By Karen Whiting, Crosswalk.com
When our family began praying for one another, our children took more interest in the problems and struggles of each individual. They rejoiced in the blessings of one another too. That brought more harmony. Those bonds remained as they became adults; they continue to care for and support one another. That's the power of a praying family.
Childhood prayer correlates to healthier choices and better mental, emotional, and physical health in adulthood. The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) noted that recent studies show shared prayer as a family brings the same benefits as it does for couples who pray together. Benefits include passing on faith to the next generation, a method of communicating problems or stress that reduces tension in the family, and increased bonds and family unity.
Use different methods that highlight how God works or focuses on different elements of prayer.
1. Over-flowing with Blessings and Thanks
Let children visualize how much God blesses them with this prayer activity. Gather together a large clear empty cup or jar inside an empty bowl; 2 clear containers filled with water; empty 1/8 cup measuring cups (or drink mix or coffee scoop) and red and blue food coloring. Set these on a table with the large container and bowl in the center.
Drop red food coloring into one container of water and blue into the other. Take turns filling a small measuring cup with colored water and pouring it into the center jar while stating a blessing. Everyone should respond, "Praise the Lord!" Continue scooping and pouring. Once the water overflows, let everyone have at least one more turn. Our hopes (blue) and God's blood (red) mixed together make purple, a royal color. Chat about how thinking of our blessings helps our hearts overflow with joy.
2. Raise Ebenezers to Remember Prayer Answers
Use stones to mark prayer victories. The word Ebenezer means stone of help. The familiar tune Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing uses the biblical phrase 'raising my Ebenezer' from the prophet Samuel. Read 1 Samuel 7. Samuel set up a large stone that he called his Ebenezer. It marked the place when God gave his people a victory with thunder that confused the enemy.
When there's a great answer to prayer, write a word or phrase on a stone and place it in a special spot. Add more rocks to build an altar of prayer victories. When you have a great prayer need, pick up some of the stones, read the words, and praise God. Read the stones at times that you want to praise God for all he's done, such as Thanksgiving Day.
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3. Walk and Pray Together
Children like movement, so prayer walk in various ways. Each provides opportunities to pray as you walk.
Take a people creation walk. Walk in a mall or outdoors near lots of people. Thank God for each person you see and praise God for making so many different people. Also, thank God for creating each member of your family and giving each one unique gifts and talents. Ask God to bless the people you passed. If anyone stops to talk, ask if they have a need, so you can pray for them, or pray with them right then.
Walk around your neighborhood (or past apartment doors if you're in a building). Pray for each neighbor. Thank God for those with beautiful gardens or pets as they are caring for God's creation. Pray for anyone you know has problems or health issues. If you meet neighbors, ask if you can pray for them and any needs they have.
4. Bible Story Prayers to See How God Guides People
As you read and discuss a Bible story, let it prompt you to pray. Make a chart, and continue to add more stories. Here is an example of the categories you can use when studying a passage in the Word:
Story: The Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-8)
Thumbs Down: Seeds/plants on rocks, path, and with weeds died
Thumbs Up: Seed in good soil grew and produced a lot
Pray with arms lifted: God's Word is seed for our hearts
Ask with hands folded: Help soil of my heart be good, help me listen to the Word
More prayer ideas: Help me be fruitful
Thanks with high fives: Thanks for the Bible
5. Prayer Stretches to Grow Faith
Do a few exercises that stretch your muscles. Read Lamentations 3:41 about lifting our hearts and hands to God. Chat about how prayer stretches our faith and hearts. Share how prayer helps you grow spiritually.
Read Luke 22:42 and chat about how sometimes we think we can't do anymore or pray any longer. We think we reached our limit, but God believes in us and knows we will be stretched as we continue to act and pray. Discuss when you kept praying during a struggle.
Stretch and pray. Raise arms up and praise God. Spread arms wide and pray for other people. Bend down and touch your toes to stretch your back. It's a humble position, so pray for forgiveness for any sin. Stretch your legs, one at a time, behind you. Ask God for help for you to share your faith wherever your legs go. Think of other prayers connections for more stretches.
