Teaching children to pray

I had a sister at church ask me how I taught our adopted children to pray since we didn’t adopt them as babies. With each, it was a little bit different, but it was important to me to let them know from the first day that prayer was a part of our lives.

family praying

With Ben being profoundly deaf with no language, he had no idea what we were doing when we knelt down in our hotel room that first night for family prayer. He was a receptive four year old, however, to whatever we were doing, so he knelt down with us and just watched our signs even though they didn’t yet have any meaning to him.

With Micheline, it was a bit easier because she spoke Haitian Creole and I was functionally conversant in her language. I traveled alone to complete her adoption and planned to stay in Haiti until it was done. The first night she was with me I could tell that she was frightened. After all, she had met me through previous visits to her orphanage, but no one had prepared her for me to come and take her permanently. The home in which we were staying didn’t have a generator, so we seldom had electricity for more than an hour/day. (Welcome to Haiti!) That night as we prepared for bed by candlelight, I asked her “Ou gen pè?” which means “Are you afraid?” She silently nodded her head yes. She was at least familiar with the word God, because “Bondye bon” which means “God is good” is a commonly used expression in Creole. I took the opportunity to explain to her that even though she was safe with me — a woman she hardly knew — we could also pray to Bondye and he would answer our prayers with comfort and peace.

With Caleb, he only spoke Chinese and we only spoke English other than about 10 phrases. Nevertheless, we knelt down as a family that night in our hotel room (we had taken our 4 youngest children to China with us) and began to sign and speak our family prayer. Caleb thought this was pretty funny and began to mimic and mock our signs. We stopped and gently let him know through gestures that this was not acceptable. Even though he didn’t understand what we were doing, we wanted prayer to be an expected part of his daily routine.

Being from a Communist country, he had no understanding about God and Christ. As he grew in the English language, however, and as he watched movies in Mandarin Chinese about Christ that we had purchased from lds.org, his understanding greatly grew.

One thing we did with our children to teach them about prayer was to try and sing a song before we would pray. As a family we love music, and I feel that music conveys a feeling of the spirit like nothing else can.

Each of our children has come to an understanding of prayer at different times in their lives. My first four were taught prayer almost from birth; Ben and Micheline at age 4 and Caleb when he was 11. Each, however, has come to understand that they are children of a loving Father in Heaven who will listen to them and answer their pleadings if they are only willing to turn to Him.

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