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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Teaching our children to pray

Years ago my family took summer vacations "back home" to Minnesota. On one of those trips, I awoke early and tiptoed past my grandmother's room. I saw her kneeling beside her bed, but I had no idea what she was doing. Then I heard her, in a simple way, thanking God for her many blessings.

I never told her I had seen her praying, but seeing her was the start of my prayer journey.

When I became the mother of young children, I wondered how to teach my children to pray to my Father as I do. As I prayed about this, it became clear that prayer is best taught by example.

I started at mealtime, when we were already saying various memorized table blessings. To make prayer more meaningful, my husband and I had each family member talk about what they were thankful for that day. The table blessing soon turned into a litany of thanksgiving. After a while, even our 3-year-old participated, expressing thanks for his favorite food or friend.

We then began praying "sentence prayers" at bedtime. These prayers are short and from the heart. We pray individually with each of our children. This helps us know what is going on in their lives. Our 8-year-old often tells us about a troublesome situation at school or about being nervous about a test. Times like these open the power of prayer to our children.

My husband and I also talk about prayer, answered and unanswered. We tell our children when we are seeking God. We allow them to see us praying. They know we attend our congregation's prayer meetings.

To get started praying with your children, try thanking God at dinner tonight for something besides the food. You will be surprised at the blessing God brings to your family. What better gift can we give to our children than to know how to reach out to God?


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