Knowing how to pray is probably one of the most essential tools that a Jew needs to live his life in a meaningful way.
It is through prayer that we connect with G-d. It is an anchor in times of trouble. It gives solace and is a healthy outlet for our anger at the injustices of life. Prayer is there when we have despaired, when we are at the end of our rope. Prayer is there when we have pulled through, when we are overwhelmed with gratitude for the good things in our life. Prayer is a daily ritual that keeps us focused on all the important stuff, stuff that most people don’t pay much attention too.
With each year, I become more and more grateful that I start my day with prayer. Prayer is a precious gift, a gift that I want to relay and pass on to my children. I want my children to have prayer to comfort them, to keep them real and to keep them focused on the essentials of life.
How can we do this? Here are 4 ways to teach your children to pray:
1. Start early:
The simplest way to teach your child to pray is to pray with them from a very early age. Singing Modeh ani in the morning and Shma at night is a great starting point.
2. Make it personal:
I always remind my children that G-d has a special place in his heart for a child’s prayers. He loves to hear from young children. Help your child compose prayers for her family, her grandmother who might not be feeling well, or her friend with the chicken pox. You can tell your children that they can pray for anything they want, new shoes or even the toy that all her friends have. Make a habit, of it. It can be done, in the morning, at night or when you are lighting your Shabbos candles.
3. Tell her there are no wasted prayers:
It is important to have a discussion with your child, that sometimes G-d says no, but it does not mean that he wasn’t listening or that he doesn’t care. G-d always wants what is best for us, and when he does say no it probably wasn’t best for us.
We can also teach them another beautiful concept in of prayer: Sometimes G-d keeps our prayers in storage for another time. Then in the merit of all our prayers G-d has put away for us we will get something else that we need or want, something that might even be more important than toys.
4. Be a role model:
Children do what we do, not what we say. Let your children see you pray in a heartfelt manner. Bring them to shul, or just let them see you pray as you light Shabbos candles. Keep prayer books handy. You can also share insights about prayer and stories about the power of prayer around your Shabbos table.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.