Basic Training, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

Originally published May 26, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

When I was a little girl, I remember one of my Sunday School teachers saying, “Prayer is just talking to God.” With all the complex, confusing, convoluted, and even conflicting resources out there today on prayer, that sounds rather simplistic to our adult ears, but it’s still the best definition of prayer I’ve ever heard. Prayer is, indeed, simply talking to God.

And, along with studying God’s word and being a faithful member of a local church, it’s one of the three legs of the stool we call sanctification, or growth in Christ. Yet prayer is the leg that tends to be most neglected in our churches, our families, and our personal walk with the Lord.

Why is that? Why don’t we want to sit down and just talk – no frills, no weird machinations, just talk – to the most interesting, powerful, loving, and kind Being in the universe? If you received an invitation to sit down and chat with the President, your favorite celebrity, or a long lost loved one, you’d jump at the chance, right? I would, too. So what is it about our broken brains and hardened hearts that causes us to say, “Nah, not today,” to a simple monologue with our King? Those broken brains have learned some unbiblical things about prayer, and those hardened hearts have some ungodly attitudes toward prayer.

1. We don’t NEED God enough
Western Christians are pretty prosperous and self-sufficient people. We don’t have to cry out to God to provide food so we don’t starve. We have jobs and grocery stores. We don’t have to pray that we won’t be arrested for reading our Bibles or going to church, because that’s not happening where we live (yet). Except in the most dire of circumstances, we don’t have to plead with God to heal. We have doctors, hospitals, and medicine. Don’t get me wrong, those are all tremendous blessings, but one of the pitfalls of being blessed is that we start trusting in the blessing rather than trusting in the Blesser. And when that happens, we tend to pray less often and more superficially. Daily prayer is part of our battle to be dependent on God.

2. We’re idolaters
My husband’s uncle used to say, “You do what you want to do.” In other words, you spend your time and resources on the things you value most. I’m a Type A personality: workaholic, git ‘er done, ain’t got time to die. One of the reasons I neglect my own prayer time is that I don’t want to take time out of my busy schedule to stop and do nothing but pray. When I operate that way, I’m demonstrating that I don’t want to pray- that I love something else more than I love obeying God and spending time with Him. That’s idolatry.

3. We don’t trust God and His prescribed methods
When we’re in need, when we want to commune with God, when we want to grow in holiness, God’s way is for us to pray. Not climb the highest mountain or offer some amazing sacrifice or fulfill a bunch of items on a checklist- pray. But, to our fleshly hearts, this just doesn’t compute. It’s not enough. We’ve got to conjure up our own efforts and do something worthy of God acting on our behalf. Our hearts don’t trust God enough to simply take Him at His word, bring all of our requests to Him, and believe that He will take care of us. We don’t pray because we don’t trust God to follow through on His Word.

4. “Fervency” in prayer is qualitative, not quantitative
Sometimes we get it into our heads that being “fervent” in prayer means we have to constantly voice that prayer over and over in order to get God to give in and do what we want Him to do. But God’s provision isn’t dependent on our prayers. He truly does know what we need before we ask. In other words, you could stop praying right this minute for that thing you desperately want, and never pray about it again, and God is not going to forget that that’s what you want, or move it to a lower priority level on His prayer-answering list, or punish you by denying your request simply because you stopped praying about it. There are things God blesses us with that we’ve never spent a moment praying for. There are things we stop praying for that God finally gives us years later. And there are things we pray constantly for that God says “no” about. God is going to do what is best for you and what brings Him the most glory, and that doesn’t hinge on whether you pray about that specific thing every day or not. “Fervency” doesn’t mean repetition. It means an intense trust and dependence on God to do what is right in His eyes in response to your prayer. Sometimes it helps to examine a few good translations side by side:

5. Prayer isn’t a letter to Santa Claus
Back in the stone age of my childhood there used to be this thing called the Sears catalog. It was kind of like Amazon, but on paper. Every year, a few months before Christmas, they would publish their “Wish Book” edition that had all the toys in it. My sister and I would go through that catalog and circle all the things we wanted for Christmas and then hand it back to my parents, hoping that, this year, we’d get everything we asked for (and we asked for practically everything).

If this is how you approach prayer, you’re doing it wrong. God is not looking for you to provide Him with a list of stuff your greedy little heart desires so He can wrap it up in a bow and leave it under your tree. He’s not a wish-fulfillment center.

