‘"Father God, please help me to feel better".
Night after night, our 4-year-old uttered this short prayer when asked to join in our family prayer time. In the midst of a busy family life (and a continual bout of coughs and colds!), our prayer time struggled to reach beyond our small circle.
While not wanting to discount the personal cares of our children, we wanted to help them see the amazing privilege of talking with their Heavenly Father. How could we model a prayerful concern for God’s big plan for the world and a concern for others in a way that young children could understand and get excited about?
Constantly praying is hard!
Paul’s instruction to the early churches to ‘be constant in prayer’ (Romans 12:12) and ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17), was lived out in his heartfelt prayers for the church. These prayers were marked by thanksgiving: ‘We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers' (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
How did Paul remember to pray constantly for so many people? As a distracted and weary Mum, I rely on a written list as a reminder of people I pray for. I also need a written reminder of what to pray for, both individual needs and biblical prayers for people. I need a reminder to be thankful!
How then can this translate to young children who can’t read, or children who struggle to read? Engaging pictures are a key element of the enjoyment of picture books for emerging readers. Visual prompts can also be used to encourage children to follow a routine or understand emotions. So why not apply this idea to prayer? Pictures, photos and illustrations can be used as a visual model for children to remind them of who to pray for.
In our family Bible time, we started using a homemade picture book for prayer, and have been excited to witness our kids growing in thankfulness to God and in their desire to pray for others.
Making a Picture Book for Prayer
With some help, our kids cut out and stuck photos and pictures into a sleeved folder to make up the picture book. Using the ACTS model for prayer as a rough guideline, our folder is divided into the following sections:
- Adoration – In this section, we have pictures of a crown, a cross, a heart and the world to praise different aspects of God’s character. It’s a great opportunity to help children reflect on what they are learning about God.
- Confession – In this section, we have used illustrated pictures depicting some ‘trouble spots’ for our family, including snatching, hitting and anger as a prompt to say sorry to God. What a relief it is at the end of a bad day to acknowledge the things we’ve done wrong and find grace and forgiveness to try again tomorrow.
- Thanksgiving – From magazines and photos, the kids cut out pictures of what they would like to thank God for. It was interesting to see what they came up with! Our folder has pictures of Peppa Pig, animals, and a couple of special friends. If you are struggling with thankfulness, I highly recommend asking what your children can thank God for.
- Supplication – This section makes up the bulk of the folder, with photos of family members, church members, missionaries we support, friends, school, and ministry needs. The extra sleeves of the folder make it easy to add extra pages and photos as needed.
Routine, but not mundane
While not covering every single person in our folder each night, we aim to pray for something from each section. And like most methods, it works better on some days than on others! It has been exciting to hear our 4-year-old praise God for being the King, to ask for help for friends serving overseas, and to pray for his new preschool friends. We hope it will continue to become routine but not mundane, that intermingling of discipline and relationship needed for prayer.
The prayer folder has not only helped our kids, it has helped us in our struggles to pray. Listening to children pray is a great reminder of the childlike faith in which we need to approach Jesus. Utter dependence on Him that leads us to pray, and enables us to pray. ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’ (Psalm 8:2)!