A few years ago I had the privilege to put together a family snow retreat. Our goal was really to get kids and parents away from every day life and create memories. Little did I know, a small activity with M&M candies would become one of my most favored ministry moments. It was a simple way to pray, families simply grabbed the candies and each color represented something to pray for. After I had finished prayer with my own family, I looked up to scan the room, and I saw families praying. Kids were praying for mom and dad, moms for dads, and brothers for sisters! While the word beautiful just doesn't say it all, it was, just so beautiful. Later that evening, I asked what one of the kids thought, and she said it was the first time she had every prayed with her parents. She continued that she didn't feel she knew how. Another parent said they had also never prayed as a family, they just didn't know where to start.
In our constant motion of life, do we sit down at the table and bed-sides and just pray? For our kids? Many of our families (including ours) learned on that trip that while the kids often witnessed the parents praying, they really were more spectators than participants. As kids grow they get that lovely "embarrassment" hormone. Suddenly they are intimidated by something they would happily volunteer for at age 3. It is in the preteen ages that kids become a little more reserved about praying as a family. So I began to question, how do we keep that three year old?
Here are some ways to teach kids how to pray. I challenge you to try at least two. I have also included the M&M's Prayer guide. Make sure that kids know that prayer is a time with God. Things like laughing at one another for "mess-ups" or making fun should not be allowed. Creating a supportive, positive atmosphere will help kids grow strong in their prayer life.
Lastly, teaching our kids that they can pray anywhere at anytime is so important. A whispered prayer before a test or recital will teach kids that they can place their fears and joys in Jesus' hands for themselves.
1) M&M's Prayer, each family member takes a few (you can decide the number) candies. As a family, one parent starts and as you pray for that color of M&M the next person goes until all M&M's are done.
2) Sentence Prayer. For small children try starting the sentences and letting them finish:
3) Ups and Downs. Ask your children what their "Ups" were from the day, and then ask them about their "downs" from the day. Share yours as well, and then pray for them together.
4) Prayer Journal. Share your prayer requests with the other members of your family and then record them in a prayer journal. Pass the journal and pray over each others requests. The next time you pray together, look over the requests you listed previously and update any changes and answers. This is a good way to see how God has been active in your prayer lives.
5) A.C.T.S. Prayer. This is a well-known form of prayer that is easy to remember: