Teaching Kids to Pray Series: Withhold Reprimanding in Prayer
It’s great to understand that we can be absolutely honest, and open with God at all times. I’m so thankful for the safety we have, and that kids have, in our relationship with Him.
I don’t always get prayer right. Much of what I originally learned about prayer was done through watching others – people who made mistakes as well. That’s not to say that each of these people I emulated was wrong because many of them had great prayer disciplines and consistency that are vital. However, sometimes prayers were emotionally driven rather than scripturally based. Sometimes prayers were limited to timeframes, rules, methods, and lists where it was ONLY a discipline and not a desire. Sometimes prayers were measured by eloquent words or the loud and dramatic way it was presented. It’s true that “Prayer is Powerful” but only because of God is the source, not us.
I don’t know anyone who gets prayer right all the time. Our human mind cannot always discern the mind of God – His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts above ours. Our emotions and human will gets in the way sometimes and directs our speech and desires in prayer. Because children watch us and learn, they too will pray incorrectly at times. Their adolescent minds will not be able to always understand right from wrong and if they are not studying or being taught the Word of God, they will struggle with knowing the will of God. All of this becomes reflected in their prayers.
Don’t reprimand them for what they pray.
There will be times that young people pray something that is not proper or in the will of God. They may pray for a million dollars to buy new toys, or pray that a bully at God would get sick and die. This is an emotion-based, egocentric approach that is normal for their age. They may pray for God to help them pass a test that they did not study for, or to not let their parents find out that they did a certain action. These are prayers prayed out of desperation and a desire to not be accountable for their actions. God will not answer prayers that go against His will or His Word.
If we reprimand them, they may feel afraid to pray again. Rather than reprimanding them, tell them they did a great job trying and give them some ideas of how to pray a better prayer next time. Talk about the issue. Help them have better understanding. If possible, pray again right then so they immediately practice what you are directing them to do.
In addition, I believe that prayer should never be used as a punishment. Children will do things wrong. As parents and adults we know that God can help us change our actions. Sometimes in our desperation and zeal to force change we may tell a child to go pray about what they just did. When that happens, prayer can become a punishment to them rather than something they desire to do. They may end up seeing God as a big bully who is upset with them rather than being a loving God that they can turn to. Rather than force children to pray out of reactionary responses to anger, take them by the hand and go to God together and ask Him for His help as both a parent and a child. Pray for patience, peace, and help in the situation. Thank God (in front of the child) for the times that He has helped you to change things that you did wrong. Affirm the child before God. Regardless of what that child did wrong, they matter to God and they are important. God hates sin, but He loves the sinner and we must emulate that as well.
Check back soon with us on our next topic in this series: Let Them Lead