Regular reading of the Writings and prayerful meditation on the teachings are two of the requisites for spiritual growth. Incorporating prayer and the spirit of prayerfulness into our daily routine will no doubt aid in fulfilling these obligations.
When we pray, we are in the presence of God. It is a very special time, a time to be humble and to listen with all our hearts to God’s guidance. Before we pray we should clear our minds and focus on God by taking a prayerful position. This may mean sitting with our arms crossed or hands on our laps and our eyes closed, to help us concentrate. Our voices should be reverent and we should listen quietly when others recite prayers.
This post offers eight ideas for teaching prayerfulness to young children.
Examine Your Expectations:
Say “Let’s pray”
When we ask our children to pray, are we doing it because we need to or because we want to pray at that time? Are we modeling the prayerful attitude we want them to display?
Emily Keller, mother of three, shares, “My advice for prayer time is to focus on it as a time of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ to elevate it to something more than an item to check off of a to-do list. One small way to do that is to say, ‘Let’s pray,’ instead of ‘Let’s say our prayers.’ Here, we focus on the state of prayer rather than saying something.”
Consider how you invite your children to pray and think about if your words are reflecting your attitude to prayer time in your house.
Set the Mood:
Utilize a physical reminder
You may like to add something to the atmosphere, such as lighting a candle or setting out pillows to sit on, to help signal that it is time for praying.
Laura Harley shares on her blog:
“I’ve been experimenting with bringing beautiful objects into our family prayer time to help my son connect more meaningfully with prayer. I bought a simple and inexpensive tray and put prayer beads, a flameless candle, and a small family photo album on it.
Each evening when we pray as a family, my son switches the candle on (he gets really excited to do it!). As the light flickers, it brings beauty into the room and signals that something special is about to happen. Next we gently touch the prayer beads and prepare to be reverent. The gentle touch helps my son settle down and focus. Next we look through our family album (which also includes a picture to represent the human family—since we want to pray for all people, not just our relatives). This reminds him that we can pray in thanksgiving of and ask for assistance for the people in our lives.”
Use a Real Life Example to Understand Prayer’s Effect:
Draw a diagram of food versus no food
Giving prayer a material example children can relate to may help them understand what prayer is all about and why it is so important.
Dan Jones shares an idea on his blog:
“Have the children divide a piece of paper into two sections. In the first section, have them draw someone who is weak from hunger. In the second section, have them draw someone who is nourished, healthy and full of strength.
We asked them how they would feel if they hadn’t eaten during a whole day, and then explained that our soul feels the same way when we go a day without praying. The children seemed to get the idea, which helps to illustrate the idea of spiritual nourishment as compared to material nourishment.”
Organize a Fun Activity:
Embody the spirit of prayerfulness
Consider learning about prayer in a fun and active way, so that children can engage in the discussion in a way they can enjoy and remember. For example, ask your children to jump or run like they are very happy. This is how we feel when we are close to God.
Embodying a position of praising God and asking for His guidance (hands upraised) and being joyful while discussing prayer is the aim of dance shown below. The lyrics to this song have lovely ideas about prayerfulness. Feel free to make up your own dance moves! The song can be found on the third disc of Jennifer Russell’s “Virtue Songs” CD.
Make a Craft:
Create prayerfulness photo prompts
Discussing the particulars of how we act when we pray can help to increase prayerfulness because children will come to understand what is expected of them and why. Ask your children how people pray. Discuss how sitting still and closing eyes helps people to focus on the prayer they are saying or listening to.
Take a photo of the children in a prayerful position and then create a photo prompt they can use during prayer time. You may wish to read, discuss, and attach the following quotation, as well.
“The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion.” -Abdu’l-Baha
If it is helpful, you can use this “prayerfulness card” every time they are praying so they can be reminded of what it looks like to practice prayerfulness.
Make a Prayer List:
Talk about what people pray for
Discussing what people pray for can be very useful for children to comprehend what to do when they pray. Ask them what opportunities they might want in life, who they would like to pray for, problems they may like to ask God’s assistance with, and what qualities they wish to work on developing.
One idea for compiling these ideas in a child-friendly way is creating a “prayer tree.” Gather some sticks in a vase or draw a tree on a poster, and then let the children add things they pray for to leaves which they can attach to the tree.
Discuss Having Prayers Answered:
Tell a story of God answering prayers
Sharing how prayer has influenced your life will be very meaningful for your children. Describe a time to your child when you prayed for patience, and you felt assisted by God to be patient.
A simple story which may help children to understand how God answers all prayers, but perhaps not in the way we expect, is: There was once a girl who really wanted a red bike. She prayed and prayed, and each day she waited to see if she would get a red bike. A few weeks later her friend asked why God had not answered her prayer. The girl replied, “He did answer! The answer was no.”
God always answers our prayers, though sometimes in ways we do not originally envision. That is why it is helpful to consider not praying for specific things, but rather praying for God’s Will as God always knows what is best for us. Being connected to God and remembering to submit ourselves to God’s Will are important aspects of prayerfulness.
Get Into a Routine:
Choose the time of day to pray and stick to it.
Whether it’s right upon waking, after breakfast, after dinner, or during the bedtime routine, choose the time(s) of day you would like to pray with your children and stick to it. Getting into the habit of praying will help the children practice prayerfulness, and will give you many chances to discuss what prayer is and help them learn prayers. Keep the prayers age-appropriate (singing one prayer with a toddler on your lap is a perfectly lovely prayer time!) and do your best to make it an enjoyable, love-filled experience.
What activities or suggestions do you have for helping children learn about prayerfulness? Please share in the comments below.