8 Ways to Teach Your Baby to Pray

This is part of a nine part series on how you can introduce the faith to your children.  Today’s post focuses on teaching your children to pray.

Prayer is one of the most important aspects of our faith.  It is how we talk to God.  We bring our troubles before Him, we listen to His reply and guidance, and we ask for help for those we care about.  It is one of those things we can be and should be doing daily.  And yet, for some of us it seems so hard!  It is like a good habit that we have to get in to.  So of course we want to make prayer a central focus of our family, and we want to teach our children to pray from the beginning.  Even when your children are still babies, here are some easy ways to incorporate prayer into their lives.

Bedtime Prayer

There’s not a single parenting book on the market that doesn’t advocate establishing a bedtime routine early on.  This becomes a perfect way to introduce your baby to prayers from the start.  We like to sing the Lord’s Prayer every night before bed.

In addition, we sing the words of “Now I Lay Me” to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  The traditional “Now I Lay Me” prayer is a little morbid, so we use the following words:

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

Guard me Jesus through the night*

And wake me with the morning light

*Or – “Your love be with me through the night”

We then follow it with, “God bless Mommy, Daddy, Maggie (our dog), and me.”  On nights when we see our extended family, we add them into the list.  However we don’t do this every night because Bugaboo has so many aunts, uncles, and cousins it would take forever.

Praying before bed is a great way to start out because it helps establish a bedtime routine and creates a habit.  As our children grow, they will learn that one of the best ways to end the day is in prayer.  As adults, we like to fall asleep praying.  My husband says, “the angels will finish your prayers.”

Sing Your Prayers

We sing our bedtime prayers, because we believe it will help our Bugaboo learn the words better.  I discovered this trick when we had our foster care twins.  We had been working so hard to help them learn to speak.  Princess was beginning to show progress, and Bo tended to learn from her.  One day as I was doing dishes, I heard him singing very clearly, “Clean up clean up.”  This was huge for him!  From that moment on, we started to sing as much as we could, including our bedtime prayers. 

Meal Time

Pray at meal time.  This is something I struggle with myself.  My husband is a great leader in our family – he makes sure we pray before we eat even if we are eating out.  But we eat about 75% of our meals away from each other, and so the burden falls on me.  If I say grace before a meal, it is a great way to interact with Bugaboo while showing her our faith.  It was wonderful to see her start to catch on to the prayer – her little eyes would light up in recognition.  Later on, she started folding her hands, mimicking us.  The next step in praying at meal times with her is to show her that we wait to eat until the prayer is said.

Bless us, O Lord, for these thy gifts which we are about to receive

From thy bounty, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Pray All Day Long

You can pray at other times during the day as well.  Consider praying with your toddler every time you hear sirens or see an ambulance pass – pray for the people in the ambulance.  Pray as a family when you get in the car to drive somewhere – even to the store.  Purchase a child’s rosary and pray the rosary around her while she teethes on it.

Pray While Nursing

It’s so easy to get bored and distracted while nursing.  That’s how so many moms end up distracted on their smart phones.  Instead of reaching for your phone, say a prayer.  If you are nursing your baby and want her to stay awake, pray out loud.  This will continue to teach her to pray.  If you want your baby to sleep, pray silently.  Perhaps pray over her.  Pray for her to grow in faith and for God to watch over her physically and spiritually every day of her life.  Although she will not hear the prayer and learn to pray that way, she will reap the blessings.

Pray When You Are Frustrated

Being a parent can be a difficult thing, and I think being a stay at home mom can make it feel harder at times.  There are times when Bugaboo is struggling to escape me while I’m changing her dirty diaper that I feel I have reached my limit.  Or when Bugaboo is feeling clingy and I just want to finish whatever I’m doing.  Don’t allow the stress of the moment to overrun you.  Instead, say a prayer for peace and calm.  Pray aloud to teach your baby that she can pray to God when times are tough in her life.

Use Your Own Words to Pray

As Catholics, we have a rich example of prayers that are already worded for us.  Some prayers come directly from the Bible.  Others were worded by great saints.  No matter where they come from, I love to use written prayers because they are tried and true.  Just because the words were originally someone else’s doesn’t mean we can’t make them our own.  However, because we have so many of these wonderful prayers doesn’t mean we should only use them.

