Sunday we talk about our prayers, give praise reports, and discuss what it was like praying for each other. This quick and efficient system at church has brought new life to our kids’ prayer experiences at home.