6. Weird stuff and unbiblical beliefs- knock it off
♦ Prayer is not a two-way conversation. We talk to God through prayer. He talks to us through His all-sufficient Word. Yes, while you’re praying, the Holy Spirit may remind you of Scripture that’s relevant to what you’re praying about, or bring to mind someone you should pray for, or you might think of a way you can help or bless someone, but prayer is not a dialogue. You don’t say your piece and then sit there and wait for God to say something back. That’s often called listening prayer or contemplative prayer, and it’s unbiblical. Likewise soaking prayer, sozo prayer, etc. In fact, if you see the word “prayer” preceded by an adjective not found in Scripture, it’s most likely not biblical.

♦ Prayer doesn’t require any special accessories. You don’t need to draw a circle to stand in, build a “war room,” blow a shofar, stroke a prayer cloth, or lay your hands on a prayer list, picture, object, etc. Scripture doesn’t tell us to do any of these things, and many of them are patently unbiblical.

♦ Prayer is not about you doing something, it’s about humbly beseeching God to do something. Nowhere in Scripture does God say that the purpose of prayer is for us to assert any power over anything through our words. He does not give us the authority to “bind” Satan, demons, or anything else, or “decree” or “declare” anything as though we could make something happen by doing so. These are false and unbiblical teachings of the heretical Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements.

7. Watch your language
♦ Having a “private prayer language” (speaking in “tongues”) as it is practiced today has zero basis in Scripture. None. When the disciples point blank asked Jesus to teach them to pray, there wasn’t a single “honda shonda” in His instructions, and nothing in Scripture says your prayers will be more meaningful to you or more likely to be heard by God if they’re in gibberish than if they’re in your native, real language.

♦ If you grew up fundie or old school, you might feel like you have to use “King James” lingo when you pray. You don’t. If you want to use “thee’s” and “thou’s” when you pray, you can, but you don’t have to. You can use the same vocabulary – respectful and pure speech, of course – you’d use when talking to a friend or loved one.

♦ If you’re tacking the phrase “in Jesus’ name” on to your decreeing and declaring and binding and rebuking as some sort of way to harness the power of God into making your words a reality, you’re taking God’s name in vain because you’re doing the same thing witches and pagans do when they use incantations and cast spells. “In Jesus’ name” isn’t the Christian version of “abracadabra.” To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray that what God wants – not what we want – will be done.

8. It isn’t about getting what we want. It’s about God getting what He wants.
We tend to think of prayer as a means to an end that centers around us. It’s a time to tell God what we want and need and for Him to fulfill those wants and needs, and that’s that. But is that how God thinks about prayer? God tells us to come to Him, to present our requests to Him, ask Him for daily bread, forgiveness, give thanks to Him, and a number of other things. But we also know that He is sovereign. He already knows what we need and what’s best for us, and He does what He pleases. So if God knows better than we do what we need, and if He’s going to do whatever He wants anyway, why bother praying, right?

We say things like that because we think the point of prayer is to get God to do what we want Him to do. But it’s not. The point of prayer is for God to get us to do what He wants us to do. He wants us to pray, not because He needs a “honey do” list, but because coming back to Him time and time again in prayer teaches us to depend on Him and trust Him. It strengthens our understanding of His power and sovereignty. It grows us in humility and submission. It conforms our will and our wants to His. It reminds us of our sin and the cross. It keeps us from taking God’s blessings for granted as we thank and praise Him. It helps us to want what God wants more than what we want.

Ultimately, prayer is not about what we want God to do for us. It’s about what He wants to do in us. So bow your head and close your eyes and make that daily time communing with the Lord your highest priority. God working through prayer to conform you to the image of Christ? That’s not something you want to say, “Nah, not today,” to.


Additional Resources

Prayer

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

Basic Training, Prayer

Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

When I was a little girl, I remember one of my Sunday School teachers saying, “Prayer is just talking to God.” With all the complex, confusing, convoluted, and even conflicting resources out there today on prayer, that sounds rather simplistic to our adult ears, but it’s still the best definition of prayer I’ve ever heard. Prayer is, indeed, simply talking to God.

And, along with studying God’s word and being a faithful member of a local church, it’s one of the three legs of the stool we call sanctification, or growth in Christ. Yet prayer is the leg that tends to be most neglected in our churches, our families, and our personal walk with the Lord.

