When my firstborn was about a year old, I remember being in a Bible study where the teacher talked about praying with your child/children. She suggested praying with each child before bed, and I remember some people feeling a bit awkward about praying out loud, where someone could actually hear them. If I recall, I was one of those people who felt a bit awkward, but I am a rule-follower, so I decided to give it a try--and it was truly life-changing. Because my daughter was so young, I didn't feel embarrassed or worried about what I would say. I just prayed. It quickly became a habit, and it is something that I still do over five years later. Over the years, I've prayed about future spouses, obedience issues, hurts, learning things, family relations--for now and the future, my children coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior,...anything and everything that comes to mind on a given night. It has been a blessing for me, and I believe it is a blessing for the kids as well.
However, as they've gotten older (particularly with my six year old) I have discovered that I want them to have personal time with God--not just a time where Mom or Dad says a prayer. When my daughter was four or five, we started a prayer journal where she could write down (or have us write down) any prayer requests for herself or others. As God answers a prayer, we check it off--a visible symbol for her of how God answers our prayers. It's also been a way to explain how some things are answered quickly and others we wait for a long time. And, sometimes we've learned God doesn't answer the prayer like we thought He would and that's okay, too.
Another thing I've recently started doing is praying the ACTS prayer with my daughter. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. When we do this, we pray aloud together, taking turns going through each of the four categories. I have heard some of the sweetest prayers during these moments. I have heard my daughter begin to agree aloud in prayer as I've spoken, and I have heard the overflow of her heart as she speaks.
One more thing that occurred just this week was hearing my daughter quote Scripture as she prayed for the first time. I found her reading her Bible after a rough night, and I asked if she wanted to pray. She did, and, as she prayed, she specifically asked for exactly what she'd just been reading (that she would run in the path of God's commands). It was breathtaking to hear my kindergartner pray from God's Word.
I don't know where you are in your prayer life. I know so often I find that I've fallen short of where I want to be, but I also know that prayer changes things--and people. Maybe praying out loud scares you. Maybe you're not sure what to say. Jesus longs to be our friend, and He expects us to talk to Him as such. I'm not asking you to stand up in a room of thousands and pray (unless God calls you to), but I am asking you to consider praying with friends, your spouse, your children....I have seen that by praying with my children, they are already learning the importance of prayer. They will pray out loud at meals--even when we're with friends or family. They hear a siren and pray for the safety of those involved. They pray for their sick or hurt friends. It has already influenced their lives, and it has influenced mine as well.
God longs to hear from you, and your children long to learn from you. Will you talk to Him with them today?