Praying with Children in the Altar
A child’s experience with prayer can help to mold them into an effective prayer. If done correctly it will open the child up to a beautiful relationship with God where they feel safe to communicate with Him and become skilled in praying for their needs and the needs of the world. If done incorrectly it can cause a child to fear prayer time, coming to church, or talking to God.
Simply put, prayer is communication with God. Prayer is not just going through a wish list of needs or wants, getting a blessing, yelling loudly or for long periods of time. Often our humanness can add emotion and drama to our prayer that makes it appear to be more powerful or more effective. On the reverse side, we may pray with boldness and intercession where God’s Spirit moves greatly causing people to say how “powerful” the experience was. Children often hear these responses. The problem is if the only time they hear “powerful” is during these loud, bold times then subtly we can communicate to them that good prayers have to be loud and boisterous. This can make it difficult for them to emulate, especially if they are a shy, quiet child. In training kids to pray, be sure to teach them what the fundamentals of prayer are and let God lead them to how it affects them emotionally.
Children’s prayers are often are very simple and to the point. Children can be playing one minute and interceding for a lost nation the next. For many adults, it’s not as easy to transition that quickly and it may seem like these kids are just playing or pretending. Please keep in mind that a child’s spiritual level cannot be measured according to an adult’s level. Children don’t have a lot of extra thoughts or worries on their minds that become hindrances in prayer; they just pray and then get on to what they were doing. Their prayers in these times are still effective.
Please keep in mind the core fundamentals of prayer when working with children in prayer times.
·Prayer is simply talking to God just like you talk to a friend. You don’t need big King James words or phrases.
·Prayer doesn’t have to be loud to be effective. It’s good to be bold, but boldness is more about utilizing the authority of God as opposed to having volume.
·Prayer doesn’t have to be long to be effective. Kids will learn to pray longer periods of time after they get used to praying and become trained in what to pray and how.
·Prayer must agree with the Word of God.
As children get used to praying we also should encourage them to be bold and yield themselves to times of intercession; this is scriptural. Don’t assume that the first few times they pray that they will pray “fire down from heaven” in a dramatic way. Let them pray. Let them find safety in their prayer time. The boldness and intercession will come as they feel this safety and begin opening up to God and are encouraged through training.
At the altar
Children need the Holy Spirit; it was promised to them in the book of Acts. In most churches, children pray for this salvation experience around the altar during church services or in children’s crusades. Often people gather around them to pray with them and encourage them to seek after this gift. However, this experience can be traumatic for a child if not done in the proper manner, and can cause a child to hesitate going to the altar again.
Jesus loves children. He invited them to “come” to Him. He did not force them, push them, or pull them against their will. He wanted them to come to Him when they were ready and when they did, He was gentle and kind.
Often a person’s zeal to see a child filled with the Holy Spirit can cause them to be overbearing or slightly pushy. They may put their hands on them and shake them, push their head back, push their bodies down or yell towards them. This can be very distracting and scary for a child to the point they can’t focus on their worship and praying, much less yield themselves to God’s Spirit.
How to pray with a child in the altar:
* If you don’t know who they are, ask their name and find out what they are praying for.
* Have them close their eyes so they can focus their attention on praying instead of what’s going on around them.
* Make sure the child doesn’t have candy, food or gum in their mouths.
* Have tissue handy. Many kids end up needing some in the altar and can get self-conscious if they don’t have any and may quit praying.
* Get on the same level as them so you are not towering above them. Get eye-to-eye where they feel more comfortable.
* Repent with them. If they don’t know how to repent, then explain to them and then lead them in a follow-after-me method.
* Explain to them how easy it is to receive God’s Spirit. Explain how speaking in tongues is something they don’t have to be afraid of and when it happens they won’t understand what they are saying, just like when they started talking as babies. Make it exciting.
* Have the child ask God for the gift of His Spirit.
* Speak in child-aged terms that they can understand. Don’t expect kids to know big words such as “revelation”, “anointing” or “shekinah glory” or what terms such as “just let go” or “reach out to God” or “fire of God” mean. Some of those terms they may take literally and become confused.
* If you use the term “Holy Ghost” then explain that it is God’s Spirit, not a real ghost. Some kids don’t understand that and we take for granted they do. If a child gets tired, allow them to sit down and rest. They can pray sitting down if they wish. When they are done, tell them what a great job they did and how much God loved spending time with them and hearing them.
* If a child gets in a cycle of repeating the same words and they are not progressing, tell them to talk to God with different words of praise. Encourage them to keep their mouths open and not worry about what words or non-words come out. Remind them that there is no wrong way to speak in tongues.
* When they are done praying ask them what happened and if they received the Holy Spirit. If they did not, encourage them to keep seeking after it and that they can even receive it at home.
* Some children get excited when they pray and they may shout, jump, or laugh. If this happens, join in with them and share their experience with them.
* Use breath mints.
* Always be positive.
How NOT to pray with a child in the altar:
* Don’t have a child repeat a phrase you give them in efforts to hear them speak in tongues; God will give them the ability.
* Don’t have them just repeat one or two word or phrases over and over.
* Any physical contact should be limited to a gentle touch on the head, hands, back or shoulder.
* Don’t have several people talking to the child at once. One person should give direction and that person should keep their eyes open so they can see what’s happening with the child. Others can pray and worship around the child as support.
* Don’t just assume a child is praying for the Holy Spirit.
* Don’t expect the child to cry; some children don’t.
* Don’t lift up the child’s arms so high or for so long that they are uncomfortable. People aren’t required to have their hands raised to be filled with God’s Spirit or have God touch them.
* Don’t expect them to pray for long periods of time. If they are seeking the Holy Ghost and they aren’t progressing then additional time and teaching may be necessary for them to be ready to receive it.
* Don’t tell a child that they spoke in tongues or received the Holy Spirit. Let them tell you what happened to them.
* Don’t use scare-tactics such as threats of the child going to hell.
General praying in the altar
Children can pray in the altar for renewal, a touch of God, direction from God, or have times of intercession. It’s important for children to know that they have freedom to do this as a child and that they can have an altar experience that goes beyond just praying for the Holy Spirit.
If there are groups of children praying, encourage boys to pray with the boys and girls to pray with the girls. It’s often in these times that children will embrace each other and it would be inappropriate for boys and girls to be hugging on each other.
Children can pray in different ways. Some children like to sit on the floor individually or in groups. Some like to kneel down at their seat. Others like to stand in groups. In times of deep intercession they may lie down on the floor and weep into the carpet. These are all proper methods of prayer and adults should give children the opportunity to pray as they feel led. Just because some kids are jumping around worshipping doesn’t mean that another child doesn’t feel led to kneel down and cry. Let children follow what God is leading them to do.
The main thing
The most important thing in any altar service is enjoy the experience and let God be in charge. We can pray loud, run, jump, shout, cry, and pray three hours but in the end, the most important this is if people are changed and God was glorified. If He wants to move a certain way then His Spirit will be there to help. Let the children enjoy the experience so they will want to come back for more and keep building their relationship with God in prayer.
Read more kids prayer training tips in the book “Therefore, I Train.”
Get your prayer guide on how to pray for children!
WNOP Kids & Youth Prayer Coordinator
Contact us if you wish to have Kids/Youth Prayer training in your church or district!
From: www.kidsprayer.com web site. September 2015.
The above article, “Praying with Children in the Alter” was written by Colleen Clabaugh. The article was excerpted from www.kidsprayer.com.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”