Teaching Your Child to Pray: Show, Don’t Tell
by Beth K. Vogt
There comes a time when moms need to stop talking and start doing.
Whatever it is you want your kiddos to do.
When my older three children were little, my husband, Rob, and I wanted them to learn to serve one another. We could have just said, “Listen up! God wants you to consider others more important than yourself, so do some nice things for each other.”
But Rob didn’t lecture our kids about having a servant’s heart. Nope. Instead of talking, he served our son and daughters. They’d get up for school — running around getting dressed, eating breakfast, feeding pets — and he’d slip into their bedrooms and make their beds.
A quiet act of service. He didn’t do this every day. But when he did, they noticed, usually after their dad had left for work. I would always say, “Your dad helped you because he loves you.”
The concept of doing versus talking also applies to teaching children to pray. Now there’s a challenging idea for children to embrace.
Child: “What’s prayer?”
Mom: “It’s a conversation with God, you know, that big, invisible person who lives far away in heaven. But go ahead, talk to him. He’s listening. “
Yeah, prayer. Easy.
Prayer isn’t always easy for me — and I’ve had a relationship with God for 30 years. Sometimes the conversation, um, drags. Knowing the right answer doesn’t guarantee a vibrant prayer life, just as knowing how to be a good friend doesn’t guarantee trouble-free relationships.
How can you nurture prayer in your child’s life?
Stop talking to them and start talking (praying) to God. Ask God to open your child’s heart to him and to create a desire for prayer.
Be a public pray-er. Let your children see and hear you pray. I don’t mean only at mealtimes, although mealtimes are natural times to thank God. Let them see you praying during your quiet time, praying with a hurting friend during a phone call, praying with your husband about financial decisions. My 23-year-old daughter, Amy, said she learned more about faith by watching her dad and I walk out our belief through good times and bad than by listening to what we said.
Make prayer approachable. This summer my 10-year-old and I tried an artistic approach to prayer, thanks to the book Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth. I invested in sketchpads and pulled out colored markers and pencils so we could draw and doodle our “conversations” with God. My artistic daughter told me sketching out her prayers for friends and family provided a whole new way to express herself to God.
Beth K. Vogt is the author of Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bethvogt.