We often give children formula’s and ‘set prayers’ to help them pray eg the Our Father or the Hail Mary.
Sometimes, however, prayer can feel like a chore or that God isn’t even listening? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children could talk to God as if He is a friend? If they could pour their heart out to Jesus? If they could feel and know that they are having a real relationship with Him? That would be a success story right there!
At the end of the day, we want them to be able to talk to their Heavenly Father about all that is going on in their lives: their tears as well as their joys; about their broken heart as well as the memories from that sunny day on the beach. Having a successful relationship with God means, not only can they express what is in their heart- it also means that they can listen to God’s response..and that goes for us too!
If you are already praying and listening to God you can model this by chatting to God out loud! Just now and again- at strategic moments! This gives them a window into your relationship with God. It shows them that it’s normal to talk to Him as a friend. If this isn’t what you are used to, it will feel awkward to start off with….but practise makes perfect!
Maybe you could do it when you are looking for a parking space or for a present for a friend. Eventually, it will come naturally!
If you someone who doesn’t chat to God as yet- give it a go. He longs to help us and guide us. Our Father wants to hear from us -and wants to speak to us… Become comfortable in your relationship with God first before you introduce your child to this way of relating.
“Oh, I had such a great chat with God while I was in the loo. I told Him that I was having a stressful time trying to work out some new meals
for the week and He gave me some new ideas and I felt happy. I don’t know why I didn’t ask Him before?!!!”
Once children realise that God is interested in hearing about the small things in their day (e.g. that snail they found) they won’t be afraid to tell Him about the big stuff (Which career should I go for? or is it OK for me to date Paul/ Sandra?).
When we take away the boundaries about what they can chat to God about, it will give them the freedom to laugh and cry with God. It will open up every nook and cranny of their heart to Him! Encourage them to laugh with God.
In the free video online ‘Parenting for Faith’ course, they talk about being careful not to end up becoming like the high priest during biblical times.
He would act as a go-between between the Jewish People and God. If we do this, prayer becomes a 3-way relationship and children won’t be able to pray without you. We need to be more like a ‘spiritual coach’. To provide them with space and the tools to do this. Of course, as a parent, can I suggest that you also listen to what God might be saying on the matter? This will help in discernment..
For example, what if your 5-year-old wants a 2-wheeler bike but they are only physically able to use a 3-wheeler? You could go through the practical reasons why they aren’t ready for this yet or you could encourage them to pray to God for a 2-wheeler in His Perfect timing or… you could ask them to have a chat with God about this.
This means they will also have to listen to what God says back to them. Then, afterwards, you could ask them how the chat went: what did they say and what did He say back to them?
If they didn’t hear anything you could say: “That happens to me too. When I don’t hear anything from God, I think it means that I am not ready to hear the answer. God knows me a million times better than I know myself. He lets me know the answer when I was ready” Perhaps you could site an example? Perhaps praying to get married or to have a baby? Few of us are told by God when or if this will happen – but we get the answer when our husband/wife appears on the scene or when we first know that our baby is on the way! This is God answering our prayer!
It’s always good to encourage a child’s prayer by saying, for example:
“I love hearing what you say to God!”
For those under-5’s who can’t pray in their head yet….encourage them to put their hands over their mouths and whisper it to God in their hands. Ask them to tell God about something in their hands and then can ask them what they said.
Always encourage whatever your child says to God as valid eg “O! He will love to hear about that!”
See for yourself! Just be your adult self and chat to God about any of the following-as much or as little as you feel like..
How did you feel after trying this exercise? Any freer to tell God what’s on your mind? Did you hear Him say anything to you in response?
God can speak through a thought, a ‘sense’ inside us (people might say ‘I felt it in my heart’), an anointed image that comes to mind, a vision outside of ourselves, a verse from the bible which somehow appears to be ‘jumping out at you’, you may get a scripture that comes to mind (eg Psalm 139) or an audible voice. Some people feel tingling sensations on our skin or feel the touch of a hand (which simply speaks reassuringly that “I am here”). If you have never experienced any of these before, it might sound like it describes someone with mental health issues! I assure you it is not! Of course, some people with mental health issues do experience ‘voices’’, but these are not coming from God.
This is undoubtedly the trickiest part of prayer! It’s often a good idea to encourage a child to close their eyes and listen to what God says to them…. It keeps distractions away! You may be surprised at how clearly they can hear God! Whatever they say – give them a positive response. Time will tell if it’s from God or not. I have to keep reminding myself that God’s Will/Word in any situation produces peace, joy and love…and any other of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I also have to keep reminding myself that God may not answer straight away- I am so impatient sometimes!