Dear Dr. Bill,
I’ve taught my 7-year-old daughter to use prayer in her life. I want her to understand that prayer can help us keep close to God and that we talk to God whenever we need answers.
But recently I discovered that my little girl is using prayer for everything — including things like her wish to go to the movies or win a game she’s playing with her friends! I’ve tried to explain to her about praying with a pure heart. I don't want to discourage her faith, but at the same time I don’t want her to misuse prayer. What do you suggest I say to her?
That’s a great question. I appreciate your dedication to teaching your child an accurate, biblical view of prayer.
It’s important to realize that at 7, your daughter isn’t able to comprehend some of the nuances of prayer that adults are able to grasp. In fact, many adults have an immature understanding of prayer themselves, viewing God as some sort of “cosmic vending machine” who will dispense blessings to us if we simply ask him.
I’d encourage you not to criticize your daughter for her misapplication of prayer. Instead, praise her for making prayer a central part of her life. Explain to her that one of the main purposes of prayer is to conform us to the image of Christ, not to get the things that we want.
It might be helpful for you to read the Lord’s Prayer with your daughter, as found in Matthew, chapter 6. Jesus provided that prayer as a model for us, teaching us how to pray and what to pray for.
By the way, author Eugene Peterson has written an illustrated children’s book that will help your daughter learn how Jesus used prayer. It’s entitled “My First Message: Stories of Jesus.”
Thanks for writing Brian. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.