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Prayer: Important Aspect of Faith that Children Need to Learn

"The goal is to encourage them and educate them, so when they get older they can have their own quiet time with the Lord.”
( [email protected] ) Jun 15, 2004 11:46 AM EDT

Christian educators in the southerneast coast are noticing the importance of not only teaching the Bible but also about prayer to children.

Most parents and clergy say that bedtime prayers are a good way to instill religious beliefs and traditions into children and help them learn concepts such as gratitude and empathy.

"We teach children that this is special because it's their quiet time with the Lord," said Brenda Moffitt, director of children's ministry for Central Community Church in Wichita, Kan.

"You're done playing. You're done eating. You're done doing chores or whatever. And now it's time to rest and reflect. . . . It's a simple thing, and a very precious thing, too."

Moffitt encouraged guiding children to pray, at bedtime or anytime, early when they're toddlers or even before..

"Even a 2- or 3-year-old can be thankful for his Lego set," she said. "He can know if Grandma is sick, or that we should pray for Grandpa because he's going to have surgery tomorrow."

Moffitt added, "The goal is to encourage them and educate them, so when they get older they can have their own quiet time with the Lord.”

John Westerhoff II, a Christian educator, is credited with one popular way to teach children about prayer by using the child’s hand as a prompt. Westerhoff let each finger represent one of the basic elements of prayer:

The thumb is "wow" – the first step of prayer to God by saying "Dear God," "Loving God," and so on. Pointer finger is "thanks" – saying what you are thankful for. Middle finger is "oops” -- confessions of sin. Ring finger is "gimme," the time to express special needs. Lastly pinky is "I remember," when children can ask blessings for loved ones or those in need.

According to Meg Cox, author of “The Book of New Family Traditions,” one of the simplest and most enduring bedtime prayers is for a child to ask God to bless each person important to him or her.

Suzanne Perez Tobias of Knight Ridder Newspapers presented more ideas on how to teach children to pray. She said the most effective way to introduce prayer to children is by setting an example for them. It’s important for parents and caregivers to set an example by praying in front of their children.

She also encouraged children to memorize a prayer calling it an important bedtime routine for many children and to keep a prayer journal or prayer list.