The ministry focus with children is often mostly targeted to evangelism; presenting God’s plan of salvation and offering children opportunities to accept Jesus as their Savior. This is all well and good, but unless there is effective follow through, children may drift away from a godly lifestyle when going into their teens or adult years.
Salvation is only the beginning of a lifelong spiritual journey and walk with God. Children need to be “taught up” in the principles of the Christian life. Prayer goes hand in hand with salvation. Children need to experience a new relationship with God.
Prior to salvation children (adults, too) may have many misunderstandings about God; who He is, what He can do, how He can guide one’s life. But all this comes through relationship; knowing God on a personal level and communicating with Him. That is the essence of prayer; communicating with God. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, communication—prayer!—should be nonstop, continual communication with God.
Each of us walk a rough road through life, a road with many obstacles, landmines, failures, decisions, and choices to make. On that path, each believer needs God as their companion and guide. Children need encouragement to find their way through a world of relationships with believers and non-believers. That encouragement not only comes from adults and mentors, it comes from God, who is ever present and ever ready to provide help.
But we need to ask Him, and ask continually; that is prayer. God’s Word gives us clear direction about prayer. As children’s ministry leaders we need to both teach and model that prayer relationship for the children in our care.
Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. During Jesus’ time on earth, His disciples (like children) were growing in their faith. During the three years they lived alongside Jesus, there was much to learn.
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:6-8 NIV).
This set a whole new approach to God for the disciples—and for us. Jesus told them to get by themselves, just them and God, close a door if there were others around, and have a conversation with God. Then He reminded them that before they even ask, God already knows what they are going to request, and is ready to answer.
Jesus modeled prayer as He prayed to His Heavenly Father. The disciples were Jewish men, brought up in the Jewish traditions of prayer that were formal and repetitive; not like the conversational prayer that we can have with God today where we pray from the heart.
The first step in teaching children to pray is to teach them about conversational prayer—not a list of items they want God to give them, or repetitive prayers, but conversational prayer.
Consider this simple approach to teaching children about prayer. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine that Jesus is sitting next to them. Now, tell them to pretend that Jesus doesn’t know anything about them. Ask them to say what they want to tell Jesus about themselves, their families, their friends, what is happening at school, and what they like to do. With this simple approach you can help the children in your care begin a real one-to-one relationship with God on a personal conversational level.
Remember, you are teaching a conversational prayer approach. Then close the session by you saying a conversational prayer, modeling this for the group.
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