by Greg Alms
Maybe we do it because we think we are supposed to. Maybe we do it because it feels good to kneel or lay beside our precious children and hear them breathe and close their eyes tight. Maybe we are not sure why we do it. Maybe we do not do it at all. But teaching our children to pray is important.
Teaching our children to pray brings God to our children and presses Him close. We tell them that the God of the Bible, the God who took flesh, died and rose for our sake, the God who created all things and forgives their sins is with them and listening. Luther said that we pray “as dear children” to “their dear father.” Saying “Our Father who art in heaven” with our sons and daughters invites them to tenderly believe just that: God is their true father. Teaching them to address, to talk to, the God they hear about in the Scriptures and remember in their baptism gives them confidence and boldness to believe that God is near and listens to their every worry and wish.
Coming forth from faith
Prayer is acted out faith. Prayers is the great confession of “by grace alone.” We are unable to live the righteous life. We perish on our own. Our sins overwhelm us. The only avenue remaining is to cry out to God. To say God provides us with all our needs, that only God’s grace saves us, that there is life eternal only by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is to say we do not have what we need. God must supply it. The Holy Spirit leads us to pray. Like the lepers in the Gospels, we cannot muster the strength and holiness on our own to please God or stave off death so Christ comes near to us in His Word and we cry out to Him, “Lord, have mercy.” Prayer comes forth from faith.
Children get this. Teaching children to pray is not difficult. Prayer is inherently childlike. Children know they are not powerful. They realize they are not self-sufficient. They are not old enough to delude themselves into thinking they can make it on their own. They are fed by their parents. They are cared for by others. It does not seem silly or absurd for them to ask God to take care of them. That is that how they live, trusting others.
What do we do when we teach children to pray? We lead them to speak to their true Father. We practice with them the fact that being a Christian is being childlike, receiving all blessings and mercy from outside ourselves. We invite them to see that God the Father is the one who protects them, guides and forgives them every day. We are never more wise than when we are children at prayer. It something we never outgrow. Here true faith speaks and trusts in the God saves us. Here we commend all things into His hands and trust in His goodness.
The Rev. Paul Gregory Alms is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Catawba, N.C.