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Only Believe: Teaching Kids to Pray for Miracles

Jennifer Hooks

Believe

We want kids to pray and trust God for answers, but when it comes to the really big prayers -- the ones that need a miracle -- how do we pray with kids?

Whether quiet whispers in the darkness or stark supplications during the day, the collective voice of the faithful is perpetually raised in prayer -- echoes of silent and spoken requests and gratitude. If you close your eyes, it's easy to imagine this millions-strong chorus of voices raised, seeking its way through the heavens to God.

Prayer is a primary force in our relationship with God; it oils the gears of faith and nourishes our souls. There's perhaps no more direct line to God than through prayer. It's no wonder, then, that when we take a child's hand to guide him or her into a relationship with God, one of our primary focuses is to teach that child about the power of prayer.

By the same token, we know that life is a journey, one that can be fraught with the unexpected and life-altering -- death, illness, strife, trials. As adults we traverse the rockier landscapes carrying our personal experiences and plenty of realism. We see situations that seem hopeless. Children get sick and die. Parents get divorced. Tragedies occur. Life is at times cruel. In these places we lean on God for strength and comfort, and we encourage kids to do the same. We tell children to put their faith in God, to set their worries at his feet. And we pray for healing, reconciliation...miracles. Even when we foresee an unhappy outcome, we pray for God's divine intervention.

It's in our DNA as Christians -- we praise God in times of joy and lean on him in times of pain. We pray without ceasing. And we teach children likewise.

But this aspect of Christianity creates an interesting tension in relation to how we teach -- and model -- faith and prayer to children. How do we guide kids to pray in situations when our experience and knowledge tell us a miracle won't happen? Is it right to pray with a child for his father to be healed from brain cancer as he lies on his deathbed? Is it ethical to pray with kids to be reunited with their mother, even though courts have legally separated them from her care as a protective maneuver? Is it wrong to sit side-by-side with a child and pray for something we believe to be outside the realm of what's possible? And what impact does it have on a child's faith to pray these really "big" prayers -- only to have the very worst inevitably happen?

On the other side of this tension is the alternative approach: If we "pray on the side of caution," coaching kids to pray for the possible things -- safe things -- what does that tell kids about our faith? Is it possible to have "faith that can move mountains" if, deep down, we're afraid to pray for miracles? And at what cost do we model such a safe approach to prayer to kids?

 

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