Why is that? Why don’t we want to sit down and just talk – no frills, no weird machinations, just talk – to the most interesting, powerful, loving, and kind Being in the universe? If you received an invitation to sit down and chat with the President, your favorite celebrity, or a long lost loved one, you’d jump at the chance, right? I would, too. So what is it about our broken brains and hardened hearts that causes us to say, “Nah, not today,” to a simple monologue with our King? Those broken brains have learned some unbiblical things about prayer, and those hardened hearts have some ungodly attitudes toward prayer.

1. We don’t NEED God enough
Western Christians are pretty prosperous and self-sufficient people. We don’t have to cry out to God to provide food so we don’t starve. We have jobs and grocery stores. We don’t have to pray that we won’t be arrested for reading our Bibles or going to church, because that’s not happening where we live (yet). Except in the most dire of circumstances, we don’t have to plead with God to heal. We have doctors, hospitals, and medicine. Don’t get me wrong, those are all tremendous blessings, but one of the pitfalls of being blessed is that we start trusting in the blessing rather than trusting in the Blesser. And when that happens, we tend to pray less often and more superficially. Daily prayer is part of our battle to be dependent on God.

2. We’re idolaters
My husband’s uncle used to say, “You do what you want to do.” In other words, you spend your time and resources on the things you value most. I’m a Type A personality: workaholic, git ‘er done, ain’t got time to die. One of the reasons I neglect my own prayer time is that I don’t want to take time out of my busy schedule to stop and do nothing but pray. When I operate that way, I’m demonstrating that I don’t want to pray- that I love something else more than I love obeying God and spending time with Him. That’s idolatry.

3. We don’t trust God and His prescribed methods
When we’re in need, when we want to commune with God, when we want to grow in holiness, God’s way is for us to pray. Not climb the highest mountain or offer some amazing sacrifice or fulfill a bunch of items on a checklist- pray. But, to our fleshly hearts, this just doesn’t compute. It’s not enough. We’ve got to conjure up our own efforts and do something worthy of God acting on our behalf. Our hearts don’t trust God enough to simply take Him at His word, bring all of our requests to Him, and believe that He will take care of us. We don’t pray because we don’t trust God to follow through on His Word.

4. “Fervency” in prayer is qualitative, not quantitative
Sometimes we get it into our heads that being “fervent” in prayer means we have to constantly voice that prayer over and over in order to get God to give in and do what we want Him to do. But God’s provision isn’t dependent on our prayers. He truly does know what we need before we ask. In other words, you could stop praying right this minute for that thing you desperately want, and never pray about it again, and God is not going to forget that that’s what you want, or move it to a lower priority level on His prayer-answering list, or punish you by denying your request simply because you stopped praying about it. There are things God blesses us with that we’ve never spent a moment praying for. There are things we stop praying for that God finally gives us years later. And there are things we pray constantly for that God says “no” about. God is going to do what is best for you and what brings Him the most glory, and that doesn’t hinge on whether you pray about that specific thing every day or not. “Fervency” doesn’t mean repetition. It means an intense trust and dependence on God to do what is right in His eyes in response to your prayer. Sometimes it helps to examine a few good translations side by side:

5. Prayer isn’t a letter to Santa Claus
Back in the stone age of my childhood there used to be this thing called the Sears catalog. It was kind of like Amazon, but on paper. Every year, a few months before Christmas, they would publish their “Wish Book” edition that had all the toys in it. My sister and I would go through that catalog and circle all the things we wanted for Christmas and then hand it back to my parents, hoping that, this year, we’d get everything we asked for (and we asked for practically everything).

If this is how you approach prayer, you’re doing it wrong. God is not looking for you to provide Him with a list of stuff your greedy little heart desires so He can wrap it up in a bow and leave it under your tree. He’s not a wish-fulfillment center.

6. Weird stuff and unbiblical beliefs- knock it off
♦ Prayer is not a two-way conversation. We talk to God through prayer. He talks to us through His all-sufficient Word. Yes, while you’re praying, the Holy Spirit may remind you of Scripture that’s relevant to what you’re praying about, or bring to mind someone you should pray for, or you might think of a way you can help or bless someone, but prayer is not a dialogue. You don’t say your piece and then sit there and wait for God to say something back. That’s often called listening prayer or contemplative prayer, and it’s unbiblical. Likewise soaking prayer, sozo prayer, etc. In fact, if you see the word “prayer” preceded by an adjective not found in Scripture, it’s most likely not biblical.

♦ Prayer doesn’t require any special accessories. You don’t need to draw a circle to stand in, build a “war room,” blow a shofar, stroke a prayer cloth, or lay your hands on a prayer list, picture, object, etc. Scripture doesn’t tell us to do any of these things, and many of them are patently unbiblical.

