Teaching Children to Pray

How to Intercede for People in the Toughest Places

By Amanda DeWitt

Unlike any other generation we watch suffering in real time. Our children do too.

They see the faces of others just like them who do not have enough to eat. They are shocked to discover millions of families around the world are forced to drink dirty water. They overhear news clips about wars and refugees and want to know what it all means.

As parents and caregivers, we have an opportunity to not just answer their questions. We can also teach them to do something about the suffering they see. We can teach them to give generously. We can teach them to stand up for what is right and good. And most of all we can teach them to pray.

The God Who Listens

It is never too early — or late — to teach your children about prayer. Model it for them. Make it part of your daily routine. Create opportunities for your children to practice it.

But before you teach your children what to pray, talk to them about the One to whom we pray. When we pray we are talking to the God who made everything. He knows every one of the eight billion people who walk the planet. He sees all that happens in every place.

So, when we pray the pressure is not on us to say the right words in the right way. Rather the purpose of prayer is to help us communicate with the One who loves us, listens to us, and invites us to spend time with Him.

The Basics of Prayer

Children can quickly become overwhelmed by the needs they see around them. They cannot possibly pray for all of them each day.

Give your child some direction as you encourage them to pray. Toddlers and young children can repeat short phrases after you as they start learning. Older children can follow a basic structure or acronym such as PRAY (praise, repent, ask, yield).

It may also be helpful to give your child one or two things to pray for so they do not become distracted or overwhelmed. Encourage them to pray for a friend or loved one in need. You can also use our Praying for people in the Toughest Places activity to introduce your children to praying for the needs of others around the world. The free download includes a simple page you can print off and hang on the fridge or wall as a reminder of who and what you are praying for.

The Purpose of Prayer

Prayer brings up hard questions — for us and our children.

Why do we need to pray if God already knows the need? What if our prayers do not get answered the way we expect?

Prayer is an invitation. God welcomes us to commune with Him.

When we teach our children to pray, we must help them understand that prayer is more than telling God our needs. We are also called to praise Him, acknowledge our own shortcomings, and release our expectations. We must talk but also listen.

Through prayer God allows us to participate in His work around the world. He responds to our requests. He moves as we ask. He provides, guides, protects.

Prayer changes situations. But it also changes us. As we pray for others, God cultivates compassion. As we wait He shifts our perspective. As we see His answers, it builds our trust.

The Way We Go

Teaching our children to pray often happens as we go. We model it at mealtimes. We say a quick prayer as they get out of the car for school. We invite them to pray before bedtime.

Be intentional with these times. When you stop to pray, give your child one specific thing to thank God for and one request to include. If you’re using our Praying for People in the Toughest Places download, have your child complete the “I’m praying for” activity and then put it on the fridge or in their room so you will remember to pray each day.

Keep prayer simple and doable for children. Remind them they are simply talking to God. Then take note when He answers and celebrate. He is a good God who loves us, listens to us, and allows us to participate in His work through prayer.

Pray for People in the Toughest Places

Have you ever wondered how to pray for those who are suffering around the world?

Praying for People in the Toughest Places is a FREE download designed to help you pray more specifically for those who are in need. You can use it as a family or in a classroom or small group. It is a simple way to introduce your children to praying for people around the world. You can also complete the printable “I’m praying for” sheet and post it on the fridge or wall as a reminder to pray for people in the toughest places each day.

Published January 23, 2023


Amanda is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Gift for Leadership, Kindred Spirit, and Christianity Today publications. She holds a M.A. in Media and Communication from Dallas Theological Seminary.