Thursday, March 10

Prayer with Children

A question I've been asking a lot over the past few years is 'how do you help your child pray?'  I think the question looms large for me, because I don't understand prayer myself.  Oh, there are quite a few books about prayer lining my shelves, so I can tell you lots about prayer, but on a more practical level I feel like I struggle along.  My personality isn't contemplative by nature and the demands of small children make quiet space infrequent.  One of the most pivotal moments in my spiritual life was when I realized that having a relationship with God is not reliant on 'quiet times'.  Don't read this wrong, time alone in the Bible and in prayer is a great thing, but there is nothing biblical about needing 'daily quiet time'.  Certainly we are to seek and know God's word and are to desire to be in prayer continuously, but I believe that this will look different in different season of our lives.   For me, at this time, reading the word and prayer are much more organic in my days: Jim and I discuss a passage one of us is studying in a group over dinner, I find myself praying over soapy dishes, find that a conversation with a friend has turned into a sort of prayer, study scripture to lead my Bible study or to answer a specific question, practice a godly play lesson, do godly play with the boys...   I suppose that if I had to sum up the most common prayer in my life I would say that it is simply 'being aware that God is with me and welcoming that'.

I know that there is lots of room for growth in this area for me and while I mention that God is with us through our days (to which Jonah now says quite seriously 'oh, I know, I know') I want to share prayer on a more tangible level with the boys.  Some children are eager to say prayers each night, but Jonah has always asked that we 'do the talking'.  He takes part in our mealtime graces and I know that God is working in him, but I want to create spaces and opportunities for him to pray when he is led.  I never want prayer to be an expectation or something he feels coerced to engage in.  The other factor in praying with Jonah (or any child) is that, on many levels, I'm pretty certain that he could teach me many things about prayer and so I want to enter the conversation with God and Jonah not primarily as guide, but as fellow children of God.

 I made the goal to do one new simple prayer with the boys each week in Lent and I will try to share them here because I would love to begin a conversation and hear what others are doing.  I would love suggestions or resources if anyone knows of anything!
Our first week was inspired by my Bible study's work in Galatians.  I simply took nine rocks (from the myriads of stacks of rocks in this house) and wrote the fruit of the spirit on them with sharpies.  

The boys and I lit a candle and then I prayed "God give us..." and then handed Jonah each rock, which he read and then dropped into a bowl of water.  

I left the bowl out and several times in the past day I've heard 'ping, ping, ping'.  Jonah my 'just be playing' with the rocks in water, but the space is there and he is engaging and as far as I'm concerned that is prayer.  He is aware that this is a space we created to talk to God and he is going there and doing what he does to form relationships and ask questions - play.  

Do you have any prayers or prayer activities you have done as a family you can share in the comments?  


Sarah said...

That is such a lovely idea. One I'm going to implement sometime in the near future. Thank you.

Deb Chitwood said...

How beautiful! So simple yet a prayer activity children can repeat again and again.

I liked having a prayer table with a Bible, candle, prayer cards, and cloth appropriate for the liturgical season when my children were young.

I always enjoy visiting your blog for the wonderful inspiration you give families. I'm featuring your Godly Play posts and Lent posts at

Watkins said...

Thanks for your comments!

Deb, thanks for the link and the ideas for lent on your blog.

Heidi said...

This is a wonderful idea! I borrowed it (thank you) and introduced it to my family this morning. It was a nice start to the day... and I noticed our 4 year old several times throughout the day dipping her finger into the bowl and then standing quietly with her hands folded and head bowed. <3

Totallyscrappy said...

Beautiful idea!
An idea that my little kids loved...M&M prayer. We sit in a circle and everyone takes an M&M. Then we go around the circle and thank God for something that is the same color as the M&M they have chosen.

Watkins said...

Heidi, how sweet you daughter's response was!

And I really like the M&M idea - we'll have to try it out. Thanks!