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Getting Your Kids Ready to Talk With God

We can make saying night time prayers more meaningful. After all, we are teaching our children how to talk to God.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

It was a gentle plea. “Come on, boys. Let’s pray before bed.”

Nothing. No response.

I tried again. “OK, now. We’re going to put those things away so we can pray together.”

I couldn’t blame my kids. I was inviting them into something far less interesting, in their minds, than Calvin and Hobbes or an epic battle between Cyclops and Hippopotamus Man.

My gentle plea turned into a command. “Boys, pause what you’re doing. Close the book and set the figures down.” The book closed, and the toy figurines were laid on their sides.

Now my boys were ready to pray. Right?

Not quite.

Outwardly they looked ready, but inwardly they were someplace else. I can only think that my oldest was wondering what Calvin would do on the next page, and my youngest was sneaking peeks at his Cyclops and probably thinking something like, This isn’t a win, Hippo Man. Just you wait! It became clear that the path from play to prayer was more involved than just putting down their books and toys.

Every parent well versed in the get-ready-for-bed struggle knows that a successful bedtime works only if children are outwardly and inwardly ready to sleep. They may have their teeth brushed and pj’s on, but that doesn’t mean they will immediately lie down and fall asleep. In the same way, even when our children pause and close their eyes, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to pray.

Starting the Journey

Throughout the Bible, we see people making long physical journeys to meet with God. Moses climbed Mount Sinai, Hannah traveled to the temple and the paralytic was carried who knows how far to meet Jesus for healing. We may not need to make a long physical journey, but as I learned with my boys, there is still a journey to be made if we hope our children will authentically engage God in prayer.

So how do we bring our children from wherever they are mentally and physically to a place where they are ready to talk with God? We build what I like to call an on-ramp. Here are four ideas for building an on-ramp for your children to prepare them for prayer.

When building an on-ramp to prayer becomes a regular practice, you’ll discover the same thing we did: After we help our children on their journeys to meet with God, we can step aside and, like the paralytic’s friends, trust Him to take it from there.

Set the stage: Just lighting the candles on a birthday cake cues everyone that it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday.” Likewise, changing up the room before praying can have a similar effect. It communicates, we’re about to do something different and special. Try playing some background worship music, turning off the lights in favor of a night light or candle (even a battery-powered one does the job) or arranging pillows and blankets to create a space to gather.

Attribute value to prayer: Take a moment to remind your children why prayer is so important and why God loves it when we pray. You might say, “Prayer is a special way we can connect with God. Did you know that Jesus was always going places where He could be alone, because He loved talking to His Father? And God loves when we talk with Him, too.” Assume your positions: We can pray in any position, but why not be intentional about what that position is? Encourage your children to get their bodies ready for prayer. For instance, they could kneel, snuggle up next to you or sit with their palms up. Their stuffed animals and figures might even want to pick a prayer position, too.

Make a plan: What are you going to pray about and what will your prayer time look like? Talking through this will help your children mentally prepare and feel as though they are actively engaging in prayer. For example, you might ask, “Is everyone tired and stressed out? If that’s the case, maybe we just need to sit with God and enjoy the peace He gives us.” Or, “Is Grandma still sick? Perhaps we should take turns praying for her.” Or, “Do we want to thank God for our good day?

Great! Do we each want to pray out loud?”

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