Teach Us to Pray

Tween girl walking through field of flowers, holding a bunch in her hand
Provided by Julie D.

Jesus often retreated to a quiet place to spend time alone with His Father. Prayer refreshed Him after a long day of ministry. It was His source of strength.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us how to pray and offered the Lord's Prayer as an example (Matthew 6:9-13). Parents can use our Lord's model to teach their children the purposes of prayer.

Prayer expresses love to our heavenly Dad. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name" brings worship to the Lord. When we pray, we give praise for His character and thanksgiving for what He has done.

Prayer commits us to God's will, not ours. "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" opens our hearts to His kingdom and His will. When we pray for God's will over our family, church and friends, we are saying to the Lord, "Have Your way with us."

Prayer declares God as our provider. "Give us today our daily bread" reminds us that God meets our physical needs. When we pray for our daily bread, we recognize our heavenly Father as the source of life and the provider of everything we need.

Prayer seeks forgiveness of sins. "Forgive us our debts" acknowledges the sin that keeps us from becoming like Jesus. And it looks to God as the only One who can remove that sin.

Prayer resolves anger. "As we also have forgiven our debtors" ends the cycle of blame in our relationships. Prayer frees our hearts from the toxic poisons of resentment and bitterness.

Prayer provides spiritual protection. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" acknowledges God's grace and invokes God's safety in our lives. With all the temptations of our world today, I can't imagine heading out the door unprotected.

Prayer may not always change our circumstances, but it does change us. It connects us to our heavenly Dad, aligns our priorities and guards our hearts.

—Ted Cunningham

Key Points

  • Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer as a model for us to follow.
  • Through this model we discover the purposes of prayer.
  • Prayer changes a person's heart.

Family Memory Verse

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

—Philippians 4:6

Scripture Study

For a more in-depth look at prayer, read these Bible passages:

  • Matthew 6:5-8
  • Matthew 26:41
  • Luke 6:28
  • Luke 11:1-10
  • Ephesians 6:18-20
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • 1 John 5:14-15


Preschool Activity
School-Age Activity
Tween Activity
Time With Your Teen


Preschool Activity

Prayer, for a young child, is amazingly natural. To make prayer a more concrete experience, consider creating prayer cards with your child. Choose four colors of index cards: one color to represent praising our heavenly Father, one color to represent asking for forgiveness of sins, one color to represent thanking God for His provision and one color to represent making special requests for ourselves and others.

Let your child draw pictures or cut and paste photos onto the cards. Choose pictures to act as cues for your child to remember who and what to pray for. Use the cards during meal times or drive times to prompt your preschooler to praise God, pray for forgiveness, give thanks, and pray for himself and family members.

Encourage your child to use his own simple words in prayer. As you use the cards throughout the day, remind your child he can pray at any time. God welcomes the prayers of a child!

D'Arcy Maher


School-age Activity

Encourage your child to hold a conversation with a toy or a cuckoo clock. Have fun with the conversation, but by its end, let your child see that talking to something that doesn't respond isn't a real conversation. Explain that God isn't a heavenly cuckoo clock or toy, but responds to His children — often through His Word, circumstances and others.

Have your child write down how often she talked to you, her friends, family and toys this week. You can make this task easier by encouraging general answers such as "all the time," "once in a while" or "almost never." Next, talk about how close she is with each person or toy. Let her see that there is a direct correlation between how much she talks with others and how close she is to them.

Then ask your child to write down how many times she talked to God that week. Suggest that closeness to God comes from interacting with Him. As an experiment, ask your child to talk to God a lot the following day. Stress the value of short "thank you" and "help me" prayers that she can pray anytime, anywhere and about anything. At the end of the day, ask her if she feels a little closer to God.

—Pat Baker


Tween Activity

Use this activity to teach your tweens about God's purposes in prayer. You'll need LEGO building blocks or some other type of kids' creative materials such as Play-Doh, wood blocks or watercolors and paper.

Gather your kids around the table and tell them to imagine that the materials in front of them are the only way they know how to communicate. No talking, no body language. Now ask them to create a model or picture as a way to pray to God.

To help jog their thinking, read Matthew 6:9-13. Tell your kids that it may be helpful to focus on one idea in the Lord's Prayer.

When your kids have finished their creations, have them take turns explaining what they were communicating to God through their model or painting. Then ask:

  • What can your creation teach us about prayer?
  • What does the Lord's Prayer tell us about what's important to God?
  • What does it tell us about our relationship with God?

Tell your kids that Jesus taught us to pray because it helps focus our thinking on God's will, not our own. The Lord's Prayer declares God as our provider. It acknowledges that only God can forgive our sins, ease our anger and be our spiritual protector.

Wrap up with prayer. (Words are OK this time.)

—Mike Nappa


Time With Your Teen

Teens tend to share their thoughts and feelings with friends through technology: cell phones, instant messages, social networks and text messages. Ask your teen to share with you who her closest friends are and what makes those relationships so positive. Teens may respond with something like, "I can be real with them" or "I can tell them anything."

Does your teen understand that God wants to have a relationship with her — the kind of relationship where she can talk with Him about anything? The Bible says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). God wants us to be real with Him, and He's provided prayer as that safe place where we can unload the concerns of the day. As you dive into the subject of prayer, ask your teen, "If you could send a text message to God, what would you say?"

A good friendship, of course, includes both sharing and listening. Encourage your teen to apply this principle to her relationship with God. One way for her to do this is to use a notebook to journal her thoughts and feelings to God and to write down what God might be saying to her, especially after reading the Bible. One of the exciting things about journaling is the simple freedom to write down everything you feel. As your teen reads through and reflects on her journal, she may begin to see God's leading.

Challenge your teen to ask God two simple questions: "Do you love me?" and "Why?" Encourage her to find Scriptures that help to answer these questions. Consider keeping your own journal so you can share your thoughts with your teen. This project can lead to some great conversation as you explore faith and prayer together.

—Dean Hawk

This article first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Teach Us to Pray." 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.
"Teach Us to Pray," the compiled article, is © 2011 by Focus on the Family. "Prayer" © 2011 by Ted Cunningham; "Preschool Activity" © 2011 by D'Arcy Maher. "School-Age Activity" © 2011 by Pat Baker. "Tween Activity" © 2011 by Mike Nappa. "Time With Your Teen" © 2011 by Dean Hawk. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Praying for Fish

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