Six Ways to Help Children in your Corporate Prayer Meetings
Our church meets for prayer every Wednesday night. Almost the whole church comes, which means that there are many children in the prayer meeting. While I am extremely thankful for the turnout, and especially thankful that children are there, I am also aware of how challenging it can be for parents and children to navigate long corporate prayer meetings. Parents may be distracted from praying because they are dealing with their children. Children may find it difficult to be still and even more difficult to understand the prayers. Some might say, “get a babysitter.” Well, that’s not the answer we are looking for. There must be something else we can do, and as you might expect, it has to do with the role of parents helping their children to engage in corporate prayer in a God honoring way.
Here are six things parents can do to help their children in corporate prayer:
I. Teach them that this is what the people of God are called to do.
One of the marks of the early church was that they prayed together in homes. Families and children were often mentioned in prayer meetings, Acts 1:12-14; 2:42; 21:4-6. Help them to see how the family of God is a family of prayer, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” (Matthew 21:13). Show them how children were involved in praying. When the Lord said, “this promise is for you and your children,” and that “in you all the families will be blessed,” He was talking about the work of Jesus Christ in His people and the various ways He blesses them. One of those ways is to give His people access to Him through prayer.
II. Keep them by your side during all ages of their development – even the little years.
God planned that the little ones would be in the prayer meetings of the church. If they are babies in arms or toddlers or four year olds, recognize that God made them this way and it is ok. Let’s say that they only learn two things during these early years. First, they gain impressions about the spirit of the people. Second, they learn how to sit still and respect the desires of their father and mother. This is a critical part of their development because children need practice in the area of honor and a prayer meeting is a wonderful context in which it is learned over a long period of time with lots of opportunities for instruction and self-control. Further, children need to learn how to happily endure things that are not full blown entertainment. In our entertainment-saturated culture, we think that everyone must always be riveted and hyped. A prayer meeting provides an opportunity to exist happily in the midst of God’s people without media hype. They will be healthier and happier for it.
III. Prepare them by speaking to them about the broad categories of what we plan to do when we gather.
1. Adoration: We pray to adore the Lord and give thanks to Him – we want to be a thankful people.
2. Confession: We pray in humility recognizing our sinfulness – we want to be an honest people who confess our sins.
3. Thanksgiving: We pray to be a thankful people who do not take for granted what God has done and is doing.
4. Supplication: We pray to come to the aid of others in need.
Help them to see how beneficial and life giving it is to do these things together. The acronym ACTS is a helpful tool to organize the categories of prayer
IV. Prepare them for the specific situations we will pray about.
Explain to them that we are going to pray for different situations we are in the midst of: prayer for one another, missionaries, people in need, the abortion mill, local evangelism, the Scripture text we are focusing on this week and the preaching on Sunday morning. Encourage them to listen for prayers about these things. Give them information beforehand about what’s happening in the church. Talk with them about some of the needs you know about in the church.
V. Help them to be in “one accord” with the church.
Inspire them for unity. One way to prepare your children for the prayer meeting is at dinner time just before the meeting, take some time to help them see that we are one body, gathering for one purpose. We are unified, we are all pulling in the same direction as a big happy family Acts 1:12-14, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
VI. Help them fight distraction.
Ask them to notice who is praying and what they are praying. Here are a few thoughts:
a. Help them to listen carefully and pray along with the person who is praying.
b. One way to keep them attentive is by whispering to them that we are praying for a certain person or situation.
c. Stay in close proximity with your children. It is best to have adults sitting next to children so that children sitting next to children do not distract one another. This is a huge challenge for those with lots of little ones.