There are several reasons I wrote my Bountiful Blessings series of picture books (God’s Blessings of Fall will be available this week!). One of those is the importance of prayer in young children’s lives. Prayer is usually a natural consequence of gratitude. Seeing God as our Creator and Giver of blessings, I hope, will point young children to prayer.
I also hope it will become a part of your family’s Thanksgiving Day traditions—pausing to bless God for creating the beauty of the season of fall.
Once young children learn that they CAN converse with God they just assume that it happens any time, any place, under any circumstance.
In Luke 18:17 Jesus says, “I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” I say we need to pray like little children pray.
I don’t think we need to teach little children to pray. But we do need to get them ready to trust God and pray to Him.
God has wired the human brain to make connections. When young children feel that we love and value them they will connect those same feelings to God, their Heavenly Father.
We teach babies and toddlers this by holding them close to our bodies, by making sure they are fed, warm, clean. By keeping them in safe places, by protecting them and helping them meet each new challenge. If they feel safe with us they will connect it to feeling safe with God.
When a conversation is going on with your little one, stop what you are doing and look into their face. Pay attention. Look at them while you answer their question. You are teaching your little one two critical life skills: how to listen and pay attention when other people speak, and the knowledge that God stops and listens when we go to Him in prayer.
Say “thank you” to them often. As soon as they can sit in a highchair fold their little hands together and recite a simple “Thank you, God, for our food. Amen.” Teach them that all the things in our lives are gifts from God.
When we gently and lovingly teach these things to our toddlers and preschoolers it will be second nature for them to talk to God, to assume He is listening, and to expect Him to answer.
That is prayer in its purest sense.