Published: August 7, 2023
Use these 10 ways to fill your ministry with prayer—just as the disciples asked Jesus when he taught them the Lord’s Prayer: “Teach us to pray.”
“God is great, God is good. And we thank him for our food. Amen.”
Great lives of faith have taken root in simple encounters with God such as this. These initial concrete experiences enable even little children to recognize the presence of God. The rhyme and meter of traditional childhood prayer serve the important function of teaching very young children who God is and how we relate to him.
As kids learn more about their great God, though, their conversations with him can move away from these rhyming tools into rich, full expressions of their hearts. By modeling a prayerful heart and being a kid-friendly prayer guide, you can help children build a loving relationship with their God.
Just as kids learn to swim in a pool instead of on dry land, they learn to pray in the presence of people who pray rather than on their own. These ideas will help you create a climate that’ll bless and encourage kids’ prayer lives.
Building on the belief that each child needs the prayers of several loving adults, we wanted to encourage our congregation to pray for specific children throughout the entire school year. In September, we made individual folders that included a picture of a child along with a short letter from the child, telling about family members and favorite things to do. We identified children only by first names for security reasons. We also included a sponsor commitment card with the child’s name and a space for the sponsor’s name. When an adult agreed to be a “prayer-ent,” he or she signed and turned in the card, keeping the child’s folder.
We monitored the cards throughout the year to account for any changes or moves that might happen, and we reassigned partners when necessary. At the end of the school year, we hosted a special coffee hour to introduce the children to their sponsors. We gave sponsors buttons with their child’s name on it.
These prayer-ent relationships have blessed entire families and formed special bonds between church members. Even several years later, there’s a special connection between some of the children and their prayer-ents.
2. Secret Prayer Pals
We borrowed this idea from our women’s ministry and tailored it to an intergenerational prayer ministry. We explained the program to the older kids and asked only those who were willing to make a weekly journaling commitment to participate. Then we paired each child with a committed adult.
We purchased spiral notebooks that were all the same color, a set of file folders, and a file box. Then we wrote each child’s name on the inside cover of a notebook so it could be used as a journal. We wrote the name on the inside so if children happened to see an adult carrying a notebook, they couldn’t tell whose it was! We also wrote each child’s name on a file folder. To keep the element of secrecy, we put the file box in a place where adults could easily access it without the children seeing them.
Each child opened the written dialogue with his or her adult pal by writing a message in the journal about a prayer need, a fear, a special interest, or an important event. Then children returned the journals to the folders in the file box.
We asked adults to check the folders for their partner’s journal, pray for the child, write a response during the following week, and return the journal to the file box during the next session of Sunday school. They could include a gift to the child on occasion, but the gift had to fit in the journal. This limited the gifts to small inexpensive items such as a stick of gum, a bookmark, or a pencil, but it made the kids eager to check their folders.
We ran the program in four-month sessions, which allowed the children to have three different prayer pals during the year. At the end of each session, adults signed their names to their final journal entry. The kids also made thank you cards for their pals, who often continue to be trusted friends.
3. New Year’s Prayers
One month prior to the beginning of a school or calendar year, I send a note to each parent of a child in our preschool through fifth grade departments. I ask parents to create a New Year’s prayer letter to be read aloud as an affirmation to their children.
Parents are given practical ideas of things to include in the letter, such as praising God for their child’s past accomplishments and character growth. They’re also encouraged to select a specific Scripture to encourage future accomplishments. I provide decorated paper to write or type the prayer on. Each family does this in secret and returns the prayer to me by a specified date.
On the designated Sunday, I read the letters aloud as each child beams with delight. At the end of the session, children can choose to keep the letters in their Bibles or share them on a bulletin board at church.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
4. A Child’s House of Prayer
In our children’s worship center, we’ve posted five areas of prayer needs: relationship with God, healing, family, friends, and other needs. We also purchased miniature globes to represent prayer for the children of the world.
