My mom is the wisest woman. She has been a teacher all of her life and has been involved in working with and ministering to children for as long as I can remember. One of those valued gems she passed along to me as my children started toddling around, was how to encourage them to pray. She has faithfully used this particular prayer strategy when instructing children in her classes and Bible Studies throughout the years. I am forever grateful that when I became a mom, she shared this and many other insights with me.
Children’s prayers are so sweet, but can often be very “me” centered. In order to help our children learn how to speak to the Lord, it is important to guide them in a way they can best understand. Mom modeled for me how to lead them in “I love you” prayers, “I’m sorry” prayers, “Thank you” prayers, and “Please” prayers. Of course, these prompts mirror the timeless prayer pattern of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS), but in words even the youngest child can embrace and understand.
I Love You!
When you are guiding your child to pray, encourage him to begin with “I love you” prayers to the Lord. I love you prayers are prayers of adoration. Tell the Lord you love Him because He is holy. He is perfect. He is good. He is strong. He is here with us. He guides us. He never leaves us. He is a faithful God. Encourage your child to express his love for the Lord and for who He is. You will be able to watch his understanding of God’s attributes grow as well as his praise vocabulary. Even your youngest child can begin to learn to express praise to God for His character in the “I love you” prayers.
Then lead your child to express “I am sorry prayers.” “I am sorry” prayers are prayers of repentance. This is the time that the child reflects on the recent past, remembers and recognizes wrongs done, and tells the Lord he is sorry for anything he has thought, said, or done that was not pleasing to Him. He learns to admit and confess his sins, and tell the Lord he is sorry for them. “Lord, I was wrong. I am sorry for not obeying my mommy right away, and for not sharing my toys with Chris. And Lord, I am sorry for getting angry when I did not get my way today. Please forgive me and make me more like Jesus.”
A third phase of this prayer time follows when you guide your children to express “Thank you” prayers to the Lord. A good bridge between confession and thanksgiving prayers is to begin thanking the Lord for His promise to forgive our sins, for His Word, for dying on the cross in our place, and for sending Jesus so we could have a right relationship with God. Thank you prayers encourage hearts of gratefulness for all that the Lord provides and for all He has done for us. Children should feel free to express gratitude to the Lord for anything and everything for which they are grateful, both great and small.
And finally, lead your child into a season of “Please” prayers. “Please” prayers encourage your children to lift up their requests to the Lord, both for themselves and on behalf of others. During this time they learn to express their concerns and to take them to their Lord. They can be directed to ask the Lord to heal those who are sick, comfort those who are hurting, provide for those in need, reveal Himself to the lost, among other things. “Lord, please help Grandma get better. She is so sick. Please be with Daddy as he travels and keep him safe. Lord, please help our friend, Bill, to trust in Jesus. Lord give us the words to explain to Him about how to become a Christian.” “Please” prayers remind us and our children of our utter dependence on the Lord for everything, and they help to reorient our hearts to seeing Jesus as our Source of Life.
Praying with your children and using these prompts, “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “Thank you”, and “Please” as you lead them through a time of prayer will certainly teach them about the richness of prayer. But more than a formula, your prompts will guide them into a deeper understanding of the Lord and how we, as His children, are privileged to call on Him in prayer. This exercise will allow your children from an early age to take part in adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication when they pray to the Lord. Thanks, Mom, for sharing your wisdom with me. I’m praying that the generations that come after us will be well versed in prayer from an early age.