Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Teaching Your Children to Pray

I find that I ask myself whether or not I am teaching my son the important fundamentals of being a faithful Christian. We read Bible stories, listen to Christian songs, and we pray at dinner but am I really teaching him how to have a relationship with God?

The concept of prayer can be big and overwhelming to a small child. How do you explain to a one and a half year old who God is and how they can talk to Him? I started to do some research on how you teach your children to pray. There were some obvious answers like model the behavior and pray together but how do I teach my son to do this on his own?

I came across a prayer method I really like. It is a method that my son will grow into and hopefully he will continue to use it for many years. The method is called Five-Finger Prayer or Hand Prayer. The idea is that each finger on the hand, and in some cases the palm of the hand as well, has a particular prayer purpose. There are several variations on this prayer method, so one method does not fit all. Clearly,  a small child is going to have a hard time understanding confession of sins or petition but they can understand praying for the people they love or giving thanks for the things they have.

Some suggestions I found for incorporating this prayer method into your child's life are:

  • Draw their hand on a sheet of paper and let them decorate it. Record their answers when you ask them who they want to pray for, what they are thankful for, etc. Hang the hand up in their bedroom or on the fridge. Everyone in the house can do one and you can all hang one up. Refer to it daily and change it has your child grows. 
  • Sit your child in your lap and hold their hand. Make it a fun game and explain each finger for them. In the beginning you will essentially be praying for them. Example: Grab their Thump and say, "This little finger is for praying for the people you love! Who do you love? Who shall we pray for?" Do this for each finger. 
  • When your child is at the play ground and their friend is crying and upset you can take their ring finger and say, "This finger is for praying for those who are injured or sick. Let's pray to God that your friend feels better soon." You can also take their pointer finger and say, "Let's say a pray of thanksgiving for your friend's mommy who is right there to give your friend comfort and love."
  • For older children who are starting to become aware of tragedies like 9-11 or the Newtown Shooting, you can have them draw their hand on a paper and write their prayers for that specific event. 

Here are some links to the different versions of the Five-Finger Prayers I came across.

Our Daily Bread: Five-Finger Prayers

Bible Study Planet: The 5 Finger Prayer

Ministry to Children: Five Finger Prayer for Children

This is the version that seems most popular for small children

This version seems to be a general model for older children and adults. 
The Hand Prayer using The Lord's Prayer as a model.

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