Devotions

How To Teach Your Children To Pray

September 8, 2021
“[Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.’” Luke 11:1 (CSB)
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“OK! Who wants to pray tonight?”

My husband’s eyes scan our children’s faces as we wait for eager volunteers to begin shouting. I mentally prepare my speech for them: “We need to take turns — not everyone can go first!” and “Remain calm. I promise we’ll have time for everyone’s prayers!”

I never get a chance to utter my admonitions because my husband’s question is only met with silence. The kids all look down, avoiding eye contact as much as possible. We ask each child by name, but we’re only met with head shakes and sighs.

“OK, I’ll pray!” my husband says with a smile. I envy his positive outlook as I nurse my disappointment. As my husband and I debrief later, he reminds me, “We just have to keep modeling prayer for them. They’ll come around.”

As a mom, one of my priorities is to teach my children how to pray. I want them to understand what a gift it is to talk with the living God. But so often I get discouraged. Particularly when my children show a disinterest in prayer, I immediately begin to feel like they will never love God and it’s a sure sign of their spiritual status for eternity.

Thankfully, this isn’t true.

My husband is right — one of the best things we as parents can do is not to strong-arm our children into prayer but instead to model regular, authentic prayer in our own lives. When it comes to teaching my own kids to pray, I can’t help but think of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray: “… one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).

In response to this question, Jesus didn’t give a bullet-point list of five ways to pray, offer an argumentative presentation trying to convince them of prayer’s efficacy or submit a case study on how it works. He simply prayed.

Jesus taught His disciples how to pray by praying Himself.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus prayed a lot. But He didn’t only do it to set an example for us; He also did it as the God-man because He had an intimate, dependent love relationship with the Father. In His humanity, He needed to talk with God. We know that Jesus grew in wisdom each year (Luke 2:52) and depended on the Holy Spirit to help Him. (Acts 10:37-38) He trusted the Father and His Word, learning obedience through suffering. (Hebrews 5:8) In all of this, He prayed both for Himself and for His disciples — talking with His Father about anything, any time, any place.

So, perhaps, instead of the question “How do I teach my children to pray?” the question is “How do I cultivate prayer in my own life?” We may not like this question as much. It’s more convicting. And sometimes it feels more difficult. But if we long to see our children have ongoing, honest conversations with God, we have to start with ourselves.

Your children will be able to tell that what you have with the Father is real, and as the Spirit works in their hearts, His love will be attractive to them. Like Jesus with the disciples, praying begets praying — for your children and in your own heart, too.

Moms, trust that God will make the gospel beautiful to your children. Pray what Jesus prayed in John 17: that your children would see God’s glory, know the love of the Father and be one with Him. Pray for yourself and your children to have eyes to see and a heart that loves talking with the Father about anything, any time, any place.

Father, please help me to model an authentic life of prayer and devotion to You. Work in my children’s hearts, as You have worked in mine, to draw them close to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

OUR FAVORITE THINGS

For a helpful resource to read with your children about prayer and God’s plan for His people, check out Laura Wifler’s new book, Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer: A True Story of How You Can Talk with God.

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For more encouragement in modeling prayer for your kids, connect with Laura on Instagram.

Enter to WIN your very own copy of Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer by Laura Wifler. To celebrate this book, Laura’s publisher will give away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and then notify each one in the comments section by Monday, September 13, 2021.}

FOR DEEPER STUDY

John 17:20-21a, “I pray not only for these [disciples], but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you.” (CSB)

Spend time today talking with God about what’s on your heart. And in the comments, share what you’ve found most helpful in teaching your children to pray.

© 2021 by Laura Wifler. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks The Good Book for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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