Teach your children to come up with prayers with their own words.  When you are with your baby, pray in your own words.  As your child grows, ask her to make up prayers as well.  Teach her that prayer isn’t just about asking for things, either.  Use A.C.T.S to help remember how to develop a prayer:

  • Adoration – praise God.  Use the words of the Psalms to come up with some good phrases to use to help you get started.
  • Confession – say we are sorry for the things we have done that are wrong
  • Thanksgiving – thank God for the blessings in our lives
  • Supplication – ask for the things they want

Don’t let her homemade prayers become another instance of memorized prayer.  Challenge your child to change it up every week or so, perhaps based on the seasons and happenings in your life.

Example Prayers

If you struggle to think of some good prayers to start saying to your baby, here is a list of some of my favorites.  Each prayer is wonderful in its own right, and you can alternate which prayers you use in different situations.  As your child grows, they all become opportunities to learn about the faith.  Here are some Example Prayers you can say at home.

Lord’s Prayer

Not only is the Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father” a staple in Christian living, it was given to us by Jesus himself.  We say it every week at church.  It’s fairly short, and it’s a great prayer to start teaching prayer with.

Our Father who art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

*For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours now and forever.

Amen.

*The doxology is said weekly at church but not at the same time as the prayer.  It is sometimes found in Matthew 6:13b, but the oldest versions of the Bible do not have this portion.  Most Protestants will add the doxology when they say the Lord’s Prayer.

Rosary

The Rosary is a Catholic devotion comprised of prayers that celebrate the life of Jesus.  Every day of the week, different mysteries or occurrences in Jesus’ life, are meditated upon.  The actual prayers of the rosary are the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and the Creed (listed below).   Saying the entire rosary takes about 20 minutes and may be a long prayer to introduce to young children.  Start by teaching them the components and then practice saying one decade per day.  Bonus – this is a great way to learn to count to 10!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be

World without end.  Amen.

Because the Rosary is truly a Catholic prayer, it is easier to recommend a website devoted to teaching you about the rosary and how to pray it.

Guardian Angel

It is wonderful to teach your child about her guardian angel, and it can be very comforting to know the angels are watching over your baby.  We were given a great board book, “All About Angels” which introduces your baby to the concept of a guardian angel and teaches her the prayer.  Bugaboo loves to look at the pictures of the crosses throughout the book.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,

To whom God’s love commits me here

Ever this day be at my side

To guard, protect, to rule, and guide.  Amen.

Litany of the Saints

I like to sing the Litany of the Saints with my daughter as we are going to bed.  I choose for my list all the saints in our family – first names, middle names, and Communion names.  All in all, this gives me about five names to work with, although the list could grow.  Here’s how we would say it, you can substitute your own favorite saints:

St. John the Apostle – pray for us

St. Peter and St. Tabitha – pray for us

St. Margaret of Cortona – pray for us

St. Pius the Tenth – pray for us

All you holy men and women pray for us

Lord have mercy – hear our prayer

Christ have mercy – hear our prayer

Father in heaven – hear our prayer

Holy Spirit – hear our prayer

Christ Jesus, Lord Jesus – hear our prayer

You could literally go on and on, bringing your prayers before God in a short, reverent song.

St. Francis Prayer

My husband and I would say this prayer every night while dating.  I think the words and concepts are easy enough for a young child.  Once again, you can sing this as a song or chant – I love the Ragamuffin Band version.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred let me sow love.  Where there is injury, pardon, and where there is doubt, then faith.

O Divine Master grant that I may never seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, and to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we have received, it is in pardoning that we have been pardoned, and it is in dying that we have been born to eternal life.  Amen.

The Creed

For children, the Creed may not feel so much like a prayer as a statement of beliefs.  It is an important part of the faith and said every Sunday at church.  As such, it is a great tool to teach your children.  But if you think deeper, the Creed is a prayer as well.  We can use it to meditate on what we believe and why we believe it.  It is a prayer to confirm us in our faith and give us strength to meet the challenges the world throws at us.  There are two types of creeds: the Nicene Creed which is said at mass every week and the Apostle’s Creed which is shorter and may be easier for children to learn.

Chaplet of Divine Mercy

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a newer devotion said using Rosary Beads.  However, the prayers used are shorter than those for the Rosary, so it takes less than 10 minutes to say.  What I love about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is that it is like breathing a prayer of mercy to the world and all that it entails: mercy, compassion, forgiveness, love, understanding.  I feel like I’m praying for God to come down and give the entire world a giant group hug.

Although the entire chaplet is longer and more complicated, the main prayers of the chaplet are as follows:

For the sake of His sorrowful passion

Have mercy on us and on the whole world.

 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity

of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ,

in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

 

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One

Have mercy on us and on the whole world.

 


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