Prayer is an amazing gift from God that draws us closer to him and each other, while offering a highly effective way to join him in his work, to intercede and to love. Are the young people in your life learning how to pray with confidence and hope in God? Use these ways to sharpen this vital spiritual practice for their faith.
1. Be clear about who God is.
It’s important for children to understand that God is unseen, he is spirit, and he is the only one who can be everywhere at once, can know everything that ever did and will happen, and can out-power any other force in all creation. There is no one like him. He has revealed himself to us as God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God wants to be known by us on an individual, personal level, and he wants to be with us.
2. Understand what prayer does.
Prayer is the connection of the heart and mind with God so that we can grow to know his heart and mind more. When we pray, we also help God in his work in the unseen world (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 1 Timothy 2:1; Luke 22:40, 46, Philippians 4:4-7, among many others).
“He wants us to come to him to ask, just like we would want our children to. We wouldn’t just want to zap them and provide things. We want to dialog with them and hear their hearts’ desires and delight in fulfilling them, and have that relationship grow,” said author and teacher Jodie Berndt, in a recent Newborn Promise Podcast episode.
3. Understand what prayer doesn’t do.
I have been in group prayer with children that more closely resembled supplications to Santa Clause. We grownups are sometimes not much different, putting our list of preferences before the Lord. “I would say that rare is the time that prayer has worked for me like a vending machine, where I put my request in and the answer that I expected comes tumbling out,” Berndt said. “It’s much more like I talk to him about something and he either takes longer than I thought or does something above and beyond what I thought.”
Model for the children in your life a posture before the Lord that resembles the posture he wants them to have.
4. Recognize all answers to prayers.
This is probably the hardest thing for anyone to learn about prayer, especially when we don’t get an answer, or don’t get the one we don’t want.
This hit home for Jodie at a time when she was disappointed in an answer to prayer, and felt bad about not having more faith, joy, or trust. “I felt like the Lord said to me, ‘You know, that’s okay. You can feel sad. Why don’t you come and let me comfort you and just let me love you,’” Jodie said. “And I think for our children to know how loving God is and how his comfort is available to us, is a great starting place.” These are wonderful words to share with your child.
Also, with prayer it’s easy to go into the default mode of our own impressions such as, “God isn’t answering my prayer,” and then spring into our own line of action. But God enjoins us to wait (see Lamentations 3:19-26). As you wait, keep a prayer journal with your child and note when prayers are answered and how—yes, no, or wait. Give thanks for God’s listening ear and loving heart in all circumstances.
Callie is the founder and president of Graham Blanchard Inc. She also specializes in strategic program design and content development for improving outcomes in corporate philanthropy and education.
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