Discipling our children in prayer is one of the most important jobs we have as Christian parents. Some call it mentorship and mentoring is a hot topic. Secular and faith-based writers and organizations laud its benefits, decry its scarcity, and encourage its revival.
But like many other disciplines and practices, mentoring is simply a version of discipleship: a relational technique brought to life by Christ’s interactions with His hand-picked group of up-close-and-personal friends and students. Anyone can be discipled in anything.
As women, moms and influencers at home, work, and school, we have a great opportunity of discipling our children in prayer, arguably the most vital connection we have with our Savior and Father.
It’s odd; prayer is one of those things that often stays under the spiritual radar in terms of aspects of a legacy we are encouraged to pass on. We know that worldview, the Word of God, social and cultural activism and advocacy, and pursuing biblical justice are on everyone’s short list of important parts of our faith to be taught to our children and young adults.
But what about prayer? Prayer is our essential point of communication between us and our Father, facilitated by the Holy Spirit, and brokered through our trust in Jesus. I’d say that makes it an absolutely critical skill to model and teach.
It’s never too early to begin providing an experiential discipleship dynamic for young people in the area of prayer. Even very young children and toddlers can be shown how to pray, and can observe mom, dad, and other adults in their world, pray. We all have our own style and approach to prayer, but here are a couple suggestions for must-have tools in our prayer discipleship toolbox:
Teach young people to be humble in their conversations with God.
Sometimes it becomes evident that in our desire to make God appealing to young minds accustomed to bling and almost constant stimulation, we have gone too far in our portrayal of God as our friend and brother. He is both, but He is also still God.
That status deserves respect and reverence. We don’t want our kids afraid of Him, but we most definitely must teach them to fear Him. Sounds contradictory and it is a thin line, but it’s true. The bible stresses the need for this quality in our relationship with God many times, for example:
Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear Him will have all they need.
The Lord is a friend to those who fear Him. He teaches them His covenant.
We should help our teens and young adults understand that pride and arrogance have no place in our prayer closets, and in fact keep us from authentically connecting with the Lord, which after all is the true aim of prayer. We cannot come to God and try to dictate His responses or demand our requests be given. We come to Him as children asking a loving Father for help, wisdom, grace, and strength.
We should help our children to trust the character of God.
With so much deceit and treachery in personal relationships, it’s understandable that young people can have difficulty believing or trusting the claims God makes about Himself. But if they are never taught how to let God be true and every man a liar, their prayers will become hollow exercises in futility because God says in the book of James that if we come to Him, we must first believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.
If our children believe that God is a bully, a manipulator, or a relational gamesman who delights to see weak creatures come crawling to Him for help, they might never really be able to pray, and if they do pray, it will be the spiritual equivalent of a fingers-crossed, let’s-hope-this-works exchange. But things are very different coming from someone who knows God only has their absolute best interest in mind, and uses His power on their behalf, not against them. They will learn to come to Him from a position of calm repose rather than halting suspicion.
We can share our testimonies of answered prayer to convince them of the absolute power of prayer.
Kids, teens, and young adults love to hear stories. And let’s face it, everyone loves stories of adventure and victory. My sons love to hear that I’m praying about something specific in their lives, and then they are blown away when they see the answers manifest with their own eyes, or hear me reveal that a turn of events is an answer to prayer.
Nothing speaks louder than results, and testimonies are results in spades. Over time, they will begin to replicate this experience with their own prayers, and then it’ll be our turn to be blown away as they share with us how God is moving in their lives through their prayers!
Prayer is a lifelong journey of perseverance, trust, and great exploits.
Let’s make sure our kids don’t miss out.
More to Consider…