5 Steps For Teaching Kids To Listen to God in Prayer

A couple of years ago, my husband and I became involved with a ministry to feed homeless people. We were considering different directions for the ministry’s future and the leader at the time came to our house for discussion. Preparing for this meeting, I made flowcharts and drafted some financial models. When the leader arrived, however, he asked if we could pray and just listen to what God had to tell each of us.

I truly started to panic. Did God talk to him so clearly on a regular basis that he knew he could just pray right now and hear an answer? Without considering my charts and financial models? I had no idea what I was supposed to do to hear God speak at that moment.

Our friend started praying: “Lord, please speak to each of us now…” and then paused. A couple of minutes passed like hours before he pierced the silence by asking, “What did you hear?” My husband and I sheepishly reported radio silence. I was, however, on pins and needles, waiting to hear how God spoke to our friend. He indeed had a strong feeling about the ministry’s direction that had developed over days of prayer.

He was able to hear God’s voice because he was used to listening. I was only used to talking.

That experience brought to light a sorely lacking spiritual discipline in my life: listening to God in prayer. It’s something I was never taught in church (or home), and I would venture to say most people aren’t. Your kids may never be introduced to this prayer discipline either if you don’t personally teach them.

Here are 5 practical steps for teaching kids to listen to God through prayer.

 

1.       Explain why listening is as important as talking.

“Personal relationship with Jesus” may be one of the most underexplained phrases in the Christian lexicon. We all know we should have a personal relationship with Jesus, we tell others they should have one and we want our kids to have one, but have we really considered how foreign that idea is to a new (child or adult) believer? Our earthly notion of “relationship” involves two people seeing, hearing, and touching each other. 99.999% of people have not seen, heard or touched Jesus. Thus, the concept of a “relationship” with Him is literally foreign to us – there are exactly zero models for it here on earth. We need to be mindful of this and explicitly give our kids guidance on how this “other worldly” relationship can and should look. Listening in prayer is a cornerstone of that relationship.

Explain to your kids that listening is as important as talking because it transforms prayer into the two-way communication needed for relationship; it’s the difference between writing mental letters to Jesus versus being “on the phone” with Him.

 

2.       Manage expectations.

Since God’s voice is usually not overly obvious, we need to provide guidance on what to expect and what not to expect from listening in prayer:

  • You probably will not hear God’s voice audibly. God’s voice in prayer tends to be in how He directs our thoughts during that quiet time.
  • It’s completely natural to wonder whether those thoughts are coming from God or from yourself. It is continued prayer and listening that distinguish God’s voice from our own.
  • God sometimes seems completely silent.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t there or that we should give up listening.  We have to rely on God’s timing and continue to pray.
  • God doesn’t usually answer our questions with the final answer. For example, asking God, “What should I do with my life?” rarely results in a crystal clear message about the end-game 40 years from now. God often holds our hand through baby steps rather than catapulting us to final answers. Listen for those next steps.

 

3.       Offer practical examples of how to listen during prayer.

We need to provide practical guidance on how to incorporate listening time into prayer. Here are two possibilities to introduce (there are many others):

  • Simply ask, “God, is there anything you would have me hear from you right now?” Then, be silent.
  • If there is something specific for which guidance is needed, ask the question, then be silent.

A natural question for someone new to this is how long one should remain silent. There is no right answer, but kids need to understand it is more than two seconds.

 

4.       Teach the importance of a scheduled “God” time.

It’s very difficult to talk to God during the hustle and bustle of life if you don’t have a quiet time reserved for prayer. It’s even more difficult to listen to God in those busy times. “God, is there anything you would have me hear from you right now?” followed by a two-second pause before heading out the door is highly unlikely to result in a spiritual awakening. Listening requires time set apart. If you haven’t talked to your kids about setting aside God time, this is a great reason to do so.

 

5.       Point out opportunities for your kids to ask for God’s guidance.

Knowing what kinds of things we can and should seek guidance on is half the battle. If your kids are facing big (or small!) decisions, take the opportunity to point out that they should pray for God’s guidance and listen accordingly. Even better, take the opportunity to pray with them while you both listen for God’s voice!

 

What has been your experience in listening to God in prayer? Based on your experience, what steps would you add to this list?

16 Comments

  1. Sheeba Mathew on March 29, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    these are awesome tips…i enjoyed reading them and going, huh huh (in agreement)…



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on April 15, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      Thank you Sheeba!



