“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” your preschooler recites. Part of sharing your faith with your child is teaching her to pray. Some prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer or familiar graces said over meals, might be said by rote. She might say other prayers in a more spontaneous fashion, using her own words and feelings. “God take care of Uncle Tim and help him win the race” might make you smile and stifle a giggle, but it expresses her love and concern perhaps more than any recited prayer.
Explain to your preschooler that prayer is a conversation with God. He can pray as easily as he chats with a friend or grandparent. Allow your child to speak to God from his heart. Don’t criticize his efforts or laugh at his prayers if you want him to continue to share them with you. His prayers might not be as polished or comprehensive as yours, but they probably go straight to the point and include the things he really cares about. The longest part of his prayer might be when he asks God to bless every family member and many friends individually,
Repeat prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer and simple prayers such as "God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food" often until your preschooler begins to say them with you. If she garbles the words, don’t stop to correct her because it will discourage her from trying to recite the prayer. You might ask her to pray with you as you feed her the prayer phrase-by-phrase. That strategy assures her that it’s okay if she speaks the prayers with you. If she's reluctant to offer her own prayers, you can have her repeat your spontaneous prayers until she gets the hang of praying aloud.
Teach your preschooler prayers set to music. Music makes the words more memorable. It doesn't have to be complicated; just a simple prayer set to the tune of “Old MacDonald” or the alphabet song will work just fine. Ask your child’s Sunday school teacher about any prayer songs she sings with the class. Add hand and body motions to go with the prayer, such as reaching to the sky when you say "Father" or putting your hands on your heart when you say "love." Don’t be surprised if these little prayers get stuck in your head when you get ready to pray.
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