Taken from "The Parent's Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children" by John Trent, Kurt Bruner, and Rick Osbourne. Copyright 2000. Use by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All right reserved.
How do young children learn about relationships? By watching and interacting with you! Explain that just as the closeness between you and your children grows as you spend time talking, so closeness to God grows through prayer - which is simply talking to Him.
"Pray continually." - 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Let children know that God hears them and wants to help them, just as you hear and want to help. But God is much bigger than you are, and He knows best how to take care of them. They can talk to Him about anything; God loves to hear from them, just as you do. And since being close to God is so important, talking to Him needs to go on the list of things we do every day.
Ideas for Helping Your Kids Connect With God:
Babies and Toddlers: Even before your children have learned to speak, let them hear you pray as often as you can. In addition to mealtimes and bedtimes, try praying at "odd" times - perhaps carrying them from the car to their rooms as they're falling asleep. As you establish the habit, they'll be more likely to pick it up.
Preschoolers: As much as possible, let praying be easy and enjoyable - even fun! While uncontrollable giggles can spoil a prayer time, feel free to pray about funny things that happened during the day, for example, thanking God that you got to share a "Knock, Knock" joke or see the dog chasing its tail. To fit attention spans at this age, try keeping your prayers short and to the point.
Children: Let your children see how your relationship with God works. Allow them to hear you pray honestly and conversationally; encourage them to pray that same way, even about things that may seem trivial. Tell them about something God has taught you from the Bible. Talk about times when you've felt especially close to God. If you sometimes feel far from Him, admit it. As children learn that a relationship with God can be very real even if it has ups and downs, they'll have more realistic expectations as they begin their own.
Teens: As your kids become more independent, you can guide them to develop a prayer list by discussing the day's events and helping them to choose concerns and blessings to pray about. Ask them what God is teaching them as they interact with Him throughout the day.
In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7)
No matter the age of your kids, be sure to be yourself! Prayer doesn't have to be formal or use certain words. When you pray with your children, favor words and language that are part of their normal, everyday speech - and yours. Requiring formal, unfamiliar language implies that God is "foreign" and unknowable, and that children must put on an act in His presence. Allow your prayers to reflect your feelings, too; if you're excited, for instance, let it show!
From time to time, take a break from prayer itself to remind children why you're praying - and to whom. Remind them that God is really there, listening, and that they don't have to work hard to get their prayers through to Him. He's ready and willing to answer.