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Teaching kids to pray helps them feel important to God.

In a daily newspaper column, Dr. Billy Graham received the following question from a 7-year-old boy: “Will God hear my prayers, or does He just hear my parents’ prayers?” This question reminds us of the importance of teaching the children whom God has given to us clearly, intentionally and knowledgeably in the areas of spiritual discipline.

WHY teach preschoolers and children to pray?

Jesus clearly taught His disciples that children were important to Him and they could be taught spiritual truths. In the Gospel of Mark we read: “Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them, but His disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’… After taking them in His arms, He laid His hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-17). Jesus welcomed the parents and the children they were bringing to Him. By taking time for the children, Jesus showed the parents and the disciples that children are valuable and worthy of our time, relationships and instruction.

Preschoolers and children can and will learn about prayer and how to pray if they have significant adults in their lives who are willing to teach them. In the Old Testament the child Samuel was a gift from God to a praying mother. As a result of this answered prayer, Samuel was taken to the temple to be taught by Eli the priest. God spoke to Samuel at a very young age and gave him a message to give to Eli, a man who had not always been obedient to the Lord. Eli said to Samuel: “What was the message He gave you? Don’t hide it from me.” Samuel gave God’s message to Eli, and Samuel grew and the Lord was with him (1 Sam. 3:17-19). From this passage we see the value and importance God placed on one small boy.

HOW early can we teach preschoolers and children to pray?

When a child is born, there exists a potential for the child to have a relationship with his Creator. From birth the child develops physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Significant adults need to nurture the spiritual development of preschoolers by teaching them prayer is a way to talk to the God who created them.

We can teach the very young child about prayer by using appropriate language. In their presence we can thank God for their very lives, the provisions of life, the Bible as a gift to us from God, and the people placed in our families and church. “Thank you, God” should be the first prayer taught to the developing child. As the child grows, the prayers can be expanded to include more relationships and content. Older children can be introduced to more developmentally appropriate ways of learning about prayer and how to pray.

Marcia McQuitty is associate professor of childhood education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

More from Marcia McQuitty or visit Marcia at http://www.swbts.edu

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  • Amy Seed

    I completely agree that we can start teaching children to communicate with their creator from a young age! Thanks for sharing these helpful insights.

    An effective method I've seen used with kindergarteners and first-graders is having kids repeat after their teacher. This helps kids to transition into more in-depth prayers. We have made it a tradition that the kids are used to following. Every week, when someone prays at the end of the story time, kids know that they repeat after their teacher. For example:

    Dear Jesus (Dear Jesus)
    Help us to be (Help us to be)
    Obedient this week (Obedient this week).
    Because we know (Because we know)
    That obeying our leaders (That obeying our leaders)
    Is really obeying you (Is really obeying you)
    Amen (Amen).

    Kids will grow more comfortable with praying as we continue to walk them through it. Our job is to teach them and model for them how to talk to God. They'll catch on in no time!

    Amy Seed
    Curriculum Producer, MagnificentMarvel
    http://magnificentmarvel.webs.com

  • daisy

    great material….our children take turns praying during our family devotions and it is our passion for all 4 of them not to outgrow it or find it outmoded. we will be there for them by the grace of GOD so we can be their models too…..

    JESUS IS OUR HIGH PRIEST…….WHO MAKES INTERCESSION FOR US…..

  • korean teacher

    The story of the proffesor is good. I’d like to share my testimony with kids. Thank you.

  • Eric Akagbor

    I love the kid,because they are God’s gift.Thank you prof. for guiding the teacher on the way to handle the kids.

  • Patricia Wilson

    That is an awesome thing to do for preschoolers. Truly that is our responsibility as parents and grand parents to teach them to pray at a very young age. I remember when my oldest son was three years old, I would recite “Psalms 23″ to him throughtout the day in our home. After about three months of reciting “Psalms 23″ he could recite it, and found it in the Bible. I was so happy and thanked Jesus. I called my pastor and asked if he would listen to him recite “Psalms 23″ to him and he did. To God be the Glory!!!