Have you been thinking about how you can get your kids and teens praying more? I'm with you on that. One of the most rewarding aspects of our faith journey is prayer, and it's only natural that we want our kids to experience that. After 20 years in youth ministry, there is never a time I'm not thinking, how can I motivate my students to pray more often, pray with sincerity and see the results of their prayers? While the actual act of praying isn't hard, it can be challenging to master the discipline of a healthy prayer life, especially for teens.
But maturity plays a part in that. I have found that youth with strong prayer lives revere God and take their faith seriously. Many times, parents will seek counsel from me after years of allowing their kids to backslide, not attend church or to avoid any and all accountability in their relationship with the Lord. I'll be as real with you as I can here--that just won't work. You cannot magically hope for your young ones to have a reliable prayer life where there has been little to no investment into their faith walk as a whole. Prayer stems from faith, and faith from relationship. Is a strong, consistent and effective prayer routine for your kids possible?? Undoubtedly. But they may need some help from you; from your strength, example and participation.
As parents, coaches or mentors, our example of spiritual discipline, such as prayer, can be just the thing our kids need to see to take a leap of faith themselves. Stay with me on on this, because I do understand that many of you pray fervently and frequently and your kids still aren't showing interest. I get that. So let's agree that there is more to it than just demonstrating that you can pray. In leading by example, we can hold our youth accountable to routine and responsibility when it comes to their faith disciplines. For example, we show that we practice what we preach by maintaining a lifestyle of prayer and devotion ourselves, and we don't let them off the hook when it comes to developing their own.
There is a book that was very popular in my adolescent years, called, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The premise is that the simplest, most basic principles of life that we learn as little children are just as effective (if not more) when we become adults. And while this isn't an article on kindergarten do's and don'ts, I think the same principle applies--our basic prayer habits are learned early and quick. Get in your kids face about their prayer habits early, quick and consistently. Consider this admonishment found in Deuteronomy 4:9, "Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,." Teach diligently and persist; they may push back but fight for them until they are mature enough to maintain their faith disciplines on their own.
So, in place of just desiring that your kids pray more often, make moves to help improve their entire faith walk. Take a moment to think; what do I know about my kids personality that can help me in this? What are they insecure about? What makes them tick, and what do they look forward to? What are their questions about God, faith and purpose that I can help answer? What can I completely remove from their life that hinders their faith walk, and what can I add? And lastly, perhaps the most important, what am I willing to roll up my sleeves and do with them, to help them get to the spiritual place I know God is calling them into?
1. Their strong prayer life will stem from a strong faith life, in general. Work with them to improve their relationship with God. Do this by setting expectations and not letting up--times with no tech or media--just bible or quiet time. Planned family prayer and devotions, discussions after Sunday service about what they learned and how they'll apply it, etc. Make it a point to come off the sidelines and into the field when it comes to your kids relationship with the Lord.
2. Pray with them and not only for them. There's not a parent I know that doesn't pray for their kids. But to see measurable, consistent growth, I recommend praying with them. Yes, even with your teens. First, it will reinforce accountability. Second, you'll be able to see and hear where they truly are and how they are progressing. Third, it will allow you to correct, inspire and empower their prayer life into a mature place.
3. Partner with the Holy Spirit. He knows things. Parents, He knows things about your kids that you don't. I know that you want to see results now and fast--but don't skip this step. Take a moment to sit down with the Holy Spirit and get inside information about what is really going on with your kids. He just might reveal to you that there's this witchcraft book they've hidden in the back of their closet that they read at night when everyone is asleep, or that they're being bullied beyond belief and they haven't told you about it. You might learn that they're struggling with their image to the point that they have been thinking about suicide or He might reveal to you that they don't have a desire to pray because they are not sure God is even real. He knows the things that you need to know in order to truly help your kids turn their faith and prayer life around.
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Dr. Adia Amos, Founder