By Betsy St. Amant Haddox, Crosswalk.com
There’s nothing a parent wants more than to see their teenager thrive spiritually. With all that our young adults face in the world today, they are in desperate need of discovering a solid foundation on which they can firmly stand. This generation of students are facing more deceit from the enemy and distortion of God’s Word than I would have ever imagined.
In an ever-changing world, where rules are suggestions, gender is more of a mindset than a fact, and abuse of sexuality run rampant in all forms, our students must be equipped to know what they believe and why.
But head knowledge and apologetics alone—while incredibly helpful—aren’t enough to sustain a teenager. They must develop a personal relationship with the Lord in order to make it through these difficult years. This is the time in their life where their faith starts to become less routine from childhood, and more personal. More tangible. More real. This is when they must choose to live out what they’ve been taught—or not.
While we can’t force it as parents, we can certainly lead our kids into truth and shepherd them in the faith—starting with prayer. Just like our relationship with our young adults can’t function without communication, the same is true for our relationship with God. Without prayer, we’re only gaining knowledge and not truly communicating. As parents, we must not only pray for our teenagers, but teach them how to pray as well.
Click through to discover 10 ways to encourage your teen's prayer life.
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1. Be an Example
We aren’t going to be much help to our kids if we’re leading with a “do what I say, not what I do” perspective. We need to encourage our teen’s prayer life by modeling our own. Let your kids of all ages see you pray. Let them know when you’re having your quiet time with the Lord.
Initiate prayer in front of them—and not just around the dinner table (though that’s a great start!) Start small but start somewhere!
2. Talk about Prayer Organically
Normalize prayer. Don’t let it become an awkward, taboo subject in your family. Talk about it! Ask your kids if they’ve prayed today. Talk about the reasons maybe why they didn’t. Never shame or punish if they forgot or didn’t make the effort—but discuss it and see what is holding them back so you know how to help.
But if you don’t talk about prayer with your kids, it’s going to be rare that it’s in their minds frequently enough to do it on their own.
3. Point out That Prayer Isn’t Always Formal
Sometimes, teenagers hold back from something new because they don’t want to get it wrong or embarrass themselves. So make sure your teenagers know that prayer doesn’t have to be formal or stilted.
They’re not going to “mess it up”. They don’t have to be on their knees or in a certain room or pray at a certain time of day. There’s nothing legalistic about talking to the Lord! Tell them they can prayer anytime, right where they are—whether that’s in the school hallway, in the car, on the ball field, or even in the shower.
While it’s important to come to the Lord with respect and reverence, it’s of the utmost importance just to simply come. Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
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4. Buy Them Books/Find Podcasts on Prayer
If your teen enjoys reading, there are so many quality books on prayer that you could purchase for them as a guide. Ask your church friends or online community for recommendations, and get your teen set up with some nonfiction books to help develop this area of their life.
Sometimes, reading about someone else’s experiences can help pave the way to make our own. If your teen needs an icebreaker, reading a book on prayer could really make a difference in their life. If your teen isn’t a reader, but loves listening to audiobooks or podcasts, research some quality Christian podcasts that tackle the topic of prayer, and invite them to listen.
5. Read the Lord’s Prayer Together
Jesus gave us an example of how to pray in Scripture. It would be incredibly beneficial to discuss that model prayer together as a family and dissect it. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t meant to be the way we pray as a rote citation, but rather, a template to follow where we can plug in our own thoughts, thanksgivings, and petitions.
Matthew 6:9-14 (ESV) Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you…
6. Discuss the “Why” behind Why We Pray
One of the best reminders I can give myself about why it’s important to pray is the simple fact that Jesus did. Maybe your teenager isn’t going through anything difficult at the moment and doesn’t understand why he/she should pray when they’re not asking for anything.
Take the chance to point out that even Christ, in all His sinless perfection, made specific effort to get away and pray to His Heavenly Father. If Christ needed to do so, how much more do we as sinful humans?
7. Give Them a Prayer Journal
I don’t know many teen girls who wouldn’t jump at the chance to own a new journal! There’s something so comforting and aesthetic about a fresh journal and a new pen.
Purchasing your teen—boy or girl!—a prayer journal and their favorite box of colored pens or markers might be one way to get them interested in writing their prayers. This can be especially helpful if your teen struggles to focus mentally and tends to drift off into distraction when they pray. Writing requires a different type of mental effort and could be a solution.
Also, it’s cool for teens to be able to look back when they’re adults and have a tangible reminder of how they grew in their faith over the years.
8. Challenge Them to Pray for Something Specific and Watch for Results
There’s nothing more motivating to pray than watching an answered prayer come to pass. While we know that God’s ways are higher than ours, and that not all our prayers will be answered with a “yes”, it’s so encouraging when they are.
To pique your teen’s interest in this partnership with the Lord, encourage them to pray for something specific and then watch for the results. Maybe it’s for healing, or for a friend to come to salvation. Maybe it’s to make a good grade on a big test coming up. Whatever is important to them in their life right now, challenge them to pray for it and then look for the Lord at work.
This could also be a great opportunity to point out how God answers prayers in different ways—sometimes with “no” or “wait.”
9. Explain the Benefits of Prayer
Your teen is probably more naturally bent toward prayer when they need something. Maybe they’re hoping a certain boy or girl asks them to the dance at school, or they’re struggling with math, or maybe are going through a health issue they need relief from. Those are good times to pray—the Bible makes it clear we are free to bring our petitions to the Lord.
But be sure to point out that prayer isn’t just asking for things—it’s also praise and thanksgiving. And when we’re worshiping the Lord with praise through prayer, we’re naturally filled with peace. Our anxieties fade. Our tension eases. We’re trading our burdens for the Lord’s comfort and filling our minds with thoughts of Him, rather than the world around us.
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
10. Pray Together
Be sure to pray with your teenager. While this can be awkward at first, it’s a great habit to get into. It doesn’t have to be long or official—taking turns saying a quick prayer in the carpool line on the way to school or at the end of the night can be a simple way to normalize prayer for your teen and get them used to praying out loud.
This will build their confidence and likely cause them to pray more often on their own.
Related: Listen to Our FREE New Parenting Podcast! Christian Parent/Crazy World with Catherine Segars is now available on LifeAudio.com. Listen to our episode on going to battle for your kids in prayer by clicking the play button below:
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