How to Pray with Your Children
Updated: Aug 30, 2020
Let's just be honest with each other for a moment--praying with our children or beginning the process of praying with our children can seem overwhelming and scary. I want to dispel your fear and give you some actionable steps to begin this process to not only pray with your children, but to show them how to pray.
First, let's ask "what is prayer?" Prayer at its most basic form is talking with God. Even though He knows all of our thoughts, we still need to purposefully speak to our Savior and Creator either verbally or through writing.
There is not one single way that we as Christ followers are required to pray. The Bible gives us different examples, but even in Scripture we see different methods. I will talk through two methods I use with my children (and in my own life), but do not think these are the only ways.
The first method is called the "ACTS" method. I did not invent it, but I do find it helpful to direct my heart towards the Lord. ACTS is an acronym for the first four letters of the steps.
Adoration - praise God for who He is. You can say something like, "Lord, you are great and mighty. You are so gracious to me. You are in control of all things and nothing is beyond your control." These are just examples, but reflect on God's character as described in the Bible and say these things to God. In doing so, you are agreeing with Scripture.
Confession - confess your sin to God. Confessing is acknowledging where we sin and fall short of God's holiness. You can say something like, "Lord, I got angry today because I did not get way. I was selfish and arrogant. Please forgive me." Reflect on where you have sinned and bring that before the Lord.
Thanksgiving - thank God for what He has done for you. You can say something like, "Thank you, Lord, for loving me and forgiving my sin. Thank you that through faith in Christ, you have given me eternal life. Thank you that you have adopted me into your kingdom and family." You can also thank the Lord for your family, job, circumstances, etc.
Supplication - this is what we usually think of when we think about prayer. It is asking God to work in a specific way.
This is one example and you can use parts of it or all of it. When I pray with my children, I usually blend Adoration and Thanksgiving together, then roll into Supplication. If I have gotten angry or responded poorly to my children, I will add confession--just depends on the situation. Remember, it is just a guide.
A second way we pray is by praying back Scripture. As you memorize Scripture, you can include it in your prayers or as you have read the Bible together, you can do the same. Praying Scripture is taking what the Bible says and then praying it back to God.
For example, you can look at Colossians 1:13-14 and pray something like this (you can do this conversationally as you read it). "Lord, thank you that you have delivered us from the kingdom of darkness to Jesus' kingdom. Thank you Jesus, that you have redeemed us and forgiven of our sins." As a side note, when you hear the word "redeemed" think of purchased, removed, and liberated from sin.
You might be thinking "Eric, my kids are three years old. Do I really do this with them?" My answer to you is yes, but you can keep it short and be flexible. You can tell your children, "I am going to pray with you now" and then pray Scripture together. You can use ACTS with them like this, "Lord, you are in control of everything (Adoration). Thank you for loving us and taking care of us (Thanksgiving). Please help us to seek you and know you more, and to trust you Jesus (Supplication). Amen."
Remember, be flexible and do what works. If you children get squirmy and fidgety, let them be squirmy and fidgety for a minute, but pray together.
One last note--pray for your children's salvation while you pray together. Ask Jesus to do a work in them and let them hear you pray it aloud. Do not be afraid to do this, in fact, I think it is important to pray over our children for their salvation and growth as believers.
This work has eternal rewards and consequences. Let's do not grow weary of doing it.
P.S. You can find additional ways to equip and disciple your children in my book, Leading Well at Home: How Husbands and Fathers Can Biblically Lead Their Families. Buy it in our store at https://www.entrustingthefaith.com/store.