Sam prayed, “Dear God, please help the missionaries … and help my dog not throw up on the bed again.” This preschooler knew Who to talk to about all his concerns!
Mission Friends leaders have the joy and responsibility to teach their preschoolers how to pray and to pray. Jesus gave the disciples a model prayer to teach them how to pray. He also modeled the discipline of prayer as he withdrew to spend time with his Father. As we model prayer, we help our preschoolers understand what prayer is and help them develop the habit of prayer. Here are some ideas to try out as you lead your preschoolers to pray.
Model spontaneous prayer often during a session.
- When a child is upset, the leader may pray out loud that God would comfort the child.
- When a child mentions a happy event, the leader may say, “Thank You, God, that . . ..”
- As the preschoolers participate in an activity related to the missionary’s role, the leader may pray, “God, please help the missionary . . ..”
Model praying together as a group.
- Give each child the opportunity to pray out loud, but without pressure to do so.
- Consider inviting a child who is praying to stand by you to give them some encouragement. (On a practical note, it also allows the leader to hear a quiet child’s voice and be able to give gentle prompts or know when he is finished.)
- Waiting for their turn to pray can be hard for preschoolers. Give each child one thing to pray for and encourage a sentence prayer.
- Give a child an object related to his prayer assignment to hold to make the prayer need tangible. For example, a child may hold a toy car while praying for safe travel for a missionary.
- Use “Prayertime” prompts in large group times as suggested in Mission Friends Leader.
Encourage parents to see opportunities they have to disciple their child in prayer.
- Point out the prayer reminder the child made in class, saying, “When your family prays this week . . ..”
- Encourage parents to use the Mission Friends at Home page as a prayer guide with their preschoolers (available in Mission Friends Leader).
Encourage preschoolers to pray any time, any place about anything.
- Be sensitive to situations and the child’s emotions.
- Invite a child to pray in response to their emotions—fear, anxiety, joy, excitement.
- Read Always Remember to Pray, a Mission Friends resource available from WMU. This child-friendly book suggests times when a child may want to talk to God. For each situation, there is an example of a simple prayer. As you use this resource, preschoolers will learn that prayer is simply talking with God and that they can pray any time about anything. God is always listening.
God has entrusted to us with the privilege of helping our preschoolers develop a life-long conversation with Him. Pray that you will make the most of the opportunity.
by Vivian Howell