Ways to Lead Through Prayer

Contributors: Dr. Sarah Hall, Rev. Ben Jefferies, Rev. Dr. Jessica Jones, Rev. Carrie Klukas, The Very Rev. Andrew Rowell

In God’s grand narrative we see the power of prayer over and over. God’s people cry out to him, primarily because he is the only one who can do anything! Now is the time to teach children and youth about prayer, if we haven’t done so already.

In the midst of great uncertainty, God’s people have always found hope in Christ and an opportunity to draw near to Him and one another. The Lord is giving families a chance to connect, slow down, and work through family struggles. Perhaps families have no times in place for Bible reading, prayer, and songs of worship– our lives are often crowded with activities, responsibilities, and endless opportunities that it is hard to find a time to do so. It can be difficult to have the diligence to commit our evenings to bedtime prayers, and to model prayer in any circumstance as a family.

But modeling prayer for the family is the best way to enable children and youth to feel comfortable enough to do it themselves. Eventually, they will learn to turn to prayer on their own in times of thanksgiving, and in times of uncertainty (Prov 22:6). 

As Anglicans, we have a wonderful resource at our fingertips. The 2019 Book of Common Prayerprovides one of the best ways to pray as a family in its family prayer offices (pg 67). These prayer offices can be a great way to deepen heart-habits of prayer for the whole family in this time of being sequestered. 

It's a 5-minute prayer service that is prayed 4 times a day, with no preparation: at the breakfast table, after lunch, after dinner, and before going to bed.

A hymn or song can be sung at the end of each one, too. Depending on the age of the children, they can participate and even lead, but the key is actually you, the parent, praying it. That way,

  1. you get to take the Word of God into your heart 4 times a day;
  2. your children get the chance to hear it and do the same;
  3. your kids get to see prayer modeled which is what leaves the deepest impression in the end.

The family prayer offices lay the foundation for praying the fuller morning and evening prayer offices as kids get older. You can also choose to replace the appointed Scripture verse in family prayer with a verse of your own choosing, which means you could work your way through a Gospel, one verse at a time. Additionally, once your children have watched you, their parent, lead, you can have them lead the rest of the family. 

Additional ideas for modeling prayer might include:

  • 5-finger prayers – this is a simple way to help little kids remember how to pray. Each finger represents a people group to pray for during prayer.
  • Praying in Color – This method is a wonderful way to encourage those who have trouble sitting still, or who long for a creative connection to personal prayer. In particular, coloring calms the portion of your brain that responds to anxiety and fear, a particularly useful tool these days. Keeping your hands busy while intentionally praying is a helpful method for many. The website lists a lot of ways to do this, but one that has been especially useful to children in our diocese was tracing the outline of your hand, putting God in the center and filling the fingers with people or situations you want to cover in prayer.
  • P.R.A.Y. – Acronyms help us remember things and PRAY helps us remember to begin with Praise, come to the Lord with Repentance, Asking for his provision, and Yielding to his will.
  • Prayer with technology: consider occasionally challenging everyone to scroll to the 10th (or 25th, or 40th, etc) picture on their phones, or contacts in their address book, or the last person who sent them a social media message, and pray for that person.

Creating an environment of prayer in the family and in the home can start as small as remembering to thank God for the food you are about to eat, or as big as daily offices. We have a great tradition of prayer as Anglicans, but the thing to remember is that we were made to be in relationship with the Lord, which includes daily conversation. Assure your kids, and yourself if necessary, that there is not a wrong way to pray. God wants us to come to him with all of our emotions. We can trust that he is the only one who can do anything about it, even if what he does is change our hearts during the process.