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6. Chalk Talk Praises to Share Faith
Grab colored chalk and go outside to draw on your driveway or sidewalk. If you don't have pavement, draw on black posterboard. Draw rainbows and hearts with scriptures about God's love and promises. Draw fishes, crosses, and other Christian symbols and thank God for your faith. Draw prayer answers and prayer needs. Pray over them. Draw a storyboard of a Bible story. Stand by each drawing and say a praise or prayer.
Make and use fuzzy chalk paint—mix 2 cups baking soda and 1 cup cornstarch. Add water a little at a time until it feels like finger paint. Add food coloring to the mix or divide it into cups and add food coloring to each cup. Paint a design on the pavement. Squirt vinegar onto the painting and watch it fizz! The colors will also run together and change the painting. It's like bubbling with joy! Praise God for blessings that help you bubble up on the inside.
7. TALK Acrostic to Communicate to God Together
Talking to God is praying. These are steps of a simple prayer time.
Thank God for the day, your family, and your prayers answered. Let each person tell God about the day and their hopes. Let God know about your interests. Thank God for listening. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 on thanking God for everything. That seems odd but being grateful for problems helps us open our minds to new lessons from God.
Ask God for forgiveness and help. Let each person state help needed for themselves or others. Read 1 John 1:9, 2:12, and Matthew 6:14. It's not easy to forgive when we've been hurt, but it helps us let go of the pain and cleanses our hearts of anger and bitter feelings.
Listen to God quietly. After a few minutes, stop and ask people to share anything God shared with them. Keep knocking for prayer answers. Make a fist and knock on your other hand to remember to keep asking God for answers to prayers. Read Matthew 7:7, Luke 18:1-8, and 1 John 5:14. Talk about not giving up when you pray but also making sure it is in God's will.
8. Singspirations to Rejoice as a Family
An inspiration is a song service with singing. People have enjoyed them for more than fifty years. Some people say that singing is like praying twice since we use both words and music or melodies. You can sing or play music on your phone or listen if you're not musical. Let each family member share one Christian song they enjoy or choose songs by a topic such as praise, seasonal hymns, or a subject like songs with rivers in them.
Sit or stand and sing the words. After each song, pause and let family members share what the words mean to them. Pray about the message of the song. If desired, parade or dance to some of the music. Let children use toy instruments to try and play to the rhythm. Such joyful prayer times build memories.
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9. Names for God to Understand Him More
Help children learn names for God and discuss the character quality or attribute of each name. Talk about how we greet people with words like hello, or hi sweetie. When we begin prayers, we should greet God. We can use any of his many names or titles.
Discuss the meaning of each listed name and what it tells us about God, note if the word is Hebrew or Greek, and then focus on praying using the name. You can praise God for the attribute, ask God's forgiveness and help according to what the attribute reveals, and thank God for how the attribute helps people.
• Abi'ad in Isaiah 9:6, Hebrew word meaning eternal father; focus on how God is eternal and wants us to be with him forever
• El Berith in Judges 9:4, a Hebrew word meaning the God of the Covenant, focus on how God keeps his promises and wants a relationship with us
• The God of all families of Israel, Jeremiah 31:1; focus on unity as God loves all families and does not single out one from among Israel; also read in Ephesians 3:14-15 the father from whom all the families in heaven and on earth derive their name also show the love of God is for all families everywhere; focus on the family of God
• The light of the world John 8:12, focus on Christ as the light for all people
• Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6, focus on the peace that comes from Jesus
"Love begins in the home by praying together." This quote from Mother Teresa holds so much truth. Praying as a family helps children learn to connect to God and helps them realize that prayer is powerful and loves us. Make time daily for short prayers and weekly for longer prayer activities. Pray when someone leaves home, at mealtimes, at bedtime, and when a prayer need rises. Any moment can be an opportunity to thank God. Regular prayer together in the family equips a child for life and helps them develop strong and lasting faith.
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See also: Karen Whiting's 9 Ways to Pray as a Family
Karen Whiting is a mom, author, international speaker, writing coach, and former television host who loves sharing ideas to strengthen families. She has written Growing a Mother’s Heart: Devotions of Faith, Hope, and Love from Mothers Past, Present, and Future. Check out her new book 52 Weekly Devotions for Family Prayer that includes a different way to pray each week plus stories and activities to explore questions children ask about prayer She loves adventure including camel riding, scuba diving, treetop courses, and white water rafting plus time at home crafting and baking.