One of the most important–and often overlooked–areas to disciple our kids is prayer. As parents, prayer seems to be either something we do naturally without much thought, or something we don’t do enough because it isn’t part of the flow of the day. Either way, we may not give as much thought to teaching it as we should. So, how do you go about doing that? Good news: There are a lot of ways to do it! This bite-sized series is going to cover seven different ways to teach your kids to pray. Let’s get started with saying grace.
This is the easiest one, and one of two that are most common with children (I’ll cover the other one in the next post). Praying before we eat becomes a habit fairly quickly, and let me tell you, once you start making it a habit, your kids will keep it going! Especially with younger kids, if you forget to say grace, they will definitely remind you. Which is sweet. Hey, if Jesus took the time to stop and give thanks before feeding the 5,000 (John 6:11), it just makes sense to do it before feeding our little group around the table.
Praying before we eat becomes a habit fairly quickly, and let me tell you, once you start making it a habit, your kids will keep it going!
Teaching your kids to say grace is mostly about modeling. When they’ve heard you do it enough times, they will do it the way you do it. I advise keeping it pretty short, especially when they’re little. Keep it simple. I think it’s okay to do a memorized prayer, but I wouldn’t do it all the time. It can become robotic to the point that you recite it while thinking about something else. That’s never what we want to do when we’re talking to the One who breathed us into existence.
I also think it’s okay not to be overly legalistic about saying grace. If your conviction is that you never put a bite into your mouth before giving thanks for it, then you should follow that conviction. For me, there are times when I forget, or it’s disruptive to a group, or uncomfortable to someone I’m eating with, and I don’t get hung up on it. I don’t meant we should never be uncomfortable in our faith, but for me, this isn’t the thing I want to make awkward. Frankly, that’s not a situation where I can really focus on the Lord like He deserves. For me, this is an area of grace.
A word of caution: As your kids get old enough to say grace, it’s really, really easy to fall into the trap of having them do it every time. It’s sweet to hear them pray, and it’s easier on us. Let’s just tell the truth–We get lazy, don’t we? But when we let the kids say grace every time, they don’t grow. Remember, they learned to say grace from you in the first place, so they need to hear you so they can grow in this area. You wouldn’t want them to be seventeen and saying the same prayer they said when they were four, would you?