How to Help Your Son and Daughter to Pray
“He who rushes from his bed to his business and waits not to worship in prayer, is as foolish as though he had not put on his clothes or washed his face; and is as unwise as though he dashed into battle without arms or armor” (Anonymous).
The fact that the apostles came to Jesus and asked, “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1) tells us that Christ’s prayers were different than their prayers. They had heard His prayers. And they knew that to be often alone with God was His secret to a powerful devotional life. No doubt they wanted the same devotion to characterize their lives, and their only hope was to learn to pray like Jesus prayed. The same will be true of our sons and daughters.
If they see us praying—making the same connection the apostles did—our sons and daughters may also ask, “Mom and Dad, teach us to pray.” To help you when the time comes, let’s consider the “model prayer” given by Jesus to His friends.
One powerful tool is to personalize the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) adapting it to individual needs. This is an invaluable thing to pass on to our sons and daughters, and it looks like this: My Father, who has shown me fatherly love through __________________________. You have shown my need to be reverent through __________________________. You have revealed Your holiness to me by______________________. I became a member of your kingdom on (Baptismal date)___________________and am ministering in (parish)______________to work for the coming of Your kingdom. I need Your will to be done in _______________ and commit myself to doing what You reveal Your will to be. My basic needs today are ________________________. I trust You to supply them, and I will not waste my energy worrying about them. I have forgiven _________________ and want to forgive anyone who has wronged me. I _______________________ ,________________, and ___________________. I know Satan’s power is luring me to do what is wrong. I trust Your much stronger power to lead me away from temptation, and so I commit myself now to follow Your leadership.
Parents, let’s not forget the words of Christ in Matthew 21:13: “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Here Jesus is referring to the temple, but our bodies are Christ’s “home” on earth. And prayer reminds us that we are not our own, because we were bought with a price. Teaching our sons and daughters to pray will enable them to, likewise, drive out all that distracts them from honoring God with their bodies (see 1 Corinthians 6:20).
Here are some excellent resources on prayer for you and your son and daughter to read: 1. Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not to Pray (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988); 2. E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979); 3. Jack Hayford, Prayer Is Invading the Impossible (Plainfield, N.J.: Logos, 1977); 4. Wesley Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990).
(This article is adopted from The Rev. Dr. O’Donnell’s new book coming out this October, What a Son Needs from His Dad, by Bethany House/Baker Books; and was recently published as an article in the August 2011 issue of The Colorado Catholic Herald.)
 Disciples Study Bible, New International Version; Zondervan Corporation; “Life Helps” Section.