    • Melanie on April 27, 2013 at 10:59 PM

      This is a really awesome article. Helpful steps for explaining this concept to children! Will be incorporating this into my Sunday School lesson 🙂



    • Candace Leigh Bowen on November 22, 2015 at 8:20 AM

      Thank you for the tips, I can use these to teach my son how to listen to God…very helpful…



  2. Amy on March 29, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Wow, your posts are so EYE OPENING! Not only do you help prepare me to teach my child, you always help me feel like I’m not alone when I don’t understand God or His ways. Thank you so much for your insight, keep it comin’!



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on April 15, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      Thank you Amy! I appreciate that so much!



  3. Dani on December 10, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Thank you for these tips. I came across your blog post while researching for my own benefit about how to listen during prayer. These tips are extremely helpful. I am curious, however, about the last tip when you implied that there are things for which we can’t or shouldn’t seek God’s guidance. I was hoping you would elaborate on that in a response to this message. A couple of examples would help, too. Thanks again. 🙂



    • Natasha Crain on December 15, 2013 at 11:09 PM

      Hi Dani! I can see why it sounded like I was saying that, but I actually meant the reverse – a lot of times we assume there are only certain things we can seek God’s guidance for, and neglect to go to Him for all we could. Sometimes we need someone to point out to us, “hey, do you realize that’s something you could take to God?”



  4. Kelly on November 8, 2014 at 4:59 AM

    I was in the midst of quiet time…writing and writing one thing after another as part of my prayer. Two pages so fast. Trying to pray for everything and asking for direction. But, never pausing to listen. The Holy Spirit said, “Listen”. I thought how do I do that and began a search. I came upon your blog. Although it is so basic, it really opened my ears. And, what did I hear? I heard God say, “You are right where I want you to be. Doing just what I want. Don’t add anything else right now.” What a relief that was. My quiet time had become a listing of confusing circles trying to add more and more into my days. Never thinking I was doing enough. My desires are correct but His ways are different. Thanks you for helping me hear His words today! I’m going to enjoy this Saturday!



  5. JC on January 22, 2016 at 6:37 PM

    Hi, thanks for the article.
    I believe Praying for discernment to know what is from God and what is not.
    i would like to highlight that its important to bring the child (and adults for that matter) back to the Bible (God’s Written Word) to know God’s will/desire for us. For how would a child (or an adult) know which is God’s voice vs our own sinful desire, without first knowing what it should be? That is, by going to the Word of God.
    Are we listening to ‘our heart’ or God? And how do we listen to God? He has already given all of us the Written Word, let’s go to it. 🙂

    Hope it helps.



  6. Kelsey on March 13, 2016 at 5:15 PM

    This is extremely helpful. I’m writing a curriculum right now for three to five year olds about the Good Shepherd, and the main point of one teaching is how the sheep hear and trust the shepherd’s voice. I literally just googled ‘teach three-year-olds about hearing God’s voice” and yours was one of the first articles to pop up. Very practical. Thanks! 🙂



  7. Robert on July 31, 2016 at 10:02 AM

    Tonight my 8 year old son asked me during dinner why i pray before having food again as we had just prayed a few seconds earlier during the family devotion time. I answered him that we pray to “speak” to God. He asked me further how can he know Gods is also speaking to him? He probably was thinking it will be a clear voice as his friends voice are. I was then speechless and started to look up the Internet and luckily i came across your blog and i think i know how to answer him now. If i may add, i agree with JC about going back to the written words. That was what i told my son, when we pray we speak to God and when we read the Bible. GOD is speaking to us. But my son being 8, i understand he wont really understand the last part, about God speaking to us through the Bible, when i felt he was expecting to hear Gods voice like he hears other people’s voice.



  8. Jo Wooldridge on September 4, 2016 at 10:51 PM

    Thankyou for this lovely advice to help children hear the voice of God 🙂
    It also reminded me of these true ways to help us all hear. My seven year old found the list of different bible verses to read in different situations…and I know God spoke to her as we meditated on them that day.



  9. Sam on November 4, 2017 at 7:55 PM

    The tips are not only applicable to kids they are also to adults. Thanks and God bless you!



  10. Rachel Mbuyi on December 30, 2017 at 3:57 PM

    I don’t even have kids but this is great!
    God bless



  11. Erik Harvey on January 15, 2018 at 10:56 AM

    As a Children’s Pastor for the last 20 years I now realize more than ever the importance of adults and children hearing from God. Years ago children could as almost any adult for advice or direction and get solid advice. In my opinion, WOW have things changed. In the gospel of John chapter 10, the Lord talks about us like sheep and we know him and we know his voice. What I’m about to say may help some of you in hearing His voice clearer and more consistently. Know this: You were designed to hear Him! Thanks