♦ Prayer is not about you doing something, it’s about humbly beseeching God to do something. Nowhere in Scripture does God say that the purpose of prayer is for us to assert any power over anything through our words. He does not give us the authority to “bind” Satan, demons, or anything else, or “decree” or “declare” anything as though we could make something happen by doing so. These are false and unbiblical teachings of the heretical Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements.

7. Watch your language
♦ Having a “private prayer language” (speaking in “tongues”) as it is practiced today has zero basis in Scripture. None. When the disciples point blank asked Jesus to teach them to pray, there wasn’t a single “honda shonda” in His instructions, and nothing in Scripture says your prayers will be more meaningful to you or more likely to be heard by God if they’re in gibberish than if they’re in your native, real language.

♦ If you grew up fundie or old school, you might feel like you have to use “King James” lingo when you pray. You don’t. If you want to use “thee’s” and “thou’s” when you pray, you can, but you don’t have to. You can use the same vocabulary – respectful and pure speech, of course – you’d use when talking to a friend or loved one.

♦ If you’re tacking the phrase “in Jesus’ name” on to your decreeing and declaring and binding and rebuking as some sort of way to harness the power of God into making your words a reality, you’re taking God’s name in vain because you’re doing the same thing witches and pagans do when they use incantations and cast spells. “In Jesus’ name” isn’t the Christian version of “abracadabra.” To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray that what God wants – not what we want – will be done.

8. It isn’t about getting what we want. It’s about God getting what He wants.
We tend to think of prayer as a means to an end that centers around us. It’s a time to tell God what we want and need and for Him to fulfill those wants and needs, and that’s that. But is that how God thinks about prayer? God tells us to come to Him, to present our requests to Him, ask Him for daily bread, forgiveness, give thanks to Him, and a number of other things. But we also know that He is sovereign. He already knows what we need and what’s best for us, and He does what He pleases. So if God knows better than we do what we need, and if He’s going to do whatever He wants anyway, why bother praying, right?

We say things like that because we think the point of prayer is to get God to do what we want Him to do. But it’s not. The point of prayer is for God to get us to do what He wants us to do. He wants us to pray, not because He needs a “honey do” list, but because coming back to Him time and time again in prayer teaches us to depend on Him and trust Him. It strengthens our understanding of His power and sovereignty. It grows us in humility and submission. It conforms our will and our wants to His. It reminds us of our sin and the cross. It keeps us from taking God’s blessings for granted as we thank and praise Him. It helps us to want what God wants more than what we want.

Ultimately, prayer is not about what we want God to do for us. It’s about what He wants to do in us. So bow your head and close your eyes and make that daily time communing with the Lord your highest priority. God working through prayer to conform you to the image of Christ? That’s not something you want to say, “Nah, not today,” to.


Additional Resources

Prayer

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

Prayer, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ After This Manner Therefore Pray

Originally published March 29, 2015manner-pray-e1432429425730

Prayer. It seems so simple- just talk to God. But when it’s time to actually do it, there can be a million questions. What should I pray about? How long should I pray? Do I have to say “Thee” and “Thou”? Eyes opened or closed? Do I have to be on my knees? Should I speak aloud or pray silently?

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The disciples lived with Jesus. Heard Him pray. Watched Him pray. And they still had to ask Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus graciously answered their request with what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Model Prayer.” There’s one version of it in Luke where Jesus teaches the disciples personally, and another, expanded version in Matthew 6:9-13 in the Sermon on the Mount, the version we’ll be looking at today.

Even after all these years, and after hundreds of books and sermons on prayer, Jesus’ simple teaching is still the best way to make sure we’re “doing prayer right.” When we submit the way we pray to His instruction, we can be sure we’re praying the way He wants us to pray. So how can we follow the Lord’s Prayer in our own prayer lives? Let’s take a look.

Pray then like this:

This may not seem like a very important phrase – after all, it’s not even in the body of the Lord’s Prayer – but it’s actually vital to our understanding of modeling our prayers after the Lord’s Prayer. Notice Jesus didn’t say, “repeat after Me” or “recite these exact words.” He said “pray like this.” The NASB renders this phrase as, “Pray, then, in this way.” KJV says, “After this manner therefore pray.” And the NIV has, “This, then, is how you should pray.”

