The days are hurried. The more kids you have, the more difficult it is to gather everyone together for family prayer. When your child does start to pray, it’s the same prayer every night. You wonder how much he or she is praying from the heart and how much of their prayer is merely a formality. You yourself are exhausted from your efforts. Sometimes, it just seems like taking a few minutes every night to pray is too much.
Let me encourage you. Young children soak in everything we say to them. Don’t be frustrated if they’re not reciting the catechism by the age of 4. Don’t be frustrated if they seem to be disinterested when you pray. Don’t be frustrated by their lack of attention span.
Our son has learned the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and other Psalms merely through repeating certain prayers each night. No, we have not tested his memory or promised him certain rewards for praying fervently. Mere repetition does it all.
Quote Psalm 23 to your children every night for two weeks and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they can say it with you… word for word. Rather than seeing repetition as something that stifles prayer, we’ve discovered in our home that repetition is the best way to pray with a young child.
If this is any help at all, I’m including our usual nightly prayers that we say over our children:
Our Nightly Prayers
We gather as a family in our son’s room, turn the lights down, and kneel by his bedside (most of the time). By the way, I recommend you have these prayers memorized before you start teaching them. It will be more effective than reading them from a book. Furthermore, it will spur you on to greater efforts in memorizing.
- Apostles’ Creed (with motions) – We quote the updated one (click here), and we use hand motions as well. Our son loves the story of Christ, especially “on the third day, he ROSE AGAIN!!!” (insert brief moment of bed-jumping here.)
- May the Lord Almighty grant us and those we love a peaceful night and a perfect end.
- Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)
- Confession: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we have sinned against you, through our own fault, in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. For the sake of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us all our offenses, and grant that we may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your name, Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)
- Gloria: Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever, Amen.
- Bible Memorization: Choose a psalm or a Bible passage you want your kids to know by heart. Quote it here for a few weeks.
- The Lord’s Prayer: We use the ESV.
- Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of your eye. Hide me under the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 17:8, 31:5)
- Personal, spontaneous prayers: Each member of the family prays for a minute or two whatever is on our hearts.
It may seem like such a prayer program would take a long time. It doesn’t. Usually, we’re finished praying within 5-10 minutes. But the impact on our family has been great. When I was away from home last month, my son asked my wife to call me, put me on speakerphone and let me lead the family in prayers long-distance before he went to bed.
What kinds of prayer practices have you found effective with your children?