Like most Christian families, we want to instill in our kids the importance of prayer. Prayer is our open line of communication directly to God. Through prayer we can pour out our heart to God, lift up others before him, and intercede for other people and situations. Not only does God hear our prayers but he loves to hear them and somehow incorporates our prayers into his work around the world. We are also trying to teach our kids that they can talk with God any time they want. Not just at bed time or at dinner but they can pray about anything at any time and know that God is listening.
This is a lot for a small child to understand, it can be a lot for adults to wrap their heads around. When our kids were very young, Katie and I just prayed but as they got older we began asking them what they wanted to pray about. This has been a great experience. We love hearing their prayer requests, it is a little window into their world. Sometimes it is touching what they want to pray about, sometimes it is funny and I know God must really enjoy hearing from these little guys.
While that was going well at first, after a while it started to sink in that most of the kids’ prayers really just revolved around themselves or our family – the wish list kind of prayer. This is fine and totally appropriate given their ages but we began to feel like we wanted to broaden their horizons about the things we can and should pray about. We came up with something that our kids have really enjoyed and it has helped me in my own prayer life as well. I wanted to share it as a helpful way for other families or individuals.
Kids thrive on routine and also on little novelty ideas. I created a set of prayer cards using 3×5 index cards, one for each day of the week with a different topic. We keep the cards in their Bible so, after Bible reading, we find the card for the day and we have a mini topic to pray about.
Sunday – Pray for a family member or friend. Oftentimes, they choose a classmate or an aunt, uncle or cousin. Sometimes Katie and I will make a suggestion if we know someone needs special prayer for something. This has helped our kids start praying for their friends more often and thinking of others to needs.
Monday – Pray for a people group or country. This is the favorite prayer topic at our house because it involves our two boys getting out a map and each picking a country of the world. We talk briefly about each country, whether or not there are many or few people who know Jesus there, then we pray for the people of the two countries. Once the kids get older, I would love to incorporate Operation World into this prayer time, creating a richer, deeper understanding of the countries. The kids love picking countries and, as a side benefit, this has been helping them with their geography!
Tuesday – Pray for our country, state, or city and its leaders. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul urges us to pray for those in authority so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” On the back of this card we have the names of the president and vice-president, our senators and representatives as well as our governor and the mayor of our city. Our kids are still young so we don’t really get into the political issues but we tell them that we pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not and pray that God will give them wisdom to make good decisions and that God will also surround them with good counselors. In a political climate that seems to be getting more and more divisive, I hope our kids will learn to see all our leaders as people that need our prayers. As a bonus, our kids are getting to know some key political figures, so that is cool.
Wednesday – Pray for a missionary. As former missionaries, we have a heart for praying for those serving Christ overseas and we know many of the joys and challenges missionaries go through. Our kids don’t remember much of our years overseas but we want them to understand the importance of praying for God’s mission including missionaries, the spread of the Gospel and that there would be more workers for the harvest. We keep the prayer cards of the missionaries we support in the kids’ Bible so we can pray for them and their ministry as a family.
Thursday – Pray for someone who doesn’t know Jesus. On Thursdays the kids can pick anyone they want to pray for – that they would know that Jesus loves them and died for them and that they would believe in him. We want the kids to know that it is important to pray for our friends and family members that don’t know Jesus and to pray for opportunities to share Christ with them. It has been sometimes surprising who the kids want to pray for and we get a little peek into their hearts about the people that they are thinking about.
Friday – Pray for our family. Although we pray for each other throughout the week, Friday is a special day to focus on praying for our family. We want our kids to know that as a family we love and care for each other and need to be praying for each other both for the obvious needs but also that God would be working in each of our lives to grow us and help us become more like Christ.
Saturday – Pray for our church, the pastors, leaders and teachers and their families, that God would use our church as a light to our city. My hope is that the kids will begin to understand that the church is God’s instrument for spreading the gospel around the world and that our local church has an important role to play in that and so we need to pray for our church body and its leaders. Praying for this on Saturday night and then seeing their pastor and Sunday school teachers then next morning also help the kids make a connection that they have just prayed for them the night before.
This has been our evening routine for a while now and it is has been going really well but I am always looking for new ideas and as the kids get older, would like to discover new ways to grow their love for talking with God and their understanding of the breadth and depth of things that we can pray about. I hope this gives you some new ideas about praying with your kids. I would love to hear from you. What are you doing to encourage a better prayer life for your kids and family or what other regular prayer topics do you pray about as a family?