Teaching Children to Pray

last updated August 16, 2019

I was surprised to learn from a parent in my congregation that sometimes her young children would repeat phrases from my prayers at church in their own prayers before bed. On Sunday mornings when we thought they weren’t paying attention to worship–when they were looking at a kids’ book, or reaching for more Cheerios–they had actually been listening and learning some of my language of prayer.

For teaching older children to pray, I’m happy to recommend The Prayer Experiment Notebook by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes and Mina Munns (SPCK, 2018).

The Prayer Experiment Notebook book cover

When parish priest Miranda Threlfall-Holmes couldn’t find resources on prayer suitable for her young teenage son, she decided to experiment. Each week she would design a creative prayer practice for her son to try, and he would rate the exercise and write a review. Their experiment together became a blog, then a book, and now it’s inspired this series of prayer experiments for children ages 8 to 12 years old.

As a former primary school teacher and now an Anglican priest, Mina Munns has a special interest in children and spiritual formation. She does a wonderful job over at Flame Creative Children’s Ministry with many imaginative ideas for children and families, for use at home and in church settings.

Together, Threlfall-Holmes and Munns have crafted 20 prayer exercises for children–from play dough prayers, to Lego Bible modelling, to rough times sandpaper prayers, to making your own prayer den. Instructions are given clearly and simply, with plenty of illustrations by Patrick Laurent, plus space for notes on “When I tried this,” “Things I found most helpful,” and “Things I might do differently next time.” The authors also include ratings and reviews written by children about their experience with each exercise.

So if you’re interested in teaching children to pray, if you’re a parent or grandparent of children ages 8-12 years old, if you’re a Sunday school teacher or children’s ministry worker or pastor, I’m happy to recommend this book.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: In the section on “Praying with your body,” children experiment with different postures of prayer–standing, sitting, kneeling, lying down, with arms outstretched, etc. How does your posture affect your praying?

Disclosure: SPCK books are distributed in North America by InterVarsity Press, and I received a complimentary copy for review. As always, the choice to review and the opinions expressed are my own.

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22 thoughts on “Teaching Children to Pray

    1. Hi Mary – I have just this one copy that I’ll give away this week–maybe you’ll be a winner! Otherwise, you could check at House of James, and if it’s not in stock, I’m sure that they would be able to order a copy for you.

  1. When I was young my parents taught me to memorize prayers and say them with hands folded. There was one for mealtime and another for bedtime. The simpler bedtime prayer was recited until the child became older and then it was the Lord’s prayer. I can still say those prayers today, and feel the reverence and awe I felt at that time. My husband had the same experience. When my husband’s family emigrated to Canada, their sponsors prayed before bedtime on their knees, adults and children together, and these were spontaneous prayers. That was a very different way of praying, and also a more intimate way of approaching God. Today, children will often sing prayers like “Johnny Appleseed”. When we approach God with a desire to communicate, I think God is pleased, no matter what the form. But I do believe God wants our hearts to desire what pleases God (I think of the different approaches by Cain and Abel, which has always puzzled me somewhat).

    1. I love this glimpse at some of the different ways of praying you’ve experienced, Elfrieda, and the affirmation that God is pleased no matter what form our prayers take. As for Cain and Abel – I’ve always felt sorry for both of them, and their parents!

  2. As grandparents of 7, we love listening to them pray and would love to have the book you are offering.

  3. Hi April, I enjoy following you, and was particularly interested in this book for my grandchildren. Blessings as you continue to write and also encourage other writers.

    1. Thank you, Grace — I’m encouraged by your encouragement! I’ve been thinking more about what it means to encourage other writers–and readers!–and that’s one reason I decided to do book giveaways this month. It’s one way to spread the word about books I appreciate, so stay tuned for more books in the next couple of weeks.

  4. Hi April, this book sounds fantastic, and I’d love to try it with my two boys who fall into this category. We’ve experimented somewhat with prayer, but it’s easy to fall into a rut. Thanks for the review, and the chance to win. Exciting!

    1. Another thing I like about this book is that the authors are quite up front that readers might like some of the prayer exercises and not like others–that’s part of what it means to experiment. That’s a great attitude for prayer and for any spiritual practice.

  5. Sounds like this book on teaching children to pray could be of help to many parents and grandparents.

    1. Yes, definitely for parents and grandparents, plus children’s church and worship connect leaders, middle school youth workers, Sunday school teachers, mentors, pastors–really anyone who connects with that age group and would like to encourage an active prayer life.

  6. I love experiential prayer/spiritual practices!! This book sounds fantastic as my son who is 9.5 has not really “taken” to praying. If I don’t win I will be checking it out for sure. Thanks for sharing!

    And as for my physical movements in prayer, these days God keeps calling me to be “face to the floor” as I think of it. Prostrate, laid out before him. It is a place of humility as I seek him and not try to do things all by myself (which would be a much more upright posture and is my tendency).

    Excellent post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment, Leah. This book sounds like it would be great for you and your son. For some time, I used to stretch out in prayer on the floor and imagine myself lying in the hand of God. I found it both comforting and strengthening.

  7. April,
    This looks like a fantastic book. I have two boys in the 8-12 age range, and they think deeply and ask many questions about their faith. I’m always searching for good resources to use with them.

    In regards to posture while praying, I think certain postures can help us focus, and also reflect our emotions and the state of relationship with God. In my opinion there is definitely a relationship between our physical and spiritual selves.

    1. I haven’t read his book, but I appreciate Marc Cortez’s title “Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies”–as human beings we are both physical and spiritual, spiritual and physical. I love the way this resource engages both. Many of the prayer experiments like the ‘God is great’ collage would work well for your boys to do either alone or together.

  8. I would love a copy. My 7 year old son says that he is ‘always praying’. His prayers do have power.

    1. That’s a beautiful testimony, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing! I think a book like this would encourage and help support your son’s very evident spiritual awareness.

  9. Hi April, I thoroughly enjoy your blog and look forward to receiving your email each Monday. In response to your writing prompt:

    Other than church, I find myself most often praying in three other places. The first is sitting at my kitchen table, the second (and you may find this odd) is the bathroom at work and the third is my car. Of the three spaces, I find that God’s Presence envelops me the quickest at work. I believe that the secluded space affects my ability to pray much more than my posture while praying. I also find myself standing and moving or swaying while praying, so my posture does change after I start praying.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Shelley – I’m glad to know that you look forward to my Monday emails 🙂 I find too that both posture and place can play a role in the way I pray, and it’s interesting that you mention a secluded place, since that’s the subject of my next post.

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