Children seem to have plenty to say to each other, some are still vocal when we want them to listen, yet when it comes to asking children to pray, have you ever experienced the room go quiet as no-one is confident enough to talk to God? What is it that seems to build a barrier between us and talking to God? Why are children (and sometimes adults) reluctant to pray? How can we as leaders knock that barrier down and excite and motivate children to chat to God, just as they would chat with their friends?
As a child, prayer to me was something of a routine. Something that you just said. It didn’t feel to me that I was talking to a loving Father who wanted to be my friend. I would pray for people, asking God to be with them and asking God to be with me, but I never for one moment expected God to actually be with me, and certainly never realised he was. To me, prayer was something that was squeezed in at the end of the Sunday school class, minutes before finishing and running out to find my parents.
Here are five questions we can ask ourselves that help us to think through how we can encourage children to realise that prayer is accessible to them:
1. Where do we place prayer in our sessions with the children?
Time to pray needs to be factored into the session and not squashed into the last few minutes. We need to help children to see the importance of making time to talk to God.
2. Do children know God as their friend?
For children to have a relationship with God, it helps that they know Him as their friend. If they can chat to God like they would their best friend, it will help to strengthen their prayer life.
3. Are children expectant to see God answer prayers?
Whilst many children are, some children aren’t. If they’ve never seen answers to prayer, it can be hard to believe He will. Therefore, potentially limiting what children could be praying for.
4. Do we follow up prayers children have shared and encourage children to see answers?
Following on from their prayers, asking how a child got on during the week is really helpful. If they give you a positive answer, this automatically creates the opportunity to encourage them by saying that’s a real answer to your prayers. We need to be making an effort to help children see that God is at work in their lives.
5. Do we model our own prayer lives for children to see?
Firstly we need to be confident in praying ourselves in front of the children and secondly, we need to be sharing testimonies of our prayer lives, showing them that God is at work in our lives and very much real today.
It’s hard to have a friendship with someone if we never chat to them. And it’s the same with God. We want to be showing children that by chatting to God, our relationship with Him can grow. Why not create as many opportunities as possible to encourage them in this, especially as we model prayer ourselves.
written by Fiona Stutton, Thrive’s Children’s Ministry Adviser