In teaching children about prayer, we need to do more than just teach them how to pray and model prayer for them. We also need to teach them the deep aspects of prayer and to trust God for His right answers for what we ask.
Consider this teachable, child-friendly version of Luke 11: 5-13 that focuses on prayer:
Jesus told this story: “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go knock on his door late at night. He comes to the door.”
“What do you want?” he calls through the door, “I was asleep and you woke me up.”
You say to him, “I have friends coming to my house tomorrow for breakfast and I forgot to get food. I don’t have anything to feed them! All the stores are closed. Will you lend me some cereal, milk, and bread for toast?”
Your friend answers from inside, “I’ve already gone to bed. It’s too late. I’m not giving you anything. Go home!”
But you beg him over and over and say, “Please, please help me out. I really need some food for breakfast tomorrow. Please?”
Then Jesus said, “Even though your friend did not want to get any food together for you; because you did not leave but kept asking over and over, he gave you what you needed.”
So, Jesus said, “If there is something you need from God, ask Him. And if you need to, ask again and again. It will be given to you. Search out God. Go to Him, and you will find answers. Knock on God’s door by praying, and the door will be opened to you. Because everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
There are several things to teach children from this story about prayer: (1) God wants us to pray and ask Him for what we need, (2) God wants to answer our prayers, and (3) The Holy Spirit is with us to help us know what to pray for.
Children also need to know that God always answers our prayers, but He may not answer them the way we want. God answers prayer in one of three ways:
YES NO WAIT
YES: When we pray, we must make sure we are asking God for the right things. If we are asking God for a new bicycle or new clothes, that might be what we want, but not something we really need. God may give us things that we want sometimes. But mostly God gives us what we need for each day. So, when we ask and God answers and we receive what we pray for, we should thank God for providing!
NO: Sometimes we pray and ask, but we don’t ask for the right things or we are asking for wrong reasons. In those situations, God’s answer may well be, “No.” Then later we may realize that we were not asking God for the right things, and if God had given us what we had asked for, it may have done us more harm than good. So, if we do not get what we ask for—even though we ask God many times— there is always a reason why God does not answer that prayer with a, “Yes.”
WAIT: Then there are times when we pray and ask God for something, but we do not receive it right away. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t hear us, or is unwilling to answer our prayer. His answer may come later than we expected. God knows when it is the right time to answer every single prayer. He always knows best! There may be times when God will answer our prayer in the future, but not right away. That doesn’t mean we should stop asking. When we pray, we should keep asking God and let Him know what we want, then trust Him to answer it in His time and in His way.
When we teach children to have a proper focus on prayer—to be consistent in praying, and to understand how God might answer their prayers—we do much to train them up for a strong relationship with God throughout their life.
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