Train Your Children for Corporate Prayer
by Charlie Matz
Most people I know struggle to thrive in corporate prayer. Most people don't talk about it. But a large part of our prayer time will be spent in corporate prayer if we're engaging in a Biblical community. We must learn how to thrive in corporate prayer to experience the fullness of Christian life.
By default, the type of prayer that we can most train our children for, while they are young children in our home, is corporate prayer. Until they repent and follow Christ themselves, there may not be an application for personal in-depth prayer. So to be fully effective we should recognize this and aim our time an energy at understanding how to make the most of our time corporately praying with these little hearts.
In some sense, this article is pertinent to all of our hearts and minds. These are good reminders for every Christian. The temptation for everyone is to:
- Check out when other people are praying
- Think about what you're going to pray while others are praying
- Get distracted and think about other things while others are praying
- Forget the reality that we are entering into a conversation with a perfectly Holy God
Here are a few things to think about when training our children to thrive (or just behave) during corporate prayer.
Train Your Children to Respect the Profound Reality of Prayer
Simply put, it's not time to be cute. There's a real temptation to laugh at little Susie when she sounds so cute praying. But it's important to not encourage this type of behavior. It might be a good idea to sit your children down and explain to them what Prayer actually is. A quick study on the old testament and the process of the High Priest might drive home just how amazing it is that Jesus provides us an entry into the Throne room. We need to cultivate a high view of God in our children as a precursor to them having respect during prayer time.
Your children can participate in prayer time, but only if they are willing to respect the reality of the prayer time. And I would encourage you to enforce that with rigorous consistency, much like anything else you would as a good parent who disciplines your children. There are a number of issues that can come from being too relaxed on this. First, they can start to develop an "it's all about me" attitude during prayer time. The last thing we want for our children is to think that prayers are about them. As Jesus taught us to pray, it starts with "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." (Matthew 6:9-13) We are to start with the idea that God is to be worshiped and He is perfectly Holy. It's a big deal to pray to God. Just because Christ made it easy for us to do, doesn't mean that it's any less meaningful. Second, if we don't take corporate prayer seriously in our home, it can minimize its importance. God makes it very clear in scripture, both prescriptively and descriptively, that prayer turns the world upside down. (Acts 17:6) Prayer is everything to us Christians. Our children should be able to discern how important it is to our family by how we lead and act like parents.
Help Them to Learn to Pray While Others are Praying
I didn't learn to pray well in a corporate setting until many years into following Christ. It was after a specific series of sermons by my Pastor Ben Blakey. I used to get distracted, lose my thoughts, and wander off in my mind to things that I wanted to think about. What helped me learn to focus? I started to pray along in my head while others prayed. We can teach our children that it's wise for them to pray along, in their head, with the person who's praying. They should actively pray along! We should make sure our prayers are shorter to help them accomplish this consistently.
You don't need to pray for a long time to be effective. If you have young kids, make sure to be consistent with a daily prayer time, but keep it brief and focused. Choose meaningful topics that follow the Lord's prayer and shape their hearts in shorter bursts over a longer period of time. If you pray for 10 mins, every day of the year, that's over 60 hours of prayer time as a family over the course of a year. Your children, just by participating in that schedule, will pray more in a year than the average adult Christian. Although that's a sad statement regarding the state of Christianity, it's a powerful reality!
Include the Really Little Ones
We have a one-year-old that sits with us while we pray as a family. We don't have magic pills or a special drink we give him to sedate him. Rather, we consistently correct him over and over again until he knows that he must sit still and be quiet for those ten minutes. It's doable, trust me. Like all important child-raising endeavors it's not easy and it takes time and energy, mostly at the times you don't want to expend it. You have to be consistent and put in the extra work to make it happen. This is part of the reason that we've made the Prayer Calendar so colorful, fun, and beautiful... to engage young imaginations and help them to link prayer to something amazing. How many of us have stories of boring prayer times in stuffy churches growing up? Where is the excitement and power of prayer? We must display how amazing prayer is, really believing and living it ourselves or the hypocrisy will run deep into the heart of these young children, and they will run from it the first chance they get.
If all of this sounds like a plan and you’re ready to train your children for corporate prayer, we have the perfect resource for you! We created the Prayer Calendar.
We designed it to help train little hearts for corporate prayer, just like what we’ve written about above. Visit this page to learn more and to order one for your family today!