Often when we think of children and prayer, we think about praying at meals or saying prayers at bedtime. Most of these prayers are poems or songs that express thanks to God for food, family, or (in the case of some children) everything in the whole world. These prayers and these times are crucial moments of spiritual formation for our children and blessings to share and remember as parents. Recently, though, I have started realizing the importance of helping our children expand their prayer life.
My youngest son, of his own volition, started praying regularly for an elderly woman in our church who had to move into an assisted living facility in another town. When he says his bedtime prayers or when we pray together at our corporate prayer time at the church, he always asks God to “help Ms. Anne”. I recently had a chance to visit with Ms. Anne, and she told me that several folks had told her about my son’s prayers. She asked me to tell my son how touched and how blessed she felt knowing that my son was constantly praying for her.
As I left her room, I realized that my son was growing in Christ, moving from praying only for how God works in his life to praying for God to reveal himself in the lives of others. As a parent, I am proud of him for taking this step in his spiritual growth and I am made aware of how infrequently we specifically ask our children to pray for the needs and worries of adults.
Jesus invited his disciples to come to him “as a child” (Mark 10:13-15), yet we still sometimes reserve so much of our interaction with Christ as “big people talk”. Who better to speak honestly and plainly to God about a situation than a child who is not worrying about the “right” thing to say and who will come into God’s presence with no reservations about God’s power and presence!
As parents and as churches, we can encourage our children’s continued spiritual growth by actively engaging them in praying for the specific needs of their family, their friends, and their church. It is a great way for them to learn that prayer is not only communication but mission and ministry. What prayer requests can you share with the children in your life?