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How to Pray with Your Children in Tough Times

During uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to connect with our kids, whether they’re at home or far away.

Pray with your children
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We pretty much know how to pray for our children (and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and so on). “Keep them safe.” “Heal their hurts.” “Show them the way.” We pray for them to be polite and kind people. We pray for their growth in faith and grace.

But for many of us, it feels less natural and not-so-instinctive to pray with our children. We may pray with them at meals and bedtime. And, as they grow and mature, we encourage them to pray, and our prayers together shift and change…and maybe even stop. But in tough times, ones of fear and anxiety, it’s more important than ever to pray with our kids, regardless of their age or proximity.

So how do we do this? Here are a few ideas.

Pray short and sweet.
Regardless of their age (or ours), it’s usually a good idea to keep things short and sweet when praying with our kids. In fact, sometimes, the shorter a prayer is, the sweeter it’s likely to be. “Lord, give us happy dreams and a good night’s sleep.” Or “Father, thank you that we didn’t have to wait long in that line.”

Pray calmly and circumspectly.
If your children are younger and still living at home, they might be struggling with new routines or worrying more than usual as a result of the daily news cycle. But overwrought prayers for safety or health can have an adverse effect. Do your best to stay calm and try to pray in such a way that a child will be reassured rather than troubled. If your kids are grown, especially if they’re far from home, praying calmly and circumspectly may help to keep them from worrying about you!

Pray the way you talk.
There’s no wrong way to pray. But if you use “Thees” and “Thous” or an elevated style of speech in your prayers, try praying with children in everyday language. You might say, “Ouch. That looks like it hurts. Let’s tell God about it.” Or even turn to God naturally in the course of conversation: “Wasn’t that fun? ‘Jesus, thank you that we got to do that.’”

Pray about daily life.
The prayer Jesus taught His disciples (see Luke 11) asks for bread, forgiveness and deliverance from temptation. Daily needs. Real life. Follow His lead and pray about each day’s needs and deeds: appointments, errands, work time, play time, etc.

Pray what’s really on your mind and in your heart.
C. S. Lewis said, we must learn to “lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” So share your feelings, desires, hopes and dreams when you pray with your child. “God, help Cindy to be kind to everyone today,” or “Lord, get us through this day without being bullied…or being a bully.” Keep #2 in mind, of course, but pray what’s really on your mind and in your heart.

Pray fill-in-the-blank prayers.
Especially with younger kids, pray fill-in-the-blank prayers with each other, such as, “’Father, thank you today for _____.’ Your turn.”

Text your prayers.
As kids get older, and especially when they move out and live on their own, opportunities for praying together become less frequent. But an occasional text can keep the prayers coming and going. In fact, while you may sometimes text (or leave a voicemail), saying, “I’m praying for you,” sprinkle in actual prayers also: “Lord, help Jason in his schoolwork today,” or “God, remind Beth of Your constant care for her.”

These are just a few suggestions, of course. What are some of the practices you’ve found effective in praying with kids—especially in tough times?

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