“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
Many people struggle with prayer, especially kids. They often stumble through their words or simply not speak at all and defer to mom or dad. What exactly are we supposed to say? Are there any requirements or certain elements in prayer that are necessary? Do we just hit the highlights of our day? Do we speak off the cuff or is there a pattern to follow?
The disciples had a similar problem. They only knew how to recite the prayers they had heard the rabbis repeatedly speak. Then one day, one of the disciples asks Jesus how he ought to pray. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tells us Jesus’ response, which is what we now call the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is not meant to be an outline to follow. God would rather we speak from our hearts as a child would talk to a parent. But it does give several key points you can teach your children to include when they talk to God.
Jesus’ Four Points of Prayer
Both Matthew and Luke tell us four things to include when we pray: praise, making requests, asking for forgiveness, and asking for strength.
Praise. “Our Father in Heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth just as it is done in Heaven.” Luke 11:2 NKJ
Jesus tells us first to acknowledge the Father for who He is. God is the Creator of all things. He is majestic, glorious, righteous, just, mighty, faithful, and always good. Who can compare to Him? When we lift up the name of the Lord, we put Him exactly where He belongs–in a place of worship and praise. Because we were made to serve God and proclaim His glory, we first have to acknowledge Him and His holiness.
Think about it. When we first talk to someone, we often begin with a nice compliment like, “Gee, I love your hairstyle. It looks so nice!” or, “Wow, I really like your new jacket. You look good in it!” If we commonly begin our conversations with our friends and family with some kind of nice compliment, how much more does God deserve the same treatment? He is Lord of all. The least we can do is say so.
Make Your Requests. “Give us day by day our daily bread,” Luke 11:3 (NKJ)
Let your children ask God for what they need. Your child’s requests might be actual bread, getting the latest video game app, a new baseball bat, or a new dress. God knows your children usually want to pray for God to meet their wants and not needs. God understands that. He understands how our kids think. So when your son asks God for a new pack of Pokémon cards or your daughter asks for a new tea set, or either of them ask for a trip to Disney World, just let them ask.
God’s great love for our kids makes it all okay. What’s really important is that we teach our kids the habit of daily praying and seeking God first whenever we need something.
Ask for Forgiveness. “And forgive us our sins just as we also have forgiven those who sin against us,” Matthew 6:12 (NIV)
Even if your child is not yet of an age to understand the consequences of sin, it is a part of being a godly parent to teach them that we ought to ask for forgiveness so that, when the day of accountability comes, they’ll be ready.
Matthew 6:12 and Luke 11:4 both state in the past tense that we have forgiven others. Kids don’t automatically forgive when a play or classmate hurts their feelings (and some adults don’t either for that matter). So when we pray with our kids, let’s ask for strength to forgive others just as God forgives us. Jesus commanded us to do so a couple of verses later in Matthew 6:14 where He said,
“Forgive people when they sin against you. If you do, your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Forgiveness is a big deal. Most young children don’t yet have the full ability to do it, the wanting to do it, or appreciate the freedom it brings. Let’s teach them its importance, especially as it was made most evident at the cross.
Asking for Strength. “Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted. Save us from the evil one,” Matthew 6:13 (NIV)
Some kids, especially boys, might pray for physical strength. But God also wants them to pray for strength to resist falling into sin. Even kids are under Satan’s attack (hard to believe, right?). Daily they are subjected to ads on the television or the latest “thing” their friends have. Or maybe, someone at school is bullying them, and they want to punch the kid squarely in the nose.
It’s one thing to be tempted and quite another to give in to it. Being tempted is not a sin. It’s when we give in that we mess up. It all comes down to self-control.
Jesus told us that we’ll never be able to resist sin on our own. We have to rely on His strength and grace so that we always make good choices. God promises to help us resist the evil strategies that Satan pulls on us if we just ask Him for it. Hallelujah!
More Praise. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:13 (NKJ)
There’s nothing wrong with a good solid ending. Remind God again of His power and how amazing His is. Everything is His and He is worthy of more and more praise, don’t you agree?
Just Talk to Him
Jesus loves to hear our kids pray. He wants them to come near to Him. He even had to inform His own disciples about it in Luke 18:16 when He said,
“Let the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Whatever works for you and your family, just go with it. It’s more important that we talk to God and seek Him than follow a formula. In other words, it’s substance over style. As your kids create a habit of praying daily and putting God first in every area of their lives, they will be better equipped to handle the struggles of life as they grow.
Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have against the enemy. Let’s prepare our kids (and ourselves) for battle however we can.
READ MORE: For a more in-depth perspective on the Lord’s Prayer, check out Unlocking the Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer.