How do you teach a child to pray?

Hnizdovsky_prayingchildIf you’re a parent, how do you pray with your young children?

The last few months have been an eye-opening experience for me, as my wife and I have been teaching our 2-year-old daughter to pray. If you’re a parent or otherwise work with young children, I’d love to hear about how you approach the task of teaching a toddler to speak to his or her Creator.

I’ll throw a few questions out there, along with some of my thoughts. Please chime in if you have anything to share!

When did you introduce the act of prayer into your child’s life? We started leading our daughter in prayer before bed around age 2; but by then she had witnessed many other people praying during church services, at dinnertime, and at other times. Once she could start communicating in more or less coherent sentences, it seemed time to introduce the concept. What about you?

When you started praying with your child, did they understand what they were doing? In our case, I don’t think our daughter has much of an idea of what she’s doing during prayer. On the one hand, I don’t like leading her through a religious ritual that she doesn’t understand; but on the other hand, my hope is that she’ll grow to appreciate the practice at her own pace, once it’s more of a habit.

What does your child pray about? In my own prayers, I try to incorporate repentance, thanksgiving, and specific requests. Thus far in my daughter’s prayers, we focus on just thanking God for the basic blessings that define her life: family, food, friends. What about you—how and when do you help your child incorporate more advanced concepts like forgiveness and repentance into prayer?

One thing is certain: praying with a young child is a beautiful and humbling experience, one that sheds new light on the familiar phrase “childlike faith.” Have you ever helped a child learn to pray, and if so, what advice can you share? Did it impact your own faith or prayer life in any way?

[Image by S. Hnizdovsky, from an original print by Jacques Hnizdovsky; used under a CC license.]

9 Responses to “How do you teach a child to pray?”

  • welda says:

    Its good article. I am blessed and I will share to our sunday shool teacher and parents.

    God bless you!

  • Joyce D. says:

    When did you introduce the act of prayer into your child’s life?
    My son was 5 years old and my daughter was 10. When I accepted Christ, I knew I wanted to incorporate prayer with my kids because growing up Catholic, it was a private affair.

    When you started praying with your child, did they understand what they were doing?
    Since my kids were older, they understood because they witnessed prayer in the church.

    What does your child pray about?
    When my kids and I started praying aloud, I recall a pastor who used the following as a guide:

    P: Praise and thanksgiving to God
    R: Repentance of our sins so our prayers will not be hindered
    A: “Ask” for those who you want to pray about
    Y: Yourself

    Though at first I feared my prayer life to be contrived by following the above, as I prayed more often with the kids, then my prayers were not so scripted. At first the kids were shy, but eventually they too started leading prayer. My son, now 10, pray with the above guidelines but not really being aware of it. My daughter is questioning her faith right now so she refuses to pray.

    You are right, praying with a child is beautiful. I’ve been brought to tears and humbled by some of the prayers my son has led, especially when he prays for the salvation of his father, my unbelieving husband.

    Bottom line, I just remind them that Praising Him is first and foremost…

  • Tammy says:

    Hi – this article caught my eyes as I was looking for scriptures on biblegateway.

    I remembered something about my 2 year old talking to his daddy who had been deployed to Korea. He didn’t understand that he could talk to him on the phone. That phone WAS NOT HIS DADDY! His older sisters and I would make videos and he thought that was weird too. We kept talking to a video camera like it was his daddy. It is funny to watch his reaction and then later see a total transformation as he too would run to the camera and say “hi daddy”. When we begin to play videos of my husband telling him he loved him and my son could see for himself that he was getting through to his daddy by talking in this weird way and he was able to see himself on the TV saying “hi daddy”. He began to understand that this was a way to reach his daddy. God hears the prayers of your little one. Let God do the work as you teach that child that this is a way to reach the ears of God. God will teach them things that you will be totally clueless to. Thanks for the article. Good stuff.


    The act of praying is most important to all people and the way we teach the children matters for it is the life wire of any generation. So my ideal is this By faith we recevice the promises of God.Also, By Faith we teach the children trusting the Holy Spirit to work on the seed sow.
    Therefore,we must be careful the kind of seed we sow in our children. God is our help at all times.

  • Amber says:

    Hello believers,

    I introduced my child into doing her own prayer at age 4. At first, she would only do the bedtime prayer. I told her to close her eyes and talk to God as if he were standing right there with her because he is always with us deep in our hearts. She knows of death and people “going with God” so I related it that way. It awsome to hear the things she is thankful for: friend and bringing family together, birds and trees. Recently I explained to her basic needs and how he always provides so now she sais “thankyou for the food in our mouth, the clothes on our backs and the roof over our heads. I believe that she understands. I appriciate the PRAY guide from Joyce above because she is will be 6 next month and I have yet to introduce repentance. It is now my goal to introduce sinful nature and repentance. We can do it together, I definetly need to spend more time in my relationship with our father.

  • Megan says:

    I wrote a topic on how we do prayer with our 3 children (now ages 6, 4, 4). Like many, we always prayed with our children at mealtimes, at bedtime, and at church. We started including them in prayer once they could talk by just asking them if they had anything to say to God. Prayer is an extension of all the other times throughout our days, weeks, months, years that we talk about who God is, who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for us, etc. So, talking to God didn’t have to be explained the “day” we asked them to talk to God for the first time. Long before that they were used to hearing US talk to God and were used to us explaining that we can always talk to Him and we call it prayer.

    We now use something we call the “prayer jar”. You can read more about it on our blog here Basically, we put requests in a large jar and each night everyone from our family takes one to pray for. Once a prayer is answered, we hang it in our dining room where we can see all the ways God has answered.

    One thing we need to work on is helping our kids be more thankful in their prayers. Well, we need to be more thankful in general, but especially as we talk to God. It’s easy to just ask for things, remember a friend who needs something, etc. But, we want our kids to start by praising God and recognizing Who He is. Prayers take on a whole new significance when we take time to reflect on just Who we’re talking to.

  • Jeff says:

    My wife and I started teaching our son to pray when he was about 2 1/2 years old. We let him thank Jesus for what he wants which is usually his cars which he names one by one! Then he thanks Jesus for Mommy and Daddy then his Aunts and Uncles!! Sometimes they are first, which lets me know God is speaking to him letting him know they need it first!!Prayer with family is the most Awsome thing that we do as a family!!

  • Gloria says:

    I have a mops class at my church of 3and 4 year olds (mothers of preschooler) This is a wonderful age to teach children about Jesus.

    At snack time we will have grace and then each child will talk to God as we go around the table. They tell him what they are thankful for.
    I tell the children they can pray by thanking God for their blessings and talking to him.
    I started this with my first grandson at bedtime when
    he was 3.