PARENTING AND PRAYER
There is nothing greater than being a parent. Thus, there is no higher calling than to impart onto children the wonderful things of the Christian faith. One of these wonders is the practice of prayer. Prayer is a vital means of our relationship with God. To pray is to simply communicate with God in a personal or corporate manner. It is the outpouring of our hearts to God that expresses praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving. These practices are to be rigorously modeled for our children.
SHOW AND TELL
From the time of their birth, our children learn through the agency of hearing and listening. It is at this very moment—if not within the womb—that we need to begin to show and model a life of prayer. Though they may not necessarily understand the words we speak, our children definitely need to hear us pray. Our attempts in prayer as parents is not merely to convey deep theological content, but, simultaneously, to model a posture of joy and humility before our Creator God.
As our children grow from stage to stage and as they hear and listen to us more and more, our prayers must instruct them why we do what we do. Many times, our children know what prayer is, but they do not know why we pray. We pray because (list is not limited to the following):
Of the example set forth by God’s faithful people in all situations of life (1 Chronicles 29:9-20; Nehemiah 1:4-11; Psalm 142; Daniel 6:10, 9:3-19; Acts 1:13-14, 12:5; Acts 16:26; Ephesians 3:14-21).
Of our greatest example, Jesus, was a man of prayer (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15-16; John 11:41-42; Matthew 26:36-39).
We are instructed to do so in Scripture (Matthew 6:5-13, Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 5:13-16)
It shows our faith in God (Psalm 18:2-3; 27:1; 116:1-4)
As parents, our life is constantly a “show and tell” to our children. Children learn quickly and will eventually imitate our lifestyles; from our actions to our words. As we follow the patterns laid out in Scripture, our lives become a bill board of faith in Jesus Christ—especially our prayers.
“Showing and telling” prayer to our children begins in the home. Modeling prayer in the morning when we rise, when we eat our daily meals, before we go to work and send off our children to school, when we are met with the joys and troubles of daily life, and before we rest at night. But there is no better way to model the life of prayer than through the intentional setting of family worship. In family worship there are three essential elements (1) worship, (2) the reading the sacred Scriptures, and, of course, (3) prayer. On praying during family worship, Jason Helopoulos writes, “There are few things sweeter than a family that prays together . . . Encourage your family to spend time in adoration, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving.” Apart from the busy-ness of everyday life, family worship will allow time for intentional prayer as it binds all hearts and minds of the entire family together for the sole purpose of pouring out our hearts to God.
PRAYING THE BIBLE
We must also recognize the centrality of the Scripture in our prayers. Our human emotions and ramblings can cause us to misuse this relationship with God. Embarrassingly, at times, all that our children probably hear is us complaining to God or wanting all sorts of things from Him. Thus, when we model prayer to our children, we pray the Bible. It is simply that, praying through a passage of Scripture.
There are benefits to modeling such prayers. For one, it shows our children that all life—even our prayers—are not rooted in mere human emotions and desires but strictly in the authoritative Word of God (John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:16). Secondly, praying the Bible will show our children that we are to be informed by the Word. Thus, in order to be informed by the Word we must read and study the Bible and also be able to internalize it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). Lastly, when we pray the Bible, we show our children that our words, thoughts, and life is conformed to God’s will (Matthew 6:10; Luke 22:42; 1 John 5:14-15).
LET THEM PRAY
As the years of modeling prayer progresses, we also need to encourage our children to actively engage in prayer itself. We need to allow space and time for them to express the outpourings of their heart. At a young age, our children’s prayers will be short, simple, and to the point. There is nothing more beautiful and encouraging than to hear those sweet little words lifted up as a fragrant offering to their God and Father in Heaven. As our children continue to grow and mature in the faith, may they willingly and without hesitation, offer up words of prayer to their covenant God (Psalm 141:2). Ultimately, may the spiritual disciplines and practices instilled in your home by His grace be perpetuated into their homes and the many more generations to come.
 Collin Hansen, The New City Catechism Devotional: God’s Truth for Our Hearts and Minds (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 167.
 Jason Helopoulos, A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus), 58.  See Donald S. Whitney, Praying the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 26-61.
Phillip Her (BS, Simpson University) is a husband of Paulina and a father to Peyton. He also has been serving as the Children's Ministry Pastor at Denver Hmong Alliance Church since August of 2016.