I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. The rest are just life's add-ons: an educator & organizational development professional.
What are my secrets in raising a prayerful child? The answer is simple: love. Of course, we can expound on this.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes prayer this way: Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God (CCC, no. 2559, citing St. John Damascene, De Fide Orth. 3, 24). Likewise, it is considered as a “vital and personal relationship,” between the living and the one true God (CCC, no. 2558). Moreover, it is “a communion with Christ,” (CCC, no. 2565) as well as the “covenant relationship between God and Man in Christ (CCC, no. 2564)” St. Augustine wrote, “True prayer is nothing but love.” I suppose that is my favorite.
1. Start Raising a Prayerful Child Early
Putting aside the repent-now-the-apocalypse-is-nigh theme, the best time to start praying is now. Starting a relationship with God now is always a better choice. Yes, even when your child is young, it is a wise choice to instill this habit early on in life. Incorporating prayer in the child’s daily routines will help foster a prayerful life. Pray before your child eats, before going to bed, upon waking up in the morning. There are myriads of prayers for children. And they are fun to say. One of my favorite is the Angel of God prayer. We used to pray this before sleeping and it sounds like a nursery rhyme.
Angel of God
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day, be at my side,
to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.
What would you ask God if you had the chance to talk to Him? Well, go ahead, ask Him, prayers are essentially conversations with God.
2. Turn Prayer Into a Daily Activity
Part of inculcating the habit of prayer in our children’s routines is including it in their daily lives. Since prayers are a way to strengthen our relationship with God, we do it constantly. Moreover, put prayer in everything we do. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). When we’re filled with joy , we say a prayer of thanksgiving. When we feel down or lonesome, we pray for clarity and strength through whatever we are going through. When we feel anxious, we pray for courage and a steadfast faith in the face of adversity. Simply put, we converse with God as often as we can.
Strive for our children to understand that prayer is not an activity we do only when we are in need or anxious. God promised us that He will be with us. Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10). His words are already an assurance that we are not alone. However, we must constantly communicate to God and create a meaningful relationship with Him.
Practical tips in including prayer in their daily life:
- You can ask your child to write letters to God
- Encourage your child to draw pictures for God
- Have a regular family prayer time
- Encourage personal prayer time
- Pray constantly at home
- Allow your child to lead in some prayers
- Have a daily prayer time
3. Teach Your Child How to Pray
When my child was younger, we taught her a simple prayer whenever she felt scared - Jesus, help me and protect me. Although these were just 6 simple words, they’re powerful words that a 3-year old child uttered when she was afraid or anxious. Moreover, children don’t need highfalutin terminologies, instead, the simplest would suffice. There is a certain sincerity in the simple words that children utter. And it is this sincerity that truly matters.
Jesus, himself taught us how to pray:
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8)
Teach your child to pray with humility and sincerity. Moreover, teach your child to pray for what is good. There were times when I have to remind my daughter that to pray for something atrocious to happen to another is not what prayers are all about. Instead, we suggested that she pray that her friend learns to become a better person. Let us ensure that our children understand that through prayers we are blessed to become better servants of the Lord. And that God is not some mob boss that we can ask to inflict harm on others in exchange for loyalty.
4. Pray as a Family
Growing up, my family prayed the Holy Rosary. My dad would lead the prayer and each of us had a part. I would be the one to pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now, that I have a family of my own, we started our prayer time. Before dinner, we read the Daily Bread and each one of us gave thanks for the blessings we received, we asked forgiveness for our wrongdoings and we asked for assistance in the different areas of our lives. It is a wonderful experience praying together. We get to hear about our child’s conversation with God, learn about her accomplishments, and worries. Praying together allows us to learn more about each other while we strengthen our relationship with God.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)
Some practical tips in praying as a family:
- Set a regular prayer time
- Give each family member a part in the prayer
- Allow your child to lead the prayer from time to time
- Encourage your child to share what they are thankful for
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5. Encourage Your Child to Have a Personal Prayer Time
Prayers are truly personal and intimate conversations with God. And sometimes, it’s just comforting to know that it’s just you and God conversing. Thus, allowing your child some private conversations with God is an important part of their daily life. Your child can have a personal prayer time in her bedroom, in the garden, in the living room or practically anywhere and more importantly anytime.
Here are some reminders for parents during your child’s personal prayer time:
- Respect the privacy of your child
- Do not interrupt
- Encourage your child to have a private prayer time daily
- Avoid distracting noise when your child is praying
In everything we do, we have to praise and worship God. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Raising a prayerful child starts with love. And we can do this when we accept Jesus as our Lord and savior we will “seek the Lord and His Strength; seek His presence continually,” 1 Chronicles 16:11.
If you haven’t received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you can do so now. If you wish to learn more about Jesus and the Catholic faith, visit your local Catholic Church.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 JP Carlos