Pray With Young Children

A mom and her daughter are sitting on the floor and reading a book together.
Monkey Business/Thinkstock

Some people think that infants and toddlers are too young to pray, but they're not. Here are ways that other parents like you have incorporated prayer time with young children into their busy lives:

Timeout Prayers

I want to teach my toddler that actions have consequences, but I also want to guide her heart in understanding the greater lessons of repentance and obedience. An effective way to teach my toddler these big lessons has been through a small timeout prayer.

At the end of every short timeout, we say a prayer. The format is simple and the same every time:

  1. My daughter asks Jesus to forgive the offense.
  2. She asks Jesus to help her next time. We brainstorm a way she can choose a better response.
  3. She ends by thanking Jesus for forgiveness, and I give her a hug to affirm that she is loved and forgiven.

—Beth Sickel

Prayer Habits

Praying with children can begin as early as birth.

  • Hold your baby, say grace and then nurse
  • Pray aloud for God's peace when your infant is fussy.
  • Ask for God's healing as you care for any bumps or scrapes your child receives.
  • Use "prayer talk" in daily life. If your child sees a dog, say, "God made dogs. Thank you, God, for dogs," and soon he'll echo your words.
  • Draw a heart on bandages with a permanent marker to remind children that God is the one who heals.

—Karen H. Whiting

Family Prayers

My husband prayed, "Dear God, thank You for this meal," and continued until our 2-year-old squirmed, 9-year-old poked at his broccoli and 12-year-old looked bored. Our task was to get our toddler to sit still and involve the other kids in prayer.

"Dad," our 9-year-old said, "when you pray, it sounds like church. I thought grace was short."

My husband, who is a minister, was not used to giving really short prayers, but he promised to make the next one shorter. "Or, better yet," he said, "let's all take turns saying grace."

I knew the two older boys would say really short prayers. That would help keep our toddler from moving too much, and the older boys would be engaged and more interested in prayer time.

As our family began to take turns praying, we eventually found the best way to include our toddler. We had everyone hold hands. That kept him from squirming and included him in the prayer.

—Su Wright

Family Prayer

Take small pieces of paper, and write names of 20 to 50 people you know. Some you will know well and some not as well. Try to include all the people who surround your children's lives.

Fold the papers in half and put them in a bowl in the middle of the table. Every time you have a meal, let one child pick a paper from the bowl. Then, as a family, pray for that person, thanking God for the work that person does, how he or she affects your family's lives and the pleasure you have in knowing him or her.

If your little ones are not talking yet, you can teach them "thank you" in sign language. Have them touch the tips of their fingers to their chin, move their fingers two inches away from their chin and then raise their right arm to heaven, which is the sign for "God." In this way, even young children can thank God for the people in their lives.

Include People You Know
Mothers
Fathers
Siblings
Friends
Teachers
Pastors
Neighbors
Baby sitters

Include People You Don't Know Well
Mail carrier
Lifeguard
Librarian
Trash collector
Bank teller
People on your street
Newspaper deliverer
Grocery store cashier

—Chris Brack

"The compiled article "Pray With Young Children" first appeared on FocusOnTheFamily.com (2018). "Timeout Prayers" first appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Prayer Habits" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, May/June 2007. "Family Prayers" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, April 2007. "Family Prayer" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, November 2006. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
"Timeout Prayers" © 2018 by Beth Sickel. "Prayer Habits" © 2007 by Karen H. Whiting. "Family Prayers" © 2007 by Su Wright. "Family Prayer" © 2006 by Chris Brack. Used by permission.

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