The point? Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as an outline for prayer or as a sample prayer, not a specific set of words to recite every time you pray. While it’s fine to sincerely pray – and mean – the exact words of the Lord’s Prayer, we must guard against the “vain repetition” of “empty phrases” Jesus had warned the disciples about just two verses earlier. Mindlessly rattling off the words of the Lord’s Prayer out of habit or so you can check prayer off your daily “to do” list is not prayer. Instead, try using each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer as a guide to how you should approach Him in prayer.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Take some time to worship God and praise Him just for being Him. Contemplate how high and holy He is and how lowly you are in comparison. Think about, and thank Him for some of His attributes that we find in Scripture- His goodness, justice, compassion, omnipotence, wrath, mercy, and grace. You might even want to sing a hymn or song – like “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “God Is So Good” –  that focuses on God’s holiness or other attributes.

Your kingdom come,

Do you long for Christ to return? It’s OK to tell Him that and to take some time to focus on the joy that will be ours in eternity. Christ is coming back (hopefully today!) to gather His people, weary of this sin sick world, to Himself. But remember, He will ONLY be taking people who know Him as Savior and Lord. Is there someone you need to share the gospel with? Someone you desperately desire to see saved? This is a great time to pray for that person and ask God to give you the opportunity, and the right words, to share with her.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

In Heaven, God is always glorified, always praised, and always obeyed. Wouldn’t it be great if that were the case on earth? Well, it’s not, because of sin. Is there an area of obedience you’re struggling with? Ask God to help you with it. Pray that God will help your children to be obedient to you and your husband. Pray that God will strengthen your husband’s obedience to Him in his areas of weakness. Pray that your loved ones, boss, and elected officials will make the decisions God wants them to make. Ask God to guide your pastor, elders, and church members, and pray that they will be obedient to His word and His leading.

Give us this day our daily bread,

Here, we recognize and thank God that He is our provider. Even the smallest things in life, like a simple loaf of bread, only come to us because God provides them. He wants us to put our trust in Him, not a paycheck, for our needs. A great passage to go along with this verse is Philippians 4:6-7:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God doesn’t want us to worry about the things we need. He wants us to trust Him. When we take our needs to Him in prayer, we are declaring our trust in Him to take care of us – in His way and in His time – and that is where our peace comes from.

Notice, too, the words “this day” and “daily” in this verse. They show us that prayer is an all day, every day affair. God wants us to keep coming back to Him in prayer again and again. It helps us recognize our dependence on Him.

These words also help us to focus our prayers on what we need today. It’s OK to pray about future events, but sometimes focusing on future “what ifs” can tempt us to worry, and, as Jesus says later in Matthew 6, “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (34)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Repentance time. Did you notice that this verse (12) is the culmination of a sentence that began in the previous verse (11)?  “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us…” Repentance for our sin and asking God to forgive us is also also an all day, every day affair. But, praise God, so is His mercy to forgive! Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Take this time to confess your sin and ask God to cleanse you and forgive you. And be sure to ask Him to show you any bitterness you may be harboring in your heart against someone. Forgive that person and ask God to help you make things right with her. Consider the magnitude of your sin against God. If God has forgiven you of your sin against Him, who are you to hold a grudge against someone who has sinned against you?

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Sin. It’s always lurking around just waiting to ensnare us again, isn’t it? Think about the sins you struggle with. Ask God to show if there are any changes you can make in your life to stay away from temptation to those sins. Pray that He will strengthen you to be obedient to Him when you can’t avoid tempting circumstances, and ask Him to show you the godly way out of every situation, which He has promised to provide. Pray for God’s protection from evil people or circumstances and ask Him to protect your family and  church.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The KJV includes this phrase at the end of the Lord’s prayer, but it isn’t in the earliest and most reliable biblical manuscripts (from which modern versions such as the ESV are translated). But since its meaning and intent is thoroughly supported by other Scriptures, there’s certainly no harm in including it as part of the model for your prayer time.

Acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty over all things, His power, His glory, and His eteranlity. Ask Him to help you live in such a way that others will see these attributes of His. Submit yourself to Christ and pray that God will help you to follow Him humbly and honorably.

 

Eyes open or closed? On our knees or not? Jesus didn’t address those kinds of things, so we have a certain amount of liberty in those secondary issues. Jesus’ desire is that we stay in constant communion with Him in prayer, humbly honoring Him, praising Him, thanking Him, repenting of sin, and depending on Him for our every need. So, let’s pray then, like this.


