Should We Teach Unbelieving Children To Pray?

March 5, 2008

I wonder if you’ve ever considered this question. Should we treat unbelieving children as believers or unbelievers in our homes? I pondered this question not long after our first daughter (Emeline) was born when someone asked me if I was going to teach our children to pray, even ask them to pray, prior to a confession of faith in Jesus where it appears clear that faith is authentic. Though my daughter has yet to make the kind of confession of faith that is rehearsed in many churches today (think “sinners prayer”), she often expresses to us her desire to “go to heaven and be with Jesus” and “obey because this pleases God”.

 Why should we teach her to pray? Because we are instructing her in a what it means to love and obey Jesus. We are teaching her, by modeling and encouraging prayer, that God is a constant companion who is trustworthy and good. Recently we’ve begun to hear Emeline pray this prayer, completely unprompted, while driving in the car: “God, thank you for everything that you have made for your glory. Please give me a new heart that I can love and obey you. In Jesus Name. Amen.” I know the expressions of the prayer have come from our instruction and modeling this kind of request. This is a good prayer from the mouth of an almost four-year old!

 John Piper has some helpful thoughts about this subject. Here is one of the main reasons he says we should teach unbelieving children to pray:

I don’t know when a child is born again. I don’t assume that a child must become a blatant rebellious unbeliever before he is regenerated. He can start to believe at a young age. And because he can believe at a young age, and because I can’t tell precisely when his faith becomes his own and authentic, I don’t want to wait too long before I start treating him as a believer.

%d bloggers like this: