Helping Children Experience Meaningful Prayer

    By Amie Leavitt

    “I am a child of God …”

    Six simple words that teach us who we are. They can also help us learn to pray.

    “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part,” the Bible Dictionary explains. “Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.”1 How can we make sure we are consistently building a relationship with our Heavenly Father and helping our children do the same? Here are some ideas:

    Teach Children That Prayer Is a Gift

    Prayer is a gift. Teach your children that they can speak with their Father in Heaven themselves directly. What a gift that is! Prayer is the main way we build a strong relationship with Heavenly Father. As President Gordon B. Hinckley (1920–2008) explained, “None of us can really make it alone. We need help, the kind of help that can come in answer to prayer.”2

    Teach Children to Pray from the Heart

    Prayer is more than just words—it’s a conversation from the heart with our caring Heavenly Father. When we help our children see prayer this way, they may be less inclined to say repetitious prayers and more inclined to really think about what they want to say to Him. Naturally, their prayers will be more meaningful when they view prayer as the gift that it is.

    Teach Children to Pray Anytime and Anywhere

    While it’s certainly respectful to kneel when we pray, it is not a requirement to do so. We can pray anytime and anywhere. Teach your children that they can say a silent prayer for help in the middle of a tough situation or thank God when they see something beautiful in nature. Heavenly Father is ready and willing to hear us anytime we need to talk.

    One family likes to have a quick “huddle prayer” as the kids rush out the door. We simply put our arms around each other and say a quick prayer for protection and guidance.

    Try these activities with your family to help improve both individual and family prayers:

    1. Happy Thoughts and Needs

    To avoid repetition in prayer, ask each family member to share one thing they are happy about or grateful for that day. Then, encourage the person saying the family prayer to include some of the “happy thoughts” in the prayer. This will help each family member really ponder the ways Heavenly Father has blessed their lives each day. There may also be an opportunity to think about a family member who is in need of a special blessing, such as help with a test, a job interview, or finding a new friend. Praying for someone by name draws a family together.

    2. Remember, Remember

    Read or listen to President Henry B. Eyring’s general conference talk titled “O Remember, Remember,” and look for ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness.3

    3. Listening for Answers

    After your children say their individual prayers, encourage them to write down any thoughts or ideas they might have. Be sure to explain that answers do not always come right away. Sometimes our answers are not at all what we expect, and they may come at random times. By keeping the Holy Ghost always in our hearts, we can recognize the answers to our prayers when they do come.

    4. Lead by Example

    Show your children that prayer is important to you. Share experiences you have had with prayer, and bear your testimony of how it has helped you in your life. If prayer is new to you, that’s okay. Explain to your children that we are all in different places in our journey. Share ways that you are trying to improve your relationship with Heavenly Father, and encourage them to do the same, both individually and as a family.

    Notes

    1. Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”
    2. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley (2016), 107.
    3. Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember, Remember,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 66–69.

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