Teaching Children to Pray

Child hands

“Now I lay me down to sleep….” many of us were raised on this prayer, myself included. When my boys were little, I taught them a modernized version that didn’t have the scary phrase “if I should die before I wake.” Beyond this bedtime prayer, I hadn’t really given any thought to teaching them about prayer. My mother had always said that prayer was simply having a conversations with your friend, Jesus. (The best thing she ever taught me.) But I had never shared that with my children. That all changed when my oldest was seven.

The area of my son’s aorta where they had previously done a bypass had started to weaken and narrow. He needed an angioplasty. The cardiologist was going to insert a catheter in his groin send it up into his heart and balloon open the narrowed area. We always knew this was a possibility. We had prayed that it wouldn’t be necessary.

I began doing what many mom’s would do. I started praying. I prayed for my son, the doctors, the nurses etc. I recruited others to pray. I thought I was doing everything I should be doing. Then God started to nudge me. I kept hearing, “Teach him how to pray.” I had no idea what to do with those words. How and what was I supposed to teach my son about prayer? What more could a seven-year old understand? I was uncomfortable. I didn’t know where to start. Days went by. I kept asking God, “What am I supposed to say to him?” Even though I didn’t know what to say, the need to talk to my son about prayer kept growing within me.

I finally went into his room and started a conversation. I asked him if he was scared about the procedure. He responded, “No.” Then I thought, “Of course not, he doesn’t fully understand what is going to happen.” So I asked him what he does when he gets scared. He, of course, said, “Come to you and Dad.” Our conversation continued:

“What if Mom or Dad isn’t there?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can pray.”


“You know that Jesus never leaves you. He’s always with you.”


“You can pray and ask Jesus to keep you safe.”

By the time we were done, I think he had a vague idea of what I was trying to convey. On the day of the procedure, there was lots of family there for support. We all walked alongside his gurney as they rolled him to the procedure room. Curt and I were able to go into the room with him. When it was time for us to leave him, he gave me that “look.” Mom’s, you know this look. It is the look of fear. It’s the look that says don’t leave me. My heart broke. I looked at him and said, “You know what to do?” He nodded and said, “Pray.” I choked up a little smile, nodded and left.

As I left the room, I started telling God that He better not let me down. This little boy should not have to be in this situation and shouldn’t be afraid. (I may have some trust issues.)

The next day I asked him if he was scared during the procedure. He smirked and said, “No, Jesus was with me the whole time.”

I was so thankful to God and thankful I listened to the nudge and taught him how to handle a scary time. It’s so easy to ignore those nudges from God when they are difficult. And, it’s easy to underestimate what children can do and comprehend. God and my son taught me a valuable lesson. What lessons have you learned lately? What have your children taught you? Share your thoughts.


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