This article was originally published at SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.
Parenting, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ The 10 Commandments of Parenting- 6

Originally published March 30, 200810 Commandments Parenting6

6.
Thou shalt teach thy children to pray.

“pray without ceasing;” I Thessalonians 5:17

When my kids were toddlers, I knew that there was no way they could wrap their little undeveloped brains around the abstract concept of God. It is certainly true, though, that God has made Himself evident within each of our hearts (Romans 1:19), because when the kids and I would pray together or talk about God, none of them ever once asked me who God was, even though they couldn’t see, hear, or touch Him. Teaching our kids to pray fans that little spark of knowing God into flame. Start from birth, and help them to make it a lifelong discipline.

I’m not a big fan of “Now I lay me down to sleep”, “God is great; God is good” and other memorized prayers. Assuming they’re biblically sound, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them, and they do contain some spiritual truths, but in my own experience the more familiar, rote, and repetitious something is, the less meaningful it can become over time. I think it’s important to teach kids that prayer is a way of talking with God that should have meaning for our lives.

When we teach children to pray, they need to know that they don’t have to use “thee’s” and “thou’s” and a bunch of fancy language in order to be heard. There are millions of Christians all over the globe who wouldn’t know flowery speech if it smacked them upside the head, and yet God listens to them just the same.

It is also essential that we teach them that while God is indeed our friend, He is also holy, and must be addressed with reverence for that holiness. When we recognize His holiness in our prayers by acknowledging Him as Creator of all things in the universe, listing and proclaiming His attributes (such as goodness, mercy, justice, grace, love, forgiveness, etc.), and humbling ourselves before Him, it puts us in the right spiritual attitude for doing business with God.

Another vital distinction to make is that God is not Santa Claus. He’s not sitting up there waiting for our wish lists, granting them if we’ve been nice and denying them if we’ve been naughty. Kids are naturally self-centered, so it helps them to take their focus off self if we teach them to thank God for the things that they already have, to pray for others, and to confess their sins.

Jesus gave us a great example of how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13):

  • Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. We humble ourselves before God, recognizing His position and submitting to His sovereignty and authority.
  • Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We intercede for ourselves as well as others. We ask that God’s will, not ours or anyone else’s, be done in each situation, and that He will receive the glory in every circumstance.
  • Give us this day our daily bread. We ask for God’s provision for our needs and recognize that it is only by His hand that we have anything.
  • And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. We confess and ask forgiveness for our sins. We ask God to help us forgive those who have sinned against us.
  • And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We ask for God’s protection and the strength to obey Him and resist temptation.
  • For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. We again recognize God’s sovereignty, give Him glory, and leave all of our requests with Him to deal with as He sees fit.

Your 5 year old’s prayer, encompassing these areas, might look something like this:

Dear Lord,
Thank you for being good and loving. Thank you for my family and my dog. Thank you for making the park so I can play there. Thank you for the food we’ve eaten today, and please give us the food we need tomorrow. Please help my friend Jason to feel better and get over the flu. I’m sorry I hit my brother this morning. Please forgive me and help me to be kind to him. I love You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Of course, he probably isn’t going to come up with all of that on his own. The best way to teach kids to pray is to pray with them. You might go first, praying a simple prayer, and then have him pray, or you might want to try what I call a “ping pong” prayer. You pray one sentence, and he prays the next, and so on, until you’re done. For example:

Mom: Dear Lord, thank you for being kind.
Kid: Thank you for being forgiving.
Mom: Please help the Jones family because they’re sad that their cat died.
Kid: Please take care of our missionaries in South America.
etc……

One of the ways we can teach our kids that God hears us when we pray is to keep track of His answers to our prayers. At our house, I was concerned that, while we were all praying together, the kids were not making the connection between their prayers and what God was doing in our lives. I decided a good way to help them make that connection would be to keep track of answered prayers as well as blessings we hadn’t thought to ask for, and other ways God was working in our family.

It was as simple as a trip to the dollar store. I bought a piece of posterboard and entitled it “What is God up to?” It now graces one wall of our breakfast room. Every time we have an answered prayer (even if the answer is no), an unexpected blessing, or an obvious move of God in our lives, I write it down on the poster. It has really helped the kids to see where God is moving. I can tell, because now they are the ones to remind me of an answer to prayer or something else that needs to go on the poster!

It has also helped them to learn that our prayers don’t just bounce off the ceiling. God does care for us. He does want to hear from us. We can bond with Him by spending time talking to Him. Those are priceless precepts for kids and parents alike.