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Teaching Kids to Pray: The Five Finger Method

When Katie was two, we were teaching her how to say grace. She had just finished up when Keith leaned over and whispered to her, "tell Mommy she's pretty." Katie promptly put both hands together again, closed her eyes, and said, "Dear God, please make Mommy pretty. Amen."

But most of my girls' prayers tend towards this: "Thank you that we had a good day today. Please help us to have fun tomorrow! Amen."

Granted, it's not that bad, but you know what I mean.

And I have decided this isn't good enough. So here is our plan to really teach them to pray:

1. Model Prayer for Your Children
Kids aren't going to learn heartfelt prayers until we pray heartfelt prayers in front of them. So every night, after dinner, have a mini-prayer session where you do pray earnestly for something important for your family: a family member who needs God, a financial situation, a personality conflict. Something. When they hear you praying for someone, they learn how to do it, too!

2. Teach Different Types of Prayer

We are starting a new program where we are encouraging them to branch out in prayer. Different variations for this exist, but here's one I'm working on. Look at your hand. If you notice, you have five fingers. Have the kids hold up their hands, and for each type of prayer they can lift up a finger until their whole hand is up.

1. Praise

Thank God for Who He is, for something about Him, for something He has made.

2. Thanksgiving
Thank God for something that He has done for you today. Encourage the children to make this as specific as possible. Not just, "Thank you for my mommy," but "Thank you for giving me a Mommy who comes to my hockey game," or "Thank you for Mommy who hugs me."

3. Request for Someone Else
Ask God something. Again, make it specific. No "feed all the children" stuff, unless they're really young. It's better to ask God to give money to a family you know, or to help your sponsored child and his or her family, or to help someone you know who is sick. If there's an ongoing need, pray for that every night. But try to encourage them to pray for something new, too.

For instance, we have a close friend whose five-year-old daughter is going through treatment for leukemia right now. We're praying for her everyday, and then adding other requests, too.

4. Confession
What did you do wrong today? Hint: Kids are far more willing to pray this if you model it. Whenever you mess up, immediately confess it to God in front of them. If they see you doing it, they won't feel so uncomfortable about doing it, either. And don't let them say, "Forgive me for being selfish." Always encourage them to use "when" statements: "Forgive me for being selfish when I wouldn't share my lego."

5. Request for You
I think this one should always come last, because the other prayers help get our hearts in line with God. Then you're in a better place to make your own requests.

But this one can be tough. It's fine for kids to ask for something for themselves. But make sure it's not treating God like Santa Claus. No "God, please give me a new bike." Ask them what their biggest struggle is. Maybe it's getting along with a sibling, or a teacher they don't like, or figuring out math. Pray about that.

Now all five fingers are up, and kids haven't yet said, "help me to have fun tomorrow!" So you're well on your way to raising prayer warriors! Congratulations, and don't give up!

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At 9:10 AM , Anonymous Ahavah said…

This is a nice article! I was disappointed when I went to my preacher and he said he had no resources on praying with children. I have winged it on my own, but I think my chaplain training helped me quite a bit. I love praying with my kids.


At 11:56 AM , Blogger Clippy Mat said…

that's lovely.
and you make it so easy; which it is when you think about it.
thank you.


At 1:19 PM , Blogger techworldtraveller said…

Everynight we pray the Lord's prayer (kinda the perfect prayer!) preceded by an improvised ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) prayer. Making sure we say "I love you God because you _", "I'm sorry God for _", "thank you God for _", and "please help _" is a helpful model for the kinds of prayers we want our kids to hear. But my son still prays: "Dear God I pray for everyone in the whole wide world. Amen"


At 7:17 PM , Blogger Joanna J. said…

Thank you for this great post. We are going to start using the five-finger model with our 4-yr-old!


At 12:37 PM , Blogger ZenMama said…

I've been struggling so with how to "teach" my kids (ages 7 and 4) to pray at night, so it didn't sound like a Santa wish list like you said. The 5 finger idea is great -- I'm going to try it with them tonight. Shoot - it's even a good reminder for me too!

Zen Mama Wannabe


At 11:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

This is so wonderful! Thank you for helping me with my 7 year old Grandson. I am so excited about it myself .


At 11:20 PM , Blogger Dena.Spinks said…

I'm a mom of a three year old looking for ways to teach her to pray, and me too I guess or I wouldn't need much help teaching her right? THANK YOU , Great post!!!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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