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Do you ever feel you are failing to teach your children to pray?

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.

Pray anyway.

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. May the Lord Almighty grant us and those we love a peaceful night and a perfect end.
  3. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. Bible Memorization: Choose a psalm or a Bible passage you want your kids to know by heart. Quote it here for a few weeks.
  7. The Lord’s Prayer: We use the ESV.
  8. 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)
  9. 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?

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

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34 thoughts on “Bedtime Prayers with our Children”

  1. Trevin, thanks for sharing the details of your family prayer time. I would be curious if you have any thoughts on Brian’s post: Does Teaching Children to Pray = Treating Them as Saved and specifically a comment that followed by Don Kistler:

    “If a child has made a profession of faith in Christ, commensurate with his or her age, and if we believe that there is some sincerity there (not as a parent who desperately WANTS to believe it, but as a person with discernment), then they should be allowed to pray.

    If a child is an obvious non-believer, then “the prayer of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” and it is a sin to call God their Father when He is not their Father. It is a lie.

    The Puritans would invite their children to ask God to change their hearts, but would not allow them to pray if that gave them the sense that they were converted.”

  2. trevinwax says:


    I read the article in question, and I agree with John Piper.

    Training up a child in the way he should go would most assuredly include prayer. The issue is not whether or not I am treating the child as a believer. It’s whether or not I am being a faithful parent and passing down the spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith (like church attendance, praying before meals, reading Bible stories, etc.)

  3. Hi Trevin,

    Thanks for sharing this. I thought you might like this memory system. We do it with our kids at every meal and find it very effective for memorizing Scripture.

  4. Weston says:

    I can’t wait to pray with my kids. You’ve set a good example for the rest of your siblings on how to pray with your child.

  5. Thank you for this post. I linked to you from and I am so grateful I did. Last night I felt so discouraged after my son prayed during family worship. It was the same old – “Thank you Jesus for giving me a good day…” kind of a prayer. It just seems like no matter how much we try to model and teach prayer, he doesn’t really grow in this area. It is comforting to know that other Christian parents experience the same battle. We spent some time last night talking to him about it and one thing we encouraged him to do was to take one attribute of God(there is a very child-friendly/understandable list of them in his children’s ESV) and thank God for who He is in His prayer. We’ll see how that works. What you do with your son is something to think about too. Thanks again.

  6. Thanks Trevin for your thoughts.

    I agree that we are to train our children. Can I just clarify that you encourage your children to pray as you would pray?

    At present, my daughters are very young, so either myself or my wife prays, and they simply close there eyes and hold our hands. Since reading the other article it has caused me to consider whether we are to ‘model’ prayer and in that way train them, or whether we are to actually get them to pray. I don’t encourage my unbelieving friends to pray, I instruct them that God calls them to repent and believe the gospel, as it is only through the blood of Christ that a believer can come boldly to the throne of grace.

    I’m assuming by your comment that you disagree with what Don refers to as the “Puritan view”?

    Thank you again for the information in this post – there are many things that we will be implementing as a result of reading this.

  7. This is wonderful encouragement for us. It’s not as theologically rich as the Apostle’s Creed, but when our daughter was very young, she learned the bedtime prayer from Boz. We quickly moved onto scripture memory but the big green bear’s prayer was a good starting place and very easy for a young child.

    My husband was encouraged to start praying over our daughter after reading “Praying for the Next Generation” by Sally Michael. Our 4-year old now requests her blessing each night.

  8. trevinwax says:

    Hi Nathan,

    I don’t worry so much whether or not he’s praying the prayers out loud. As you pray over your children, it is difficult to keep them from praying along once they learn the prayers.

    During the spontaneous time, I usually ask our son if he wants to pray. He always does. If the “puritan view” means that I should tell him, “No, you can’t pray yet,” then yes, I disagree wholeheartedly with it, and see it as another example of Puritan excess.

