Teaching Children to Enjoy United Prayer
United prayer is a God-given privilege. It brings special blessings to those who are willing to engage in it. Like adults, children need to learn that “all the grace and efficiency comes in united persevering prayer. Ask and ye shall receive.” If they can experience the blessings of God in response to united prayer at a young age, they will have learned an essential secret to spiritual growth. Their prayers will be effective, and they will see God work in answer to their prayers.
“What marvelous results would appear if the united prayers of [children] were to ascend to God in living faith! Jesus stands ready to take these petitions and present them to His Father, saying, “I know these [children] by name.
Send answers to their prayers; for I have graven their names on the palms of My hands.”
Children often catch the joy and blessing of united prayer time long before adults do. They seldom have the inhibitions that adults have about praying together. If you keep it simple and short and use various methods, the children will soon be eager to pray together. Use stories and simple illustrations to help the children understand God’s desire to hear them pray and know how to pray.
It is helpful to explain the various parts of prayer. Children tend to simply ask God for things (like many adults!). It is important to take the time to explain the difference between praising and thanking God, the importance of confession, and the ways God answers prayer. Please see the Children’s Prayer series for more ideas on how to teach about these different parts of prayer.
United prayer with children is best kept short. Ten to fifteen minutes is generally plenty. Sometimes even shorter is better. Here are some ways to do it:
• Popcorn prayer - Invite children to jump to their feet (like popcorn popping) and pray a short (one word to one sentence) prayer, then sit back down after their prayer. Encourage them to pop up to pray multiple times.
• Praise prayer – Explain to children that we praise God by focusing on the things we love about Him, not just His gifts to us. For example, we praise God for His love, creativity, gentleness, etc. We praise God because He is God and cares for us. Invite children to begin their prayer of praise with “I love you God, because…”
• Thanksgiving prayer – Thanksgiving comes more naturally to most children. They can usually think of many things to thank God for (toys, new puppies, family members, teachers, friends, etc.). Invite children to begin their prayer of thanksgiving with “Thank you God for…”
• Requests prayer – Assure the children that God wants to know what they want. Invite them to tell God what they need in prayer. This is generally the easiest for children (and adults).
• Confession prayer - Teach children about how to confess their sins and accept God’s forgiveness. Then you can have a prayer session focused on confession. One or two words is usually enough.
• ACTS prayer - Once you have taught about the various aspects prayer, you can lead the children through a united prayer that goes through all four aspects of Adoration (praise), Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (Requests). Keep each section short so the children don’t lose interest too quickly.
• Specific needs – When possible, have the children pray for specific needs that they all know about. This may be a sick child, a natural disaster, or another tangible need. Praying for a specific need will give the children a focus for their prayers. Have the children gather around, place their hands on the person in need, and pray for them.
Note: Never force children to pray aloud. If you demonstrate the joy of praying to God and help them understand how much God loves them, most of them will want to pray. However, some children will always be shy and fearful, and praying aloud will be too terrifying for them. Sometimes shy children will be willing to pray one-on-one with an adult. But if not, just keep demonstrating the joy and blessings of prayer and trust that the Holy Spirit is teaching the children what they need to learn.