St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church


St. Bart's Blog

How to Pray with Your Children

Posted by Alex Howard on

The fundamentals of prayer center around “thank you” and often, “help.” Prayer is an opportunity to thank God for the grace bestowed upon us. Prayers of gratitude bring to the forefront of our consciousness all that we have. And how abundant the love of Jesus Christ is. When our prayers are a plea for help, we are reminded that all that we do, we do with God’s help. Christians and Jews end prayers with a declarative, Amen, which in Hebrew means “firm.” It is nearly the same for Muslims, who use the related Arabic word “Amin.” Think of it as a strong YES. Let it be so.

Saying “blessings” before meals is our family practice every night before dinner. If I am honest, it is not always intentional or thoughtful. Each of my family members has their own standard go-to prayer. My daughter tends to rush through hers. “Thank you for this Lord. Thank you for this Christ. Thank you for this beautiful day. Amen.” She has been saying this since she was five-years-old. We have never asked her to change it in any way. I once asked her what she would say if Father Mark was here having dinner with us, what would her prayer sound like? It remained the same, with a bonus line of, ‘Thank you for our guest.” Prayer truly does not require much.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving this may be the day of big prayer of gratitude for many. How do we invite everyone to participate in a prayer of Thanksgiving? Let me offer a few options:

  • Friends and family are a great resource for collecting graces and blessings from other cultures and religious traditions, which can be a great way “in” to this universal and timeless tradition. This year, you could crowd-source your Thanksgiving dinner blessing using a simple template ( from Episcopal priest Kyle Oliver, whose Creative Commons Prayer website has all kinds of engaging multimedia prayers. Asking children to collect prayers while folks are socializing before the meal provides an opportunity for engagement.
  • Sybil MacBeth, the creator of one of my favorite prayer practices, Praying in Color ( has some fun turkey templates you could use for gratitude prayers.
  • A favorite of many is everyone holding hands around the table and add the invitation to each person to name something for which they are thankful. Cultivating a practice of gratitude, a habit of noticing and naming what we are thankful for is of profound benefit to our physical, spiritual and emotional health.

Pray in whatever way works for you and your family, pray when you can, and where you can. Pray for what you need, what your loved ones need, what the world needs. Give thanks, give praise, give your heart. Do you have a family tradition of prayer? I would love to know what it is! I hope you will share it with me.