by Sean Nolan, Family Life Pastor at Christ Fellowship Church in Fallston, MD
It is likely that your children’s church environment includes a time of prayer. My experience has been that in most children’s ministries this time generally looks like this:
- teacher asks students about their weeks and asks if anyone has any prayer requests
- teacher writes down requests and then prays for class off of list
While this is not a bad approach, does it run the risk of implicitly teaching children that only “professionals” can pray? Or even worse, that they need some human mediator to approach God, instead of being able to boldly approach the throne of grace because of the work of Christ (Heb. 4:14-16)? How can we invite kids into the conversation and relationship that we call prayer?
Here are a few creative ways I’ve discovered that help in this aim:
- Use the major theme from the current Bible lesson and incorporate that into prayer requests. For example: if the lesson is from Genesis 25-27, there is a constant theme of blessings. Ask the kids to think about blessings they have received, or even simpler, things for which they are thankful. You can then use that to spur kids on to thank God in prayer right then and there. Instead of praying for everyone, tell kids to pray in order from left to right thanking God for the ways in which he’s blessed them. Often the simpler the prayer the easier for kids to learn.
- Use a fill in the blank prayer method to call kids to prayer. Another simple way to call kids of all ages into prayer with God is to simply give them a short sentence in which they can fill in the blank. For example, you could say, “Do any of you know someone who does not know Jesus? Think of someone who you’d like to pray for now that does not know Jesus. I’m praying for my neighbor, Sam, to know Jesus.” Then use the following template and have kids repeat after you filling in the blank, “Dear God, I ask that you would bring __________ to know you. Amen.”
- Use every prayer opportunity as a way to teach about God. Prayer, mysterious as it is, is one way God has invited us into relationship with him and one of the best ways to get to know him. You teach kids about God’s omnipresence and omniscience (although I’d recommend using less technical terms if you’re not teaching a seminary class) by inviting them all to shout out a one-word prayer together. If the theme were repentance, you could tell kids to all shout out something they were sorry about at the same time. Then you can say something like “Isn’t it amazing that God is right here with us now and is able to hear all our prayers at the same time!”
- Teach the different types of prayers that we can say to God. Over time, as you build relationships with children, teach them the different types of prayers we can say to God. This is another thing that can be tied to different thematic elements in the Bible lessons you teach. We can pray to God out of adoration for who he is, and to confess sins to him, and to thank him for all the ways he’s blessed us, and to request different forms of help from him or to ask him to perform certain acts that are on our hearts.
- Teach that God is relational and wants to hear from us. Above all, the children in our churches will need to know that they can go to God in prayer for anything that they have on their minds. While the Bible tells us all we need to know about God and certainly sets forth examples of how we should pray, one of the best lessons we can teach little hearts about God is that he wants them to share their hearts with him. Here object lessons about human relationships may help. Is there anything you wouldn’t share with your mom/dad? Do you know that you can tell your teacher anything? God is just like that! He will always listen to everything you have to tell him. Do you have anything you want to tell him now? Let’s pray to him so he knows what’s on our hearts and minds!