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Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

I knelt down beside my son’s bed next to his little pajama clad body. He clasped his hands together and squeezed his eyes shut tight.

“Oh God,” he prayed. “Please let it snow tonight for Christmas tomorrow. Please Jesus.”

The uncomfortable truth of a weather forecast with high’s in the 50’s on Christmas Day churned in my mind.

In my heart a whisper of a faithless prayer added, “I know You could do this if it’s Your will.” It was a nudge toward God to do the right thing for a little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, who wanted to wake up on Christmas morning to sparkling magic outside and inside.

My son finished and turned to me with shiny eyes. That trusting purity would surely be difficult for a Heavenly Father to turn down, yet I knew that the likelihood of snow was nil.

Children’s prayers are the sweetest. They thank God for forks, knives, and spoons. They plead for their team to win, for grandpa to get better, and for a pet hamster. Children simply ask God “for” and expect God “to.”

Sometimes as a parent, I felt responsible for those innocent requests, guilty almost, as if my son’s belief pivoted on God’s yes. Literal, and trusting, self-centered and unrestricted, the faith of a child often defies reality.

Rather than distance our children from the perplexities and complexities that we ourselves can’t explain, a piece of the parent puzzle is to teach them how to pray. “Lord, teach us to pray,” the disciples asked Jesus. it is never too early to begin building foundations for a life of prayer.

  1. Thanksgiving. One of the first prayers we teach children to pray is “Thank you for this food.” Thankfulness in prayer is taught throughout Scripture. Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and thanked His Father for the provision. Even before a child knows how to speak it, gratefulness with a pause and hands together is a pattern for a heart that is quick to thank.
  2. Petition. “Please give me…” Asking is also modeled in the Bible. Unfortunately, our maturity level as adults often hovers there, imparting the idea that God is a genie, with our desires as His command. Let’s teach our children to pray with surrender. Jesus prayed the ultimate prayer of surrender before the cross, “Not my will but thine be done.” The underlying truth is “Jesus I want what You want even more than what I want.”
  3. Confession. It’s interesting that the sinless Son of God modeled confession. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Children understand the need for forgiveness. Arms wrapped around our necks and noses buried into our skin, we know the child’s sorrow at wrong doing. Sensitive little hearts can understand Christ’s compassionate love and sadness for sin. Godly sorrow implanted in a child’s heart provides fertile ground for gospel truth to grow.
  4. Worship. Teaching children to worship teaches them that God is much greater than their imagination can fathom. “Our Father…hallowed be Your name.” True for adults and true for children, it is far too easy to talk to God with minds still on the list of things to do, the evening meal burning, or the text we need to send. Pausing to gather the wayward loose ends of mind and heart to focus on the Who of the prayer, is a good practice no matter the age. It will lead into sincere worship.

Learn to pray Scripture together. The Psalms are a great prayer book. Children relate to the array of emotions expressed. I remember often kneeling with my mom beside my bed and praying Psalm 23 together. That Psalm has become a balm to my soul many times as an adult.

The Bible is full of prayers that reveal our deepest needs. Paul prayed for inner strength, spiritual understanding and patience. There are many others-centered requests in Scripture that model a heart surrendered to God’s will. A strong foundation for a strong faith develops as parents guide their little ones from me-centered to God-centered praying.

“Dear Jesus,” I prayed next to my little boy with the snow expectations, “may this experience be something that grows his faith.”

He didn’t get a white Christmas that year. In fact, he hasn’t seen many snow-covered holidays. Grown up now with a little boy of his own, we joke about how he loves snow.

“Hey Mom, it’s snowing,” We connect across the miles through the screen of a phone. Paper white doilies seem to float from heaven behind him. “Just look at it!”

I can see the child in him.

“Did you pray?” I ask with a smile.

By: Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at Avant Ministries. She and her husband raised four children in Italy and Germany, where they were missionaries with Avant. Their children are all married and they have twelve grandchildren. Visit her blog, When the House is Quiet, atsylviaschroeder.com.

Join us each Monday-Friday at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog and for information on the Just 18 Summers novel.

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