Immediately following our musical worship each Sunday, we announce prayer time. Children who have needs can go to any of the posted areas or choose to remain at their seats and hold a globe. We discourage playing with the globes by reminding the children that “God’s got the whole world in his hands, and he holds it carefully. Hold the world as God does.” The rest of the children circulate to pray for those who’ve expressed a need. Once a child has been prayed for, he or she may choose to go pray for others.
Children are scattered all over, but it’s great because they’re truly focused on prayer. We always play appropriate background music to keep a reverent tone. Our prayer times have grown to 10 or 20 minutes, and it’s touching to see the children praying for each other. Our first-time guests get involved in this nonthreatening time, and all the children come away refreshed because they prayed or were prayed for.
Castle Rock, Colorado
5. Teacher’s Guide
If you run out of things to pray for the children in your class, use this helpful daily guide.
Pray for children’s faithfulness. Ask God to help children be faithful to him.
Pray that God will spark each child’s memory with the Bible story and Scripture verse you taught and show the children how to apply it to their lives.
Pray about temptation. Ask God to help each child resist peer pressure and overcome difficult home situations.
Pray for wisdom. Ask God to give each child discernment to make wise choices and a heart to seek God’s will.
Pray for thankful hearts, positive attitudes, and lives reflecting God’s joy.
Pray for families to provide sound spiritual direction and for peace in each child’s home.
Pray for spiritual sensitivity and that God will prepare each heart for another week’s lesson.
6. Bandage Prayers
I wanted my sixth-grade class to know that we need to pray for conditions and “hurts” beyond our small rural area, so I bought assorted sizes of adhesive bandages. At home and school, the children searched newspapers, magazines, and online for stories about the world’s hurts.
In class, each child wrote the hurt they felt needed prayer on an appropriate-size bandage for how big they felt the hurt was. Then each child stuck the bandage on a globe on the area where the hurt was happening. As we prayed, we slowly spanned the globe.
The kids’ interest in this project over the course of the school year never waned. We eventually had to stick the hurts on a poster that we titled “Lord, hear our prayers for…” I was amazed at the areas of concern these young people had. The project was a learning experience for everyone.
8. Prayer Detectives
We give each child a pocket-size spiral notebook with a magnifying glass sticker on the cover. Then we write the text from Hebrews 4:16 and Matthew 7:11 inside the front cover to help kids remember that it’s a privilege to pray and that prayer is a gift they can give to others.
We encourage students to use these notebooks to keep a record of their “prayer suspects.” On each page, they write:
- Who: The name of someone they want to pray for. A different name can be listed on each notebook page.
- What: A need each person has. If children don’t know a specific need, they can intercede for God’s blessing or ask God to reveal a need.
- When: Space under each need to record when and how God answers the prayer.
- Where: Notes about where kids see their suspects and a reminder to say a short, silent prayer for the person whenever they meet.
We encourage our kids to keep their notebooks in their pockets or backpacks.
9. Kids as Intercessors
Every Sunday we offer kids the opportunity to come 30 minutes before Sunday school to be trained as intercessors. We spend about five minutes teaching them about prayer. We’ve taught about how God wants us to pray for people in authority, for missionaries, and for issues in the news. We’ve also taught about different types of prayer, such as petition, praise, and thanksgiving. We write requests in an intercessory journal and review the answers to prayer weekly so the children can see the fruit of their prayers. The rest of the time is spent in prayer.
We started the group because as our church grew, it became harder to address each individual need during the service. The children’s intercessory prayer group is growing. We now have parents coming and praying with their children. Everyone, including the adults, has gained confidence in praying aloud, and the children are experiencing the joy of being part of a vital ministry.
10. Kids for Kids
Each week every child fills out a communication card with his or her name, address, and phone number. On the back of the card, the child writes a prayer request. We collect the cards and pass them back out so each child has someone else’s request. The kids take the requests home and pray for each other during the week. The following Sunday we talk about our prayers, give praise reports, and discuss what it was like praying for each other. This quick and efficient system at church has brought new life to our kids’ prayer experiences at home.
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