If you practice prayer, teaching your child to pray is an important part of your role as a parent. However, it can seem daunting to teach your child to talk to God, and you might not feel equipped to handle the challenge, especially if prayer opens the door to questions about faith. But if you pray with your child, your faith and proficiency in prayer will grow right along with his.
I suggest introducing prayer to your child sooner than later. If you pray through the day, pray out loud in front of your infant. Your baby will appreciate hearing your voice, even if she does not understand what you are saying. As your child grows, make prayer part of his routine. Work with your partner to determine which times of your day work best to pray. Perhaps meal time and bedtime would work best for your family. Whatever you choose, stick with it. Pray out loud and encourage your child to close his eyes, bow his head and fold his hands together, if that suits your faith.
As your child becomes more familiar with praying, ask her what she wants to thank God for. Getting your child involved with the prayer is just as important as being consistent about when you pray. Kids' prayers might seem funny or trivial, but they definitely come from the heart. My son's first prayer was, "Thank you, God, for this hot dog." It warmed my heart as well as tickled my funny bone.
To keep your child engaged, explain that prayer is a way to talk to God anytime. Then practice what you preach. For example, if you are feeling frustrated while sitting in traffic with your little one, tell him that you are going to pray for patience to deal with your frustration. Or if you get some good news, take a moment to pray with your family to thank God for your blessings.
One of the benefits of praying with your child is getting a glimpse into what your child is thinking or is worried about. If you notice that your child is feeling frustrated or upset, ask him if he wants to pray. My 3-year-old was very nervous about taking swimming lessons. As he sat quietly on the pool deck before his first lesson, I asked him if he was nervous. When he said he was, I told him that when I get nervous, I pray to ask God for strength and courage. He loved the idea, and we took a few minutes to pray together before he got in the pool. I could see his confidence increasing as we prayed. After his lesson, we took a few moments to thank God for providing courage. My son really began to understand the concept of prayer after that.
I am thankful that prayer provides a little insight into my son's mind. Use your prayer time to talk about things that are going on, and don't be afraid if you don't have all the answers. Faith is a tricky subject, and your little one will appreciate your vulnerability and honesty. Thankfully, prayer is not something that we need to be able to explain, but something that we can model as a part of our life. And to that, I say: Amen.