Children and prayer

Prayer Corner - October, 2009

Our gospel readings lately have had Jesus involved with children. The gospels do not describe him teaching children to pray, as he did with his older disciples. But prayer is a natural desire of young people, just as it is with those of greater years. They, and we, long for One who will hear our inmost voice. And just as with other forms of speech, children benefit from examples, teaching, and practice.

There are at least three basic things adults can do to help children develop a prayer life. The first is to pray yourself, so that people – including children – can see that prayer is part of your life. Even better is praying together with the children in your life, holding hands as you pray, or they pray, or you say the same prayers together.

This leads naturally to the second basic way to help children with prayer. Teach them. Teach and repeat prayers they can use, and teach habits and times for prayer. The world’s prayer warriors most often began with simple prayers like “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, let these thy gifts to us be blest” at dinner time and “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep” at bedtime.

Fortunate indeed is the one who in times of trouble can turn to “The Lord is my shepherd,” or “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” without having to think, because the prayer was planted deep in their soul when they were young.

And finally, there is one more crucial thing you can do to help children with prayer. Listen. When you understand something of what a child hopes, fears, loves and wants, then your prayers with them and for them will be deeply meaningful. Prayer will be a way for them to begin to know that their prayers do not go off into outer space, but are heard and held by a loving God. May that God lead you and all the little children in the ministry of prayer.

Lord Jesus be our holy guest,
our morning joy, our evening rest.
And with our daily bread impart
thy love and peace to every heart. Amen.


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