TEACHING TODDLERS TO PRAY: An Interview with Alisha Terry, Mother of Six

IMG_2407-7005“Our kids pray out loud at every meal and at bedtime, and when they have wronged someone and are asking for forgiveness.”- Alisha Terry

Over the next few weeks I will be interviewing friends and acquaintances who have been teaching their children to pray. When I sent out these questions I assumed I could learn something from these mothers, when I started receiving replies I realized the variety and creativity I was taping into. I hope you enjoy these interviews and are as inspired as I am.

In this first interview with veteran mother and childhood friend of mine, Alisha Terry, I was most struck with their family tradition of praying and asking forgiveness from God rather than just saying “sorry” to a parent or sibling who was wronged.

Let me introduce you to the Terry family:

Amy: How many children do you have and how old are they? Where do you and your family go to church and what is your involvement there? 

Alisha: We have six kids ages 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, and 8 months.

We attend Riverstone church in Kennesaw, GA. We attend a small group and have served in various ways throughout the 8 years we’ve been there, but mostly in areas of hospitality and children’s church. Right now, Aaron and the older two kid holds doors for people and greet them as they come in for church on Sunday morning, and I lead a small group of 1st and 2nd grade girls at one of our two services. We attend the first one, and I serve at the second one while Aaron takes the kids home. Staying for two services is WAY too long of a day for little little ones.

Amy: When did you start praying out loud for your children or in front of your children at home?

From the day they were born.

We pray together with them at night, and pray over them at night and randomly throughout the day. We also pray when the kids do things to hurt or offend a sibling or parent. WE say sorry to the person hurt, but also to God because we teach the kids that our sin not only hurts the people in your life, but also God.

Amy: What are some of your daily or weekly traditions regarding prayer as a family? When do you pray? What do you say?

Alisha: We pray at all our meals and at bedtime, and again, randomly throughout the day. Our prayer at a meal is done by a child and might sound like this:

“Dear God/Jesus/Holy Spirit/Heavenly Father, we love you and we thank you for the way that you love us. help us to walk in the fruits of the spirit (they usually list them out, which is kind of cute but also not when you’re hungry), bless this food, and other random prayer requests.”

We pray with the kids, pretty much just as we would pray with an adult. I think that talking and praying with your kids in a dumbed down way is not helpful. Kids absorb a lot, so we sort of talk to them like they’re older than they are. We try and bless the kids a lot, blessing them with things that we see or want to see in them. Maybe I might say something like this for Lucas “I bless you with the ability to lead with compassion and grace for those that look up to you.” FOr Isaac, “I bless you to see people the way that God sees them. To show love to others the way that God has shown his love to you.” For Abby, I know I have prayed blessings of Joy and that she would have joy overflowing and joy that would spill over on to all that she comes into contact with. Etc, etc! You get the idea.

Amy: Have you done anything intentional to teach your children to pray?

Alisha: We model it for them, and when they’re young, we say bite sized bits and have them repeat.

Amy: Does your child/do your children pray out loud? What do they say? When do they pray?

Alisha: Our kids pray out loud at every meal and at bedtime, and when they have wronged someone and are asking for forgiveness.

A repentant type of prayer might go something like this, “Jesus forgive me for valuing my car over my relationship with _____. Help me to treat others the way I want to be treated, and help me to be loving.”

I don’t want the kids to just say “Im sorry I took your car” and move on. Why did they do it, what really happens when they do something like that, What does it say to your brother when you take whatever you want whenever you want, etc.

Do you want to get more ideas on teaching your kids about God? Do you want the latest on Amy’s art and children’s books? Subscribe here. 

Published by Amy Louise Negussie

Writer, pastor, and community creator passionate about helping urban people connect to one another, self, and God. Amy lives in Chicago with her boys (1 husband, 2 sons, and 1 dog) walking distance to Wrigley Field (go Cubbies!).

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