How to Help Kids Make Prayer a Habit
She was having a lively conversation.
This is not unusual for my very social daughter. Molly’s energy and enthusiasm for the English language has always been unrivaled. The rest of us just take a deep breath and try to keep up.
But this particular day, I couldn’t figure out who she was possibly talking to.
She was three years old. I had told her she could go on the swing set in the backyard and I’d be out shortly.
I could hear her chattering as I rounded the corner of the house.
“Yes, this IS fun!” she said excitedly.
She was grasping the chain of the swing next to her and pumping her legs as the two swings went in unison, higher and higher.
“You must be a little lonely out here, sweetie,” I said. “I’ll come swing with you.”
“Oh, no, Mommy,” she said. “I’m not alone! Jesus is swinging with me and you can’t sit on Him!”
I just love childlike faith. I want my children to always be chattering with Jesus, making Him a part of their everyday activity.
Because if Christianity is really true, it can’t just be a “nice idea” that we pull out when it’s convenient. Or something we think about when we’re at church, but set aside during the week. If Jesus is who He says He is — the Son of God and Creator of the Universe — then He needs and wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives.
I want my kids to have a passionate relationship with Jesus. One that is real, active and relevant.
I want them to know they can come to Him with anything at anytime.
Helping our kids make prayer a habit — something they instinctively do throughout their day — requires us as parents to be intentional.
Here are times throughout the day that I have initiated prayer with my kids as they’ve grown up:
In the car
I have always loved car time with my kids. They’re a captive audience. There are few distractions, so they always seem unusually open to conversation and prayer. I’ve prayed with them on the way to school almost every morning from preschool to high school.
I pray for God to bless and guide their day. That they will see God’s activity and feel His presence throughout their day. I ask God to give them the wisdom and courage to follow His Holy Spirit’s guidance.
When they were small, their prayers were short and simple. But as they’ve gotten older, their prayers have become more and more rich and specific. They often pray for my needs and for others’ hurts and safety. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
I started this ritual when Molly was still in her crib. She was so small that all she could do was put her chubby little hands together and bow her head.
The earlier we can begin any habit, the better, but it's never too late to start.
Today, both my kids are teens. Their bedtime routine is much less predictable. But by the time they reached this stage, both were regularly doing their own prayer and/or devotional time at night. They don’t do it every night, but it’s something they both do regularly — and on their own initiative.
When they’re upset or worried.
Whether it’s a fight with a friend or a lost textbook, I’ve always tried to point my kids to God for help. I think this has been a key aspect to making prayer a habit for them. When they’ve lifted up their concerns to God over and over again — and then watched Him work in sometimes miraculous ways — they’ve experienced a deeper faith and dependence on God.
They’ve seen firsthand His relevance to their everyday trials and worries. He’s not just an “idea.” He’s real and He cares about what they care about — no matter how small.
When they’re happy or grateful.
We’ve prayed to thank God when good things happen in our lives and shared with Him when we’re excited or happy. Just like we would a friend.
Of course, we pray at mealtimes and other times throughout the day, as well. My goal is that my children don’t think of prayer as an “event.” Instead, I want them to view it as a natural and valuable ongoing dialogue with the One who loves them more than they can possibly imagine.
In many ways, my children are just starting on their journeys with God. He still has much work to do in their hearts and lives. But, with God’s help and leading, I’m trying to lay a firm foundation of faith that He will continue to build on.
Because my prayer is that they will always be swinging with Jesus.