The Example of the Lord's Prayer
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray . . ." (Lk. 11:1-2)
Jesus' disciples were like spiritual children and so we can appropriately learn some pointers from Him.
Model a life of prayer for children to observe.
Jesus taught about prayer by exposure to a good model -- Himself. His disciples observed Jesus pray and sometimes go aside to pray. After one incidence, one of His disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk. 11:1-2). Jesus' prayer life motivated his disciples toward a passion for prayer.
The best way to teach children to pray is to let them see and hear you pray. Jesus didn't simply tack a prayer onto a lesson or sermon. He was devoted to prayer wherein He connected with His Father. Parents have more potential for children to observe this passion in them whereas teachers have limited exposure. Teachers must therefore incorporate their own prayer life as illustrations in the lesson. For example, in a lesson on fear, the teacher may share how he/she was afraid of something last week and asked God for courage.
Provide instruction about prayer on children's level.
Jesus taught about prayer by providing an explanation for good understanding -- instruction. He used terminology the disciples could understand in teaching them about prayer ... a friend knocking on a door for help, a father providing what is good for his children. He not only explained how to pray but also how not to pray using negative examples.
Teachers, likewise, must meet children on their level in teaching them about prayer. What is relevant to their lives that will help them understand? The younger the child, the more concrete and obvious the illustration must be for them to understand. As children get older they can learn more abstractly through object lessons. Play is part of a child's life. How can play -- fun and games, be used as a tool?
Give children a pattern illustrating how to pray
Jesus taught about prayer by using a pattern for a good example of praying -- His sample prayer, come to be known as the Lord's Prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13. Nowhere do we read that Jesus told His disciples to memorize the exact wording of this sample prayer. He said, "This is how you should pray" not "This is what you should pray." This prayer has, however, become probably the most memorized prayer. In Matthew 6, just prior to giving the prayer, he warned them that prayer should not be done to be seen by man but to be in touch with the Father (v. 5-6) and that prayer should not be mere words (v. 7-8).
The challenge then, in teaching this prayer to children is to ...
- Make sure to put them in touch with the One to whom they pray and not just learn it to please you the teacher or parent, or to gain a reward for memorization, etc.
- Make sure they understand what it means so they go beyond the rote aspect of learning it to seeing the implications and applications of the concepts found in the prayer.
A Tool to Help Children Learn the Lord's Prayer: Children Learn to Pray Curriculum
Best suited for grades 1-4, this curriculum was designed to help children not only memorize the Lord's Prayer but also to understand its meaning. By the end of this course, the children should have a better grasp of the One to whom they pray and how that affects the way they pray.