My Kids Hate Prayer…Do it anyway.

“I am a single mom. I recently became a Christian and  I have  3 young children under the age of 8 and want to have family devotions with them but I am not sure how to do it.  I can read the bible but am not sure what to do. I read you young kids how do you pray with your young kids?  The problem is that mine are not interested and even obnoxious about it.  My kids hate prayer it seems. Any help you can give would be wonderful.  Thank you.” ~ Anonymous single mom.

First, I take my hat off to you for being a single a parent and doing the great job that you are. Raising kids with two parents is tough enough.  I cannot imagine dealing with the hard days without my wife there to tag team.  I hope that you have a support network you can rely on and a church family to help raise your kids.  It is so important to surround yourself with godly people and not isolate yourself.

Second, every Christian parent knows what you are going through. I certainly do. Rarely do family devotions go the way they are “supposed” to go. When visitors come over, my kids are usually well behaved and sit and engage, and family devotions go smoothly…  But is that the way it always is?


There are some days where my kids are just whiny and irritating and they fall off of the chairs and play with things, and yell and poke and fight and fidget  and family devotions are just one big messy pile of crying, sighing, interruptions, frustrated parents, bored kids and short prayers.

But that is ok.

Life is messy, we are messy, our kids are messy, why should family devotions be any different? Stick a bunch of sinners in a confined space and a mess is bound to happen…but…  God is gracious and he knew that we were going to be messy when he saved us.   That is the whole point of the cross.  That we can’t do it perfectly! Whether it is saving ourselves from hell, going a day without thinking a bad thought, or just getting through family devotions.  We need to rely on Him. God is gracious.

Family Worship by Joel Beeke. I highly recommend reading this book. You can find it on the left side of my blog or below this paragraph…it’s the purple book image…click on it to link to download a free PDF copy of it.  Dr. Beeke and The Heritage Reformed Congregations have been gracious to make this available for free. This book was fundamental in forming the Smith family devotions.

How we do family devotions. We start every meal with either a family recitation of the Lord’s Prayer or one of us opens in prayer. We all do it, even Meagan our 4 year old does, but being a “free-spirit” her version of the Lord’s Prayer includes words like “Opa, Grandma, my sister…TV…”  and there is nothing wrong with that. I really encourage engaging the whole family in devotions.  We worship a relational God, not one who only listens to Dad pray. After the meal we read from the Bible and mom or I will ask some simple questions related to the reading.  Then I ask everyone for a prayer request. The prayer is one of praise and thanksgiving for the days blessings, the meal and the reading, with some supplication.  Kaitlyn will usually sing a song or hymn…I am still working up the courage to lead my family in singing.  How sad is it that my 7 year old shyer-than-me-introverted daughter has to lead family singing?  Oh wait that is called “delegation”  right? 😉

We also pray at bedtime with the kids.

Our youngest sings a version of “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” a prayer-poem that a lot of people are familiar with:

Now I lay me down to sleep

Pray Thee Lord my watch to keep

Guard me through the starry night

Wake me when the sun shines bright

Keep me free from guilt and spot

And my sins remember not

Wilt unto thy care me take

This I ask for Jesus sake,


Toddler Praying_full

About a year ago I began asking my oldest for a prayer request every night, “Is there anything you want to thank God for or anyone you would like to pray for?”  The answers were pretty standard, sometimes “I want to pray for Oma and Opa and Grandma.”  But more often than not she would just shrug her shoulders and say, “No.”  Lately however she has been asking me to pray for things, like “My teacher is sick, can we pray for her to get better?”  or “Help me to not get so mad at my sister.”  The one that really got to me was just the other night, “Can you thank God for sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sins and help me to love everyone more?”

Why do I tell you this?  Because to be a disciple takes discipline.  I am not saying we are perfect parents, I have failed numerous times and in many ways.  Don’t get me wrong here.  But in the end, my desire for my children is being realized in the faithfulness of God when my 7 year old asks me to pray about the gospel of salvation and to help her be more loving to others.

I am not an expert on this. But try what I did.

Just start.

Your kids hate prayer?  It is a struggle?  Do it anyway. Read the Bible and pray.  Humbly. Honestly.  With conviction.  With faith.  God will do the rest.

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  1. Vince Chough says:

    We have 5 kids and family prayer is a struggle sometimes. This is because it has value.
    I find that paying attention to my kids’ moods and needs helps tremendously during prayer time. We must seriously consider their agenda… not ours.
    You have to be persistent and patient. You never discover a jewel without effort.

  2. Anonymous dad says:

    You let your 4 year old lead family devotions?!!? Why on earth would you do that?

  3. My terrific husband is so patient with our kids during our nightly family prayer time. There have been times, I’ve thought, “Why do we even do this! It’s so frustrating.” But, he has diligently pursued this time together without ever loosing it. I wish I could say the same for myself. But, I do see such a blessing in this time and a frequently remind our boys that it is an amazing gift to have a father who leads us spiritually and they will never regret listening to their father’s teaching.

  4. Valerie says:

    When you have young children, a good children’s story Bible will help. Often they will include discussion questions too. And make sure you read with expression! As our children learned to read, we started reading around the table, one or two or more verses each depending on ability, that also helps them focus. Keep it up 🙂