Prayers and Praying with Children

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By Mary Abrahamson

The basic foundation to keep in mind when praying and when teaching children to pray can be found in the meanings of the first and last parts of the Lord’s Prayer according to Luther’s Small Catechism.

 

 

The Introduction
Our Father, Who art in heaven.

What does this mean?
God would hereby tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him with all boldness and confidence, as children ask their dear father.

and

What does “Amen” mean?
Amen means that we should be sure that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven and are heard by Him; for He himself has commanded us so to pray and has promised to hear us. Amen, Amen: that is, Yes, Yes, it shall be so.

Teach your children to pray for things they want or need, to pray for others, and to thank God for particular blessings in their lives.

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.

Set an example for them with simple prayers such as, “Thank you for the sunny weather.” “Please send us some rain.” “God bless Grandma and Grandpa.” “Take care of Auntie Lisa as she travels.” etc.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Teach your children to pray in Jesus’ name, since without Jesus, we’d still be strangers to God.

John 16:23 Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.

Also teach them to pray according to God’s will. That helps set a lifelong example of submitting to God’s will in our lives, and to trusting that God’s will is good and right, even when it makes no sense to us or doesn’t feel right at all. We see example of this in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane.

Luke 22:42 Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.

If you teach even your very young children to begin their requests with, “If it is Your will, …” and to close each prayer with, “In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen,” you will teach the continual lesson of thanksgiving for Jesus’ work of atonement, and of submission to God’s will in their lives.

The Lord’s Prayer is the basic prayer that Christians throughout time and geography have learned. It is the Prayer that Jesus Himself taught us to pray. It is never to early to teach your children the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father who art in heaven.

Hallowed be thy Name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done, on earth as it in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation.

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.

Amen.

In the Apostle’s Creed we confess with all Christendom the truths of Holy Scripture. Each line is like a little Bible reading all in itself. We recall the Creation and God’s providential care. We recite the events of the humiliation of our Lord, culminating in His Crucifixion; but then also His resurrection and ascent into heaven, and His promise to prepare for us a place there with Him and the Father. And finally, we summarize all that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of us and of His people everywhere.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin i, Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried,

He descended into hell;

The third day he rose again from the dead,

He ascended into heaven,

And is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church,

the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Amen.

The Kyrie Eleison or the Lord have Mercy has been used since earliest church times. There are many versions, but most know the simple and the greater Kyrie’s from church liturgies.

O Lord, have mercy upon me. O Christ have mercy upon me. O Lord have mercy upon me.

Or

O God the Father in heaven, have mercy upon me.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon me.

O God the Holy Ghost, true Comforter, have mercy upon me.

Teach your children some simple prayers for routine times of day such as before meals, when they awake, and before they go to sleep.

Prayers before meals

The common table prayers

We use these prayers in many Lutheran circles to ask God’s blessing upon our food and to thank Him for the food He has provided.

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen

Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good; for His mercy endures forever. Amen (from Psalm 136 and other Psalms)

Other ideas

Psalm 145:15 The eyes of all wait upon Thee Oh, Lord, and You give them their food in due season; You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Amen.

From Luther’s Small Catechism

Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

We thank You, Lord God, Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, for all Your benefits, You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Traditional Bedtime Prayers

There are many versions of Now I lay me down to sleep, and most are fine and Biblical prayers. Use what you like, but take a moment to think about the version you know to see if and how it reflects the truth of God. There are a few versions that are questionable at best. Ask your pastor if you’re not sure about the version you know.

This version is nice because it raises children with the constant reminder than any day may be their last, but that we need not fear. God will take us to heaven.

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

Variations of the first verse Jesus, tender Shepherd hear me, have been used for a bedtime prayer by many throughout the years.

This version is from the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, and includes additional verses for God’s providence and for our eternal salvation.

If you wish to sing it with your children, the tune suggested in the hymnary is the same as that for Sweet the Moments Rich in Blessing. But there are many other tunes that will work. If you are unfamiliar with the suggested tune, and you want to teach your children to sing this prayer, your pastor or church organist can help you find a tune you know.

Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me,

Bless Thy little lamb tonight;

Through the darkness be Thou near me,

Watch my sleep till morning light.

All this day They hand has led me,

And I thank thee for Thy care;

Thou hast clothed me, warmed and fed me,

Listen to my evening prayer.

Let my sins be all forgiven,

Bless the friends I love so well;

Take me, when I die, to heaven,

Happy there with Thee to dwell.

The morning and evening prayers from the Offices of Prime and Compline in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary are some of the most lovely and touching prayers I use. I love the meanings of the words, but besides that, the cadences and poetry of those words stick with me easily. I find myself able to repeat them throughout hours of day and night.

O Lord Jesus Christ, bright Sun of the world: Shine upon my spirit and drive away the night of sin, that I may walk in Your holy light all my life even forevermore. Amen.

O Lord, visit this dwelling, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let Your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; And may Your blessings be upon us evermore; Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Dr. Martin Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers

Dr. Luther suggested the following brief morning and evening devotion to accompany the morning and evening prayers themselves.

A MORNING PRAYER

In the morning, when you rise you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray You to protect me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

And then you should go with joy to your work, after a hymn, or the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest.

AN EVENING PRAYER

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray You to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

And then lie down in peace, and sleep.

 

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