Teaching Your Kids to Pray Without Them Knowing It

Night after night, gathered round the table, it was the same: NO!

We begged, pleaded and implored our 3 year old to take her turn to pray for one of the countries in the book, Window On The World , a nightly ritual we value. After defiance and non-participation, we just worked our way around her. Ignoring the protests and the attitude. When couldn’t make her pray, after all, and trying to talk her into it was just distracting our older kids and frustrating to us.

So, we did nothing. Except continue to take turns praying aloud, around her.

Then something amazing happened around our dinner table.

One night, after my hubby had stated the country statistics and needs, he asked who wanted to pray the quick prayer for the country of the night. Our toddler stood up, “Me! Me!”

She mumbled something that didn’t make much sense and ended it with a loud, “Amen!”

We all smiled under our napkins at the significance of the moment.

Her desire wasn’t born from force. She simply watched and decided on her own that she wanted to be like her example, her family.

Our 3 year begs to lead our family in prayer nearly every night. And, of course, she often throws in attitude and strong-will just for effect.

I didn’t realize we were teaching her to pray.

But it makes me think about all the other character traits we are teaching our children, even when we don’t know it.

*Updated: last week my parents dropped off their dogs for us to watch for a few days, so they could go out of town and my little girl grabbed their hands to form a circle and said a quick prayer that they would have a safe trip! It was so sweet.

(darling headbands for sale in The Mercy Shop)


  1. 1


    You are so right. That is something that we fail at miserably in our family….praying and eating together as a family. Pray that we can make some positive changes and rid ourselves of the bad habits we have formed.

  2. 3


    I recently wrote a post about this book on my own website. I LOVE this book. I love how much it is growing in my sons, especially my 8 year old, an understanding of the needs all over the world–and how he is motivated to pray for those countries now even without my asking! And I love that our little ones who don’t understand much at this point about what is going on are still understanding that there are spiritual rituals and disciplines in our families–and little by little, they are embracing those disciplines. (Of course, sadly, they are also adopting qualities that are of lesser-value as well…sigh…they so do learn by watching us!!) Thanks for your post.

  3. 4


    You’ve got a little prayer warrior! That is AWESOME!!

    Nearly every day during our prayer for dinner, my three year old adds “thank you for the good nappy!”. This because one day a couple of weeks ago we were all having an absolutely horrible day and during our lunch time prayer I prayed…well, begged really…for a good nap time so everyone could have a good evening. Everyone woke up with a much better attitude thus the thanks at the dinner table. Now it’s something my girl-child always thanks God for…whether she took a nap or not! :)

  4. 5

    Marni says

    When my oldest was very young we went to dinner once and told him to say “thank you” and he said “thanks”. Which sounds silly, but we never taught him, and then we watched, I am the only one who says thanks. He learned by watching me, not by being told. Great post.

  5. 11


    Oh isn’t this the truth … we lie in bed at night and say bedtime prayers in the dark… one big bedroom!!! Oldest to youngest… and really the oldest prays and the next one and the next one… and eventually there is a night when there is a new youngest prayer partner in the room saying: “yank-yu for da luvli daya AMEN”. Here’s another one whenever I step out the door in the morning I say: “Thank-you God for another beautiful day…” My kids do it too now and mean it!!! Every time they are in beautiful space they are not shy to say “Thank-you God…” I love it – teaching them to walk in his ways without sitting at a desk!!!

  6. 12

    Kirstine says

    When my eldest son was two, we started asking what he was thankful for before dinner. Each person around the table would say something (like “this meal”, “our family”, “our new car”, “a great day” and so on) and my husband would include all the thank-yous in a prayer. It worked really well – my son often thanking God for Lightning McQueen, his friends, the salami and Daddy’s job.

    Then one day when he was three he stopped his father before he could say the prayer: “No, I wanna do it!” And he solemnly said the prayer including all our thank-yous. I was stunned – we had taught him to pray out loud, without knowing it.

  7. 13


    love this post! any time my husband or i does not feel well, we ask the kids to pray for us…even though their toddlers still, they get that it’s supposed to make us feel better…

  8. 15


    Great post!

    Every evening, our oldest daughter looks forward to leading us in prayer over our dinner. If Daddy is off work and HE leads the prayer, she begs to pray after him. Our youngest has caught on and, usually, won’t touch her utensils until someone has prayed, then says a big hearty AMEN at the end lol

    Love those headbands! We ordered one for each of our girls and I can’t wait for them to arrive!!

  9. 17

    Lorie says

    I was listening to a John Piper sermon recently, there’s a whole parenting series, where he was talking about prayer. Basically he was saying the best way to teach your children to pray is to let them hear YOU pray, let them hear you ask for forgiveness for your sins, let them hear you pray for others, let them hear you praise Him, let them hear you thank Him, etc. This is a great example of that. This is awesome!

  10. 18


    We’ve always said grace and evening prayers. One thing I’ve always done is that when I see an ambulance or firetruck screaming down the road …or see a wreck, I’d always say to the kids….say a prayer for God to protect them, etc. I’ve never really thought about it. It is just something I do and if the kids were in the car, I’d ask them to pray too. Fast forward…my kids are now 12 & 14. The other day I was talking to my daughter in the car. As I was making a point, a firetruck that was in front of us turned on its lights and siren and went screaming down toward the interstate. I said “oh Kaela (intending to continue the conversation…) she said “Oh mom, let’s quickly pray for whoever that firetruck is going to rescue. That old adage “Children learn what they live” is sooooooooo appropriate.

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    While he can’t talk, our 19 month old will happily sit at the table picking at his food until all of us are seated. Then he stops, folds his hands and gestures at me. We pray as a family and then go on eating our meal. He often stops several times to fold his hands again… which has reminded me of our constant need to pray always. (hmmm… that sounds like a Bible verse!) I love how God teaches us through our children.

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