The bottom line is children pray like they talk to others. They expect to be answered and will keep praying until they are.
At three years old, he started to thank God for everything on the table by name. The prayer came from a genuine, thankful heart and made my “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Amen,” prayer seem pathetic. Over the years, I have experienced the beauty of prayer from children, both my own and others. Jesus summed it up, speaking to the disciples, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 19:14 NKJV).
So, what have I learned from children? Honestly, most of it is unlearning adult prayer. Children come to God with none of the pomp and pageantry we so often eloquently weave into our public prayers. If they want to talk to God for three minutes, they will; if they only need 29 seconds, they won’t take 30. There is no concept of how long a prayer should take and there are no filler-phrases to pad the prayer. It’s just an honest conversation with God. Children will say whatever is on their mind. Sometimes, overheard conversations between my wife and I later wind up in their prayers, even in public settings, and there is beauty in that. When they have a concern, they bring it straight to God.
“Childlike faith” is a saying for a reason. Children will pray for the smallest, most “insignificant” things and believe God will answer their prayers. I have found that most of the time, He does. My son is great at calling me to prayer when I have lost something that I need, and I usually find it soon after the prayer. In a similar fashion, children are unashamed and unafraid to make an enormous request of their Heavenly Father and, if I’m reading Scripture clearly, this pleases Him.
There are times when prayers are not answered right away, and for that you need a child’s persistent prayer. At our church school, we have been praying for specific requests all year now, and each week the children bring up these requests with the same passion they did the week before. At home, we keep a prayer board behind our couch with requests on it, and my kids are always adding to it and remembering requests that we adults would consider “old.”
The bottom line is children pray like they talk to others. They expect to be answered and will keep praying until they are. While the traits above are common threads in many children, I have seen others unable to exercise their faith at all. Spiritual influences will help a child develop their love for God. The home needs to be a place of training, where evening worships and morning devotionals are habitual. Adventist education is another excellent tool to help develop children’s spiritual minds, to encourage their growth, not hinder it.
Most of us reading this article are well beyond childhood years, and have, in many cases, lost some of these lovely childlike traits in our prayers. I challenge you to throw off some of the socially correct restraints we’ve placed upon ourselves. Forget about too small, too big, too short, too long. Be specific! Be honest! Believe in His goodness! He’ll hear you . . . whether you have your eyes open or not.
Joshua Voigt is Prayer Ministries coordinator for the Illinois Conference.