Listening to God is a great practice to instill in your kids early. After all, prayer isn’t just a monologue. It is not just about us listing things before God. It’s also about listening for God’s response. But how do you teach your kids how to hear God?
These simple steps (below) will help you and your children get into the habit of listening to God in prayer.
Teaching Your Kids How to Hear God
We started this listening prayer practice when our kids when they were around 6 years old. Every night, after our bedtime devotion or Bible story, we would say a prayer, thanking God for the day and making any requests that were on our hearts, and then we would invite God to speak to us in a few minutes of silence.
It took the kids a while to get used to this practice, especially sitting and being quiet for more than 2 seconds. But as we stuck with the practice, we started to hear the still, small voice of God sometimes in our prayers.
I remember one of the first times we tried this listening prayer practice with our kids. We sat quietly, after inviting God to speak to us. After a few minutes, I asked my kids if God had anything to say to them. One of my kids said that God had said “thank you for staying in the light and not the darkness.” If I’m honest, I was kind of blown away by this sort of language from my then-6-year-old.
Since that time, we’ve tried to make this prayer practice a regular part of our routine.
Sometimes my kids receive a profound word from God.
Sometimes, God just says things like “thank you for