Prayer is so important that one of Jesus’ disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:2-4 NIV). It was not enough to watch Jesus pray and just do as He did. Jesus also gave detailed instructions in Matthew 6:5-13. Prayer is important for many reasons; one is that it affects the quality of your life.
Who taught you to pray? How old were you? Does it seem you have always known, or was prayer left out of your childhood? Experts disagree about the number and types of prayer, but two types often taught to children are meal-time blessings and bed-time prayers. If prayer was left out of your childhood or it has been a long time since you prayed, start with these two.
In Matthew 26:26, Jesus gave thanks for their meal. Traditional table blessings today are often simple so that they can easily be recited by everyone in the family. In some families, a person of honor or guest is asked to say grace. Individuals may fold their hands, close their eyes, and bow their heads, or they may hold hands with the people sitting next to them. Some parents keep their eyes open, so they can see what their children are really doing during the prayer.
The prayers you were taught as a child will always be the “right ones” done the “correct way.” One traditional meal blessing is “For that which we are about to receive, God make us truly thankful. Amen.” Another is “God is great, and God is good. Let us thank him for our food. By His blessings (or His hands) we are fed. Thank you, Lord, for our daily bread.” A prayer attributed to John Wesley is “Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. Thy creatures bless (or These mercies bless), and grant that we may feast in paradise (or fellowship) with Thee.” A prayer attributed to Martin Luther is “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and may our meal by you be blessed.” Before the amen, many people add, “In Jesus’ name we pray.”
Simple prayers may have different versions. Martin Luther’s prayer may also be “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Our morning joy, our evening rest, and with our daily bread impart, your love and peace to every heart. Bless our loved ones everywhere, and keep them in Thy loving care.” Some people have prayers for special occasions such as birthdays or holidays. Some people say grace when they eat in restaurants. Ask the senior members of your family for the traditional prayers used in the past so that those prayers can be part of the family heritage.
Children can also learn bed-time prayers as part of a soothing routine. These prayers may include a list. An English prayer is “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. God bless…” and then follows the list of names of parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, teachers, people needing prayer, and even pets. Another prayer is “Now I lay me down to sleep. I ask the Lord my soul to keep. May God guard me through the night and wake me with the morning light (or Angels watch me through the night and wake me with the morning light).” Some parents add a saying such as “Good night! Good night! See you in the morning light!”
Parents improve the quality of their children’s lives by teaching simple meal-time and bed-time prayers. This is a life-long blessing. As an adult, you can remember or research and learn childhood prayers, providing you with a “foundation built on the rock” (Matthew 7:25). Prayer should be an important part of everyone’s life.