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Engaging Children in Intercessory Prayer

Those of you who know me will know that I have a number of soap boxes that I stand on for a while in a desire to see us grow into all God has for us. One of our recent soap boxes has been the need to get children stuck into the word of God. (You can read some of the blogs here and here). This focus led to the birthing of The Bible Experience, to allow children to get an overview of the whole Bible while experiencing the God of the Bible.

Intercessors Needed

So it is time for another soapbox: Where have the prayer meetings for children gone? In these days it is so key that we are fully preparing our children to be in the world but not of the world. There are many parts to this, but prayer meetings are a key place where children can catch the spirit of prayer. Many churches have strong times of praise, Bible teaching and fellowship for their children, but times of prolonged prevailing prayer are conspicuous by their absence.

Twenty years ago there were many prayer meetings taking place among the next generation in multiple settings and streams of the church. In recent times, however, this has been a less prominent part of children's ministry; yet some of the greatest spiritual growth and breakthroughs for children takes place when they learnt to bring requests to God, persist and see Him answer as they brought heaven to earth. Indeed, many of the incredible stories in the Josiah generation were birthed in Revival Prayer Meetings as we led children for up to four hours at a time to cry out to God.

Children's prayers are as powerful as adults' (perhaps more so as they have a head start on child-like faith). Is it time for the next generation of watchman to arise? Surely in this time of moral, spiritual and political confusion, now is the right time to call this generation of children to intercessory prayer.

Communal Prayer

We have long been proponents of encouraging children to grow in their prayer life at home and we still hold to this. (One suggested aim is to encourage children to pray for as many minutes a day as they are years old to help them kick-start their prayer lives.) Now I believe there is an urging from the Holy Spirit, to once more intentionally call children together to pray. In doing so they see they are part of something bigger and can pray bigger bolder prayers, inspired by seeing that what God is speaking to them, He is also speaking to others.

Not only is communal prayer a powerful way to grow in prayer, it is also something that grabs God’s intention as believers pray in unity. Whenever the early church met they prayer. Acts 2:42 puts it this way: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

We see some of this worked out in more detail when Peter was sent to prison. In Acts 12:5-12 we read that constant prayer was offered (verse 5) and that many were gathered together to pray (verse 12) when Peter knocked on the door.

The Christian life was not intended to be a solitary life, but a communal one, where we are in fellowship with the Holy Spirit and each other. What better place is this expression worked out than in a prayer meeting?

When children see God answering their prayers it increases their faith in God. In intercession children learn to use God’s Word as a sword, they hear God speaking to them, they encounter the Holy Spirit. These answers to prayer become evidence of the unseen God at work in their lives and so He becomes more clearly seen. Past victories won through persevering prayer act as faith fuel for present challenges.

What should this intercessory prayer look like?

  1. Prayer should be fervent and earnest. This kind of passionate prayer from a pure heart is effective to move God’s hand. James 5:16-17.

  2. Prayer should be in line with God’s word. 1 John 5:14 tells us that we should pray according to God’s will. God’s will is revealed in his word and his word is powerful, Hebrews 4:12.

  3. Prayer should be persistent – don’t give up at the first hurdle. Luke 8:1-8.

  4. Prayer takes place in the spiritual realm to bring God’s kingdom of heaven to earth. Luke 11:2; Ephesians 6:12-13.

This sounds like a lively prayer meeting, with clear direction, that engages with the spiritual realm and brings change to earth. Now that’s what I want to be a part of!

Some practical starter ideas

1. Make time

Create time in your weekly programme or monthly schedule for the children to be able to press in in prayer. This will take longer than five minutes and it may take courage to give it a go.

2. Engage generations

Having a prayer space where children can connect with God can be helpful, but more helpful still is to have space for children to engage with adult i

ntercessors and catch something of the spirit of prayer from the generation who has gone before. It may well be your church’s strongest intercessors are willing to come for a time to the children’s ministry to help the next generation catch the spirit of prayer. We like to take a children to participate with adult prayer times where they can as part of their growth.

3. Begin

Sometimes the thought of leading a prayer meeting is more daunting than the prayer meeting itself. Children would arrive for a half night of prayer with a look of trepidation, four hours later they left saying, “Was it really four hours, it only felt like a few minutes!”

Here are a couple of ideas that we have found to be greater starters for children who are new to praying with others.

Giving thanks

We will often stand in a circle with children and encourage them to take it in turns to take a step forward and say “Thank you God for …”. When all the children who want to have had a turn, we then explain how God can hear our prayers when we all pray at once – we are going to have an explosion of thankfulness to God. Then for the next minute or so we let the children take a step forward to thank God and step back again as many times as they want to. This usually results in a cacophony of thankfulness rising up to God.

Shouting praise

As we enter God’s gates with thanksgiving in our heart and his courts with praise, this time often leads into a cheer to God. Here a good football (soccer) analogy goes down well:

“If your team scores the winning goal in the world cup how would you respond?”

“If we can do that for a ball being kicked between two wooden posts, how much more can we cheer for the King of all who scored the winning goal against sin and death when he died on a wooden cross!”

Bringing requests

When leading a prayer time we will have specific topics to pray through, with fuel from Scripture to feed the prayers. Even if they prayer line is as basic as, ‘let’s wait on God to hear what he wants us to pray for,’ this is an important part of praying together.

Some have found value in providing prayer props, to help children focus in prayer, others have found it more beneficial just to go for it and flow with the Holy Spirit. Our style of praying is less important than that we actually press in for more of God’s kingdom in prayer.

4. Pause

During the prayer time it is good to pause and take time to teach on prayer. Sometimes we have seen a group of children who are flowing in prayer for one prayer topic start staring around the room as soon as the next one starts. When we pause and point this out, the children can reflect on how they found one topic harder to prayer for. This allows them to learn discernment and understand the spiritual nature of the battle we are engaged in when we intercede. When the battle is fiercest that’s when we need to engage the most. One saying that has come out from this is, ‘if your finding it hard to pray, pray harder.’

By pausing the prayer time to teach on prayer, listen to feedback from the children, give clarity for prayer direction you will keep everyone praying in the same direction.

5. Feedback

After a prayer time I like to make a few notes on the key themes we prayed for as the Holy Spirit led us. We usually don’t have to wait long before we see the beginnings of an answer to some of the prayers or even a complete breakthrough. All of this can be fed back to the children who in turn get to see God answering their prayers and find yet another reason to praise Him!

In Conclusion

All this is just some starter thoughts to stir us as we minister to the children and young people in our churches. Let’s not allow fervent, persistent, communal prayer to drop from the spiritual diet of our children.

However you do it, let’s gather together and pray.


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