For a long time I have been bothered my the way we teach children about prayer. For instance …
We set up our cliches and platitudes without even thinking about what they mean or how they sound to a child.
We should be teaching our kids that prayer is a conversation with God and sure, we can ask Him for things (He tells us to), but always acknowledging that we want His will to be done. (In kid language – “You know what’s best for me, Lord, that’s what I want to have happen.)
One thing parents do is set up their child. They know there’s a big trip to Disney World planned so when Junior says he wants to go to Disney World, Dad and Mom tell him to pray about it – knowing it will come true. They do this because they want their child to “trust that God will come through for them.” But when Junior is 12, his favorite uncle gets sick and no matter how often Junior prays, demanding God heal him, he doesn’t get better. Junior is so used to getting what he wants (because his parents have worked that out), that he now decides God isn’t listening to him and doesn’t care and faith is no longer important to him. Parents should’ve been teaching him to pray for the Lord’s will and that everything doesn’t work out exactly how he wants, but that God is in control.
Another thing we do, happens a lot in churches. The teacher asks for prayer requests and kids list everything from their cat’s toenail to getting a new puppy. The class prays for these things. The next week, the teacher checks to see “whose prayers were answered.” Aiden’s cat is fine so they mark that as answered. Emma does not get a puppy so the class keeps praying that her prayer will be answered.
But that prayer has been answered. Emma’s dad says, “no puppy because your little brother is allergic.” Emma’s prayer was answered just not the way she wanted. We teach kids that prayers are answered ONLY when they get what we want.
Prayer is an exciting privilege – we get to talk to our Heavenly Father and ask for His guidance in our lives. Prayer is NOT a Christmas wish list. Yes, we are to talk to God about our needs and desires, but we are to do this, asking for His will.
We need to teach our kids this from the very beginning. Let’s be careful not to mess them up,
1 John 5:14
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.