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In Theory: How do you teach children to pray?

June 28, 2013

Praying is a central and vital part of religion. But how do you teach and explain prayer to children?

Cheri Fuller, writing on churchleaders.com, says one way of explaining prayer to small children is to tell them that it's a conversation; and just as they can talk to their parents, they can talk to God. She also recommends parents asking children to pray with them and not to pray out of their sight so they get used to seeing and hearing prayers. On christianity.about.com, Shelley Elmblad says, "Children can start learning to pray even before they can speak in coherent sentences simply by allowing them to see you praying...." She says that teaching children a specific prayer such as the Lord's Prayer, and explaining its meaning, is another way to get youngsters used to prayer, and used to understanding it.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on the best ways to teaching children how to pray and explaining its importance? 

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In Luke 11 (also Matthew 6) Jesus provided his so-called "Lord's Prayer" to answer his disciples' request that he teach them to pray. It's a model prayer, not a mantra, so if this is used to teach children what the content of their prayers might include, we have to get across the idea that it is but an outline.

As a kid, I didn't see or hear much prayer in my house, but I had memorized the "Now I lay me down to sleep...." prayer that I'm thinking perhaps my granny taught me. The point of prayer was never really discussed, so this particular one became something of a superstitious incantation to ward off the sand-man or whatever else might be lurking beneath my bed or in the closet. It had that creepy part about "if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." Today I believe that would be a happy circumstance, but as a child I didn't take much comfort in the idea of prematurely meeting God because I didn't survive a nightmare or monster attack.

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