“teach us to pray”

Lord, teach us to pray. Luke 11:1a

We like to define prayer as “talking to and listening to God” or “having a conversation with God”. Between a social media post and a “one-on-one” today my imagination was sparked on this. How do we learn how to do this? Or is it something we just know to do?

It made me ask myself the question, “When we are children how did we learn to have conversations?” I’m not an expert in the matter but being the oldest of nine children and a father of four of my own children I’ve noticed a few things about how children learn to communication and have conversations. 

  1. They learn by watching and copying. We’ve all seen the child today pretending to be having a conversation on the toy phone they are playing with. Where do they learn that? They learn by observing and mimicking. As pastors we can teach people to pray by showing them what faith filled, powerful prayer looks like.
  2. Children actually learn conversation skills from adults reading to them. It increases their vocabulary, strengthens bonds and builds cognitive skills. We can go to the scriptures for examples of prayers we can pray. Paul’s prayers are powerful templates of prayers and of course Jesus Himself gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Praying scripture and other written prayers gives us a pattern for our own personal prayers.
  3. Children learn to communicate by playing and practicing. Similar to the first point children learn to copy a behavior that they see us do. Away from us they learn to develop deeper communication skills with practice. We can see this in our world today with people preferring to text versus talk on the phone. We are out of practice. If we want people to learn to pray they have to do some in situations where the stakes aren’t high. Have them pray in small group situations. The more we do it, the more comfortable we become. 


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