Interactive Prayer with Kids

Introduction

Have you ever asked a room full of children to pray and been met with blank stares? Whether you were teaching in a classroom or gathered around a dinner table, maybe your hopes of opening up an opportunity for children to talk with God were thwarted, and you weren’t sure why.

Many times when we think about and try to practice prayer with children, we are very focused on words. It’s understandable. When we think of the word prayer, we often think of people speaking words with bowed heads and closed eyes. But what if this is only one of many ways to pray? And what if it’s not even the most accessible to children?

There are many good strategies for helping children learn to pray with words, but what about helping children learn to enjoy being with God in playful prayer?

Ask yourself

Can prayer even be playful?

At the Center for Faith and Children, we are passionate about helping children engage with God in ways that are child-like, and about helping adults learn from the ways that children naturally approach God.

How to Approach Interactive Prayer

The Psalms, often called the prayer book of the Bible, are filled with requests that God would speak 1, that the psalmist might just enjoy or remain in the presence of God 2, and the idea that prayer ought to be an ongoing part of our lives 3, whether waking or sleeping.4

The picture the Psalms paint of prayer is certainly something that doesn’t always need words, and in fact sometimes may be best done without words. Perhaps this is an area where adults can learn from children, who may more naturally relate to God through play and imagination.

Citation

1. Psalm 27:7-8

2. Psalm 84:1-4, 10-12

3. Psalm 73:23-28

4. Psalm 88:1-3, Psalm 92: 1-2

Interactive Prayer in Practice

Interactive prayer practices can provide space for kids–and adults– to engage in prayer in a way that is playful and imaginative. Here are three examples of interactive prayer. Each of these activities is a variation on a classic way of prayer that has been adapted for children.

1. Breath Prayers

When we feel worried, scared, nervous, or anxious, breath prayers can help us pray as we go through our days. These prayers can calm us down, reminds us that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, is always with us.

Make it playful

Add an expanding Hoberman Sphere to the breath prayer. When you breathe in as you expand the sphere and breathe out as you close it. It provides a physical and visual cue for you as you practice breath prayers. It also provides a visual and interactive way for a group to learn and pray a breath prayer together.

2. Lament Prayers

When we lament, we say, “Why, God?” Is there something in your life or in the world that seems all wrong to you? Whether it is big or small, you can talk to God about that. You can pray your own “Why, God?” prayer.

Make it playful

Get a set of stacking blocks and pair it with Psalm 13 or another lament Psalm. Incorporate building and knocking a tower to illustrate and explore the feeling of things being all wrong. Ask God to remind you that he sees and knows, and that he loves justice and goodness.

*Bonus: Read The Rabbit Listened for a picture of what the Holy Spirit is like.

3. Good Shepherd Prayer Box

God made you to play and God can meet you in your play! The things children enjoy doing–swinging, running, drawing, making, building–these are all places you can enjoy being with God. This Good Shepherd box is designed around Psalm 23.

Make it playful

Choose a book that retells Psalm 23 such as a pop-up book or this urban interpretation. Or, curate a small collection of Psalm 23 picture books. Provide a box with various items that represent the different parts of the Psalm that children can play through the Psalm imaginatively.

Conclusion

These are just three ideas for how you can invite children into interactive prayer. At one church with an interactive prayer room, children say that they love the peaceful feeling they have in the prayer room. They like that they can just enjoy God’s presence with their friends while they do a variety of activities knowing that God is with them.

If you’d like to try these or other prayer stations out, a complete list of materials and directions is available in our Interactive Prayer Toolkit.

  • Citation

    1. Psalm 27:7-8

    2. Psalm 84:1-4, 10-12

    3. Psalm 73:23-28

    4. Psalm 88:1-3, Psalm 92: 1-2

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