Perhaps you’re a new mother.
Maybe you’ve already got kids who are several years old or older.
Chances are you’ve wondered, “What’s the best way to teach children to pray?”
Let’s face it, we all have our own struggles with prayer. Some of us are fortunate enough to have discovered the best way or ways for ourselves to commune with God. The rest of us are still searching. There’s just so much to choose from with regard to prayer forms, it can leave us wondering where to begin, both for ourselves and for our kids.
In this post, I’m going to share what works for our family of seven, why I believe it’s a good and sustainable practice in general, and therefore, why it can be worth your while too.
What This Post Is
What I’m about to share is a format for prayer that developed over years, as our family grew. By child number three, this was pretty much the way we prayed, and have prayed, for the last twelve years or so. It’s fair to say that we’ve been doing it so routinely since our oldest was about 3-years-old, that now, at the age of 14, she doesn’t really know any different. The same is true for her younger siblings.
All this format for prayer consists of are 3 simple steps, but those steps cover a broad range of prayer forms. That range is why I believe it’s a beautiful way to really teach our kids to pray.
What This Post Is Not
I am not advocating that this is the only way to teach kids to pray, nor am I suggesting it’s the best way. It’s not a replacement for liturgical prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, or devotional prayers like the Rosary.
What I propose to you is simply what works for us, both as a format for prayer as well as a teaching tool. It all but ensures that people who use it will not only have a habit of prayer in their lives, but will know what prayer is and how to do it.
First Things First
One cannot exaggerate the value of memorized prayers. They are a constant reference for us in times of need, and they contain a natural catechetical value. When the apostles asked Jesus how to pray, He taught them the Our Father. For us, this was a no brainer as the perfect place to start. All our prayers are offered to God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, so when we pray as a family at night, we begin with an Our Father.
You’re In Good Company
Lest we forget, a cloud of witnesses surrounds us in the Communion of Saints. Children need to know these fellow believers are always there to help us with their intercession. In our case, each of our children has at least one saint as a part of their baptismal name, and this is a great way to foster a relationship between them and their patrons or patronesses. The same is true for guardian angels. Another element that fits in well here is the liturgical calendar. By recalling the sanctoral cycle, we are ever mindful of the various saints and the lives they lived for Christ.
Therefore, our second step is to invoke the intercession of the saints. We begin with a Hail Mary (there’s that memorization again!) and follow with a family litany of saints that includes any saints who bear the name of any member of our family, as well as our guardian angels, the saint of the day, and any particular saints for whom each member of the family has a particular affinity.
PTSA – “Pray To Someone Awesome!”
PTSA is an acronym that can be remembered by it’s purpose, which is to “pray to Someone awesome!” Though that’s how it can be remembered, it really stands for:
The third and final step of our family prayer is to 1) Praise God with something good each of us did that day, 2) Thank God for something He did for each of us that day, 3) Say sorry for something bad we did or something good we failed to do, and 4) Ask God for something we need. Praying this way teaches kids the four major kinds of prayer and how to pray spontaneously in addition to the rote prayers already mentioned.
When we only had a couple of kids who could join in the prayers, it took much less time. Now that we have seven of us praying, it takes longer, obviously. In order to make it more palatable and attractive to our kids to keep doing it, we have made the PTSA a collective and simultaneous “shout out,” so that each person responds at the same time. For instance, I might give the cue to “Praise God… 1,2,3…” and on 3, each member of the family praises God out loud. This not only saves time, but it also allows for some anonymity for those days when your kids get older and might not want to share their deepest longings for all to hear!
I invite you to consider this 3-step format for family prayer, which is especially suited to bedtime. It really doesn’t take much more than a few minutes. You might find it works well for you or you might need to tweak it to suit your particular needs and desires. In any case… pray!
- Pray an Our Father
- Seek the Intercession of the Saints – Hail Mary, then personal litany of saints and angels
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Would this work for your family? How do you teach your children to pray?