    I cannot imagine the Jesus who says, “Let the little children come to me” saying to parents, “Don’t teach them to pray. They can’t know me yet.”

  9. Justin says:

    Excellent post Trevin. I imagine that the Jewish people trained up their children to recite prayers and this practice would have been a tacit command in the instruction to train up a child in the way he should go.

  10. Gordon Cheng says:

    Thanks Trevin,

    I’ve taught all 3 daughters Romans 1:1-17 by this method (littlest one still learning). I’ve said it with them as I am tucking them into bed.

    If all else slips from their memory (and mine, for that matter) I want us to know that “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…for in it the righteousness of God is revealed.”

    They get some of the words wrong but frankly, at the age of 5, that is half the fun. “Paul, a serpent of Christ Jesus” and so on and so forth.

  11. noahdlee says:

    Love your outline for prayer with your children. I’ll likely incorporate some of the elements myself.

    Right now, with my children ages 3 and 1, I pray the Lord’s prayer, sing the Doxology, and then pray personal prayers with them.

  12. Great post Trevin. My wife and I recently started setting aside time for family devotions and have already tremendously benefited from it. My two year old son loves us reading Bible stories to him before he goes to sleep and then we sing and go over some Shorter Catechisms. We do pray with him every night but nothing like this. Thanks so much for sharing these ideas and encouraging the rest of us.

  13. Stacia says:

    I also must disagree with the thought that an unsaved child should not pray. The prayers of the ungodly are an abomination, and I do not ask my nonChristian friends to pray for me. However, if I was an Israelite, I taught my children the Law and the Shama as well as many other things. However, we know now that not all that were circumcised by the flesh were circumcised by the heart, however, I think collectively they were following God’s command to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. With that said for an Assyrian family to pass down the Israelite law and such, that would be ridiculous, same as it would for an Atheist teaching their children to recite the Lord’s Prayer. When God is seeing us, as parents, teaching our children to pray (even if its before their conversion) I think it warms his heart and he is very honored by it, because in teaching our children, our goal is to teach our children to glorify Christ. At the same time it is also our job as parents, to help our children understand that they are not saved simply because we are or that they go to church or pray.

  14. David McKay says:

    Hi Trevin.
    There’s a few Aussies pondering your comments on bedtime prayers. Thanks for sharing with us.

  15. trevinwax says:

    Glad they could be of service!

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  17. Emily says:

    What a GREAT compilation of prayers! We are just starting to do this with our daughter, but we haven’t said any formal prayers, just spontaneous ones. I would love to incorporate these. Thank you so much for the encouragement and ideas to get us started!

  18. Josee says:

    Hi Trevin ?May God bless your family and thanks for sharing the details of your family prayer is a question i have for you ,.
    I and my husband like to seat together with our litlle son who is 18 month and pray with him but its seems like he doesn’t know what we always do becouse the moment of prayer he is shouting.

    The questions is this:do you think we can keep praying with him on his age until the time he will know and undersand what we do?or we can wait for him until he will be at least 2 years or 3?
    Is there anything do you think we can do to help him undestand the seriousness of prayers?


    Be blessed


  19. Trevin Wax says:


    I would pray with him anyway. Even if he doesn’t quite understand, he will come to realize what is going on. Better to start praying with him earlier than to try to introduce it later.

    You might make your prayers more abbreviated at this young age. Or you or your husband can try to teach him to sit quietly while the other prays, etc…

  20. This is great. Repetition is such a helpful tool in training children theologically. In the same way that my kids’ off-the-wall questions often pertain to the stories they’re reading and ruminating on, wouldn’t it be great if their questions also reflected prayers that had taken root in their minds?

  21. terrt says:

    These are great suggestions for prayer! Memorizing prayers or creeds that are used in church and that children then hear the congregation saying is exciting when it helps them to feel a part of the community. Things you memorize as a child stick with you throughout life. My handwriting assignments in grammar school were hymns, and I still know them by heart…sometimes all the verses!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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