How can I help my 7-year-old daughter understand the proper use of prayer? I've tried to teach her that talking to God is simply a way of staying close to Him, but lately she's been using prayer to ask for everything she wants, such as getting a new toy, going to the movies, or winning a game she's playing with her friends. I don't want to put a damper on her faith, but at the same time I don't want her to misuse prayer. What should I say to her?
It's impossible to overestimate the importance of solid spiritual training during childhood, and we want to begin by commending you on your dedication to teaching your child an accurate, biblical view of prayer. Keep up the good work! We know the Lord is smiling on your efforts.
It's important to realize that 7-year-olds can't always comprehend some of the subtler nuances of prayer that mature adults are able to grasp. That's not surprising, being that many grown-ups seem to have a pretty childish understanding of prayer. Too many people of all ages tend to view God as some sort of "cosmic vending machine" that dispenses blessings at the touch of a button.
With that in mind, we'd encourage you to resist the temptation to criticize your daughter's misapplication of prayer. Instead, concentrate on accentuating the positive. Praise her for making prayer a central part of her life. Encourage her to talk with the Lord about everything. Read the Lord's Prayer with her (Matthew 6:5-15) and point out that Jesus gave it to us as a model prayer, teaching us how to pray and what to pray for. As you do these things, you'll probably have all kinds of opportunities to reinforce the idea that conversation with God isn't about getting what we want, and that one of its main purposes is to make us more Christ-like. Apparently you've already been making a diligent effort to plant this concept in her mind. Just keep plugging away at it and eventually the message will get through.
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A Parent's Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children
Spiritual Growth for Kids