Knowing how to pray can be hard, we might be wondering why we need to pray, how should we do it, when and where? If we have kids it can be especially diffcult if we are unsure of these answers and how to pray ourselves.
We might ask ourselves - why do we need to pray if God already knows everything about us? This is a great question, God does indeed know our every thought.
God is all about relationship, He wants us to share our thoughts, fears and hopes with Him and He wants us to get to know Him as He guides and helps us.
Communicating with Him strengths our relationship with Him and as we see the way He answers our prayers we are encouraged and reassured of His presence with us.
Have a look through the sections below for help in answering some of these questions both for ourselves and for how we might encourage our children.
How to Pray
So, where to start!
What do we say, is there a set way to address God? Is there a position we have to be in - kneeling, bowing our heads etc?
God tells us that He is our Heavenly Father, so addressing Him as Father is a great way to get started, but really how you address Him is up to you. You might say Dear God, Heavenly Father, Jesus, Lord. Go with whatever you are comfortable with.
The same goes for whether you are kneeling, sitting, head bowed etc. It can help children to focus and not be distracted to bow their heads, close their eyes and hold their hands together, but there is nothing in the Bible to say we must do that.
The Bible talks about the genuineness of our prayers, that they are heartfelt and directed to God, not for show to look good in front of others. How encouraging for those of us who feel we are stumbling over our words! You can find some helpful Bible passages on prayer below.
The short answer to this question is "anytime". There is no set time we have to pray but having set times can help us establish a good pattern of praying.
Some families like to say grace before a meal as a way to thank God for the provision of food.
Before bed is also a great time to pray both for us as adults and with our children. For those with children, it's a more relaxed setting, you may have read them a story and possibly a Bible story too. Before they sleep is a good time to reflect on the day, say sorry, thank God etc. For us as adults, it's good to reflect on the day, to confess where we haven't done, thought or said things that would please God. To ask for forgiveness, for strength, peace, help. To praise and thank Him for the blessings of the day and His goodness to us.
If you are doing a daily Bible time yourself or with your children, then it's great to pray before you start and ask God to help you learn. And equally great to pray when you finished and thank Him and ask for help to put into practice what you have learned.
One member of our congregation says:
"When my children were young I wondered how I could bring God more into our every day conversations. I started in little ways. For instance, if one of them was unkind to the other then I would explain the problem (it's not nice to hit your sister, it hurts her and makes her sad) but then I would also add in "and it makes God feel sad when we are mean, because He loves us and wants us to be kind to each other". Then I would encourage them to say sorry to their sibling and sorry to God. We could also spot things to thank God for too, like the beautiful flowers we saw on a walk."
It's great for our children to learn that God is just as much a part of our lives as anyone else and talking to Him isn't just reserved for church or special times. If you don't have children at home, you might consider bringing God into conversation with other Christian adults in your household or with close Christian friends. Practising talking about God with those we feel safe with, is a great way to help us be thinking about Him more and a great way for us to feel relaxed about sharing the good news of Jesus with our non-Christian friends.
Lastly, there are times we might want to pray as a situation arises. For example, if a child comes to us with a worry, we might dispense some advice and then say a short prayer with them. "Dear God, thank you that you love us and that you know how we feel, please help X with Y". With other Christian adults in our household we may want to pray together about the situation or offer to pray by ourselves for them.
Or it might be that we say a prayer together for someone else - "Dear God, we just heard that Granny is poorly, please look after her and help her feel better soon".
Encouraging our children and each other to pray about all situations is a wonderful way to help us all learn to trust God in everything.
A Helpful Model to Follow with your Kids
STOP is a great model for praying with kids, it encourages us to think about different ways to pray.
S is for Sorry. It's always good to come to God and confess that we have said or thought or done things that would make Him feel sad. We can say sorry for those things and the Bible assures us that he forgives us.
T is for Thank you. It's always good to thank God for things, maybe something that has happened in the day, our family, our friends, our home, ice cream, whatever the kids want to say. We can also thank God that He is who He is - kind, forgiving, understanding, loving etc.
O is for Others. We can remember others who might need our prayers and this helps us be more outward facing.
P is for Please. Last of all we think of ourselves and ask for help or guidance with what we need. For the children that might be help with a difficult or worrying situation, it might be help to change a difficult behaviour - like being unkind to a sibling etc.
Praying for Others (Kids, Spouses, Friends)
It is great to be able to pray for our Christian friends and family, our children and also those we know who are not Christians. We can all think of everyday needs that we can bring before God for different individuals - concerns they are having, practical help they may need, healing from illness etc. But it can also be encouraging to think of their spiritual needs in our prayers.
A great place to go for ideas of how to pray is to look at the New Testament letters. Often Paul will start his letters with words of encouragement to the church to which he is writing, followed by the things he is praying for them.
For example, he writes to the church in Ephesus:-
"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." Ephesians 1:15-19a
How exciting to be able to thank God for our friends or our children and then to pray for God to give them the "Spirit of wisdom and relevation". To ask that they would be able to know God better and to really understand the wonderful news of the Gospel - the great hope of being put right with God and living forever with Him!
Who wouldn't want to pray this for all those they know and love, what an amazingly exciting prayer to pray!
Resources to help Adults
There are lots of books out there on prayer. Here are a few we would recommend, although the links point to 10ofThose.com, these are also available from the Good Book Company, or you could order them at our local Christian bookshop Quench.
"A Praying Life" by Paul E. Miller is an inspiring book about prayer. One congregational member says "This is the first book I ever read on prayer, to be honest I had avoided the topic because I thought it would probably be boring! As the book began I wasn't totally sure I understand where the author was coming from, but as I read on I understood more and more and found it an inspiring and encouraging read. The author talks through his experiences of prayer in his day to day life, the ups and downs of their families struggles and how God has worked through it. If you are at all nervous about reading a book on prayer, this is a great place to start."
"Enjoying God" by Tim Chester, is a fabulous book, not on prayer directly, but on growing closer to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is such an encouraging and practical book to help us grow in our relationship with God that prayer will flow from it!
"5 Things to Pray" series. These little books help give you ideas of things you can be praying for, for different areas of life. They cover church, kids, your town, those you love, the world, your own heart, and global crises.
Resources to Help Kids
There are books available to help you with praying with your kids. Sometimes it's nice to have a resource to hand and a book is especially nice at bedtime.
10ofThose.com and The Good Book Company are my go-to resources for Christian material, you could also call Quench the Christian bookshop in town and do an order with them on the phone or online.