Growing up I really loved how my parents included us in prayers and taught us how to pray. It taught me gratitude (we always said thanks for what we had), it taught me humility (to ask for help and strength), and most importantly, it taught me that I was never alone (I knew there was a God who heard me). I’ve always felt very blessed to have learned how to pray at an early age. The ability to know how to pray has given me strength, hope, and the ability to withstand peer pressure to avoid doing things I know I should. Learning to pray for others has also been powerful for me because it fosters compassion and promotes selfless service.
I’ve been teaching my toddlers to pray. The other day, my son Denali fell off his bike. He came home crying. That night when we said nightly prayers he told his Heavenly Father all about his bike spill and how he got hurt. It was very endearing.
Yesterday, after we went over the house rules, we sat down for lunch. As he prayed over lunch he also prayed for our house rules :), I couldn’t help but be so happy. Prayer teaches us about our children. It helps us to understand their fears, hurts, dreams, and wants. It’s helped me to understand that what I’m teaching is being learned.
To teach a child to pray you can use the following out line.
They bow their head (without a hat on to show respect), fold their arms or clasp their hands together, and close their eyes.
- Open with addressing God: “Dear Heavenly Father,
- Thank: Then they say what they are thankful for. If they are very young (under 2 or new at praying) you can prompt them on what to say. If they are older you can remind them to say what they are thankful for. “we thank thee for the rain, we thank thee for the food, etc.” Sometimes my two year old says the cutest things: thank thee for my crib, for my chocolate milk, for my doll, for kisses—its darling.
- Ask: Then they ask for what they are needful for. “Please bless the food to nourish us. Please bless us to have a good day, a safe trip, to get along with our friends, please bless our neighbor, etc.”
- Close in Christ’s name: “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen”
They can also tell stories to God (like my son did about his bike crash). The main idea should be that kids know that they can express anything they’d like to God and that He loves them and is listening.
Here are 9 ways in which you can teach your children to pray and practice saying prayers.
- Before meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
- Before bedtime
- Before embarking and returning from long road trips
- Before potentially dangerous outings: camping, amusement parks, beach, hiking, etc.
- To open and close a family night/meeting each week
- Together at church
- By yourself. I would often see my mom doing this—teaching by example
- When they stand in special need of something—lost a favorite toy, fell off their bike and got hurt, etc.
- For others. I often say prayers for those who are going through hard times, those who are in a car crash as I pass them on the interstate, etc.
In my experience, keeping it easy yet consistent is a good thing— esp. for young children and for families. While growing up my mom made sure we always had prayers over our meals. Then we would say nightly family prayers. Shed yell downstairs, “come say prayers” and we knew if we all hurried and ran up and said prayers we could get back to what we were doing. So we’d race each other up the stairs, kneel down, say prayers, give hugs, and then race back to what we were doing. It was very good to have that consistency and that my parents made it a very quick thing for us to do nightly so we didn’t procrastinate or dread doing it.
My mom also taught us to pray when we were going through hard times, when we lost something and couldn’t find it, before tests and for things that mattered greatly to us. Often my parents would assign us a day in which we said family prayers (since there were 7 of us having one day a week where we were assigned to pray worked out quite well). I can remember when my siblings or parents would pray for a neighbor. After closing their prayer we would often inquire why they included them. They would usually tell us that a person we knew was hospitalized, ill, etc. I learned a lot about the people I loved listening to their prayers and prayers for others. Prayer is a very valuable tool that should be taught to our children.
Christ prayed to His Father often and we can too. Following the tips above you will draw nearer to both the Father and His Son. I remember vividly, during a distressing time as a young girl, realizing that when I knelt to pray I was always filled with peace and love. Christ knows and understands everything we go through because he has been through it. He offers us perfect empathy, love, and guidance. He is the Prince of Peace for this reason. You can read more about principles of peace and how they can help bring you closer to the Savior. From April 9th through 16th, one of the following principles will be highlighted each day on Mormon.org with a way to exemplify that attribute.
Feel free to share on social media how you plan to participate by using the hashtag #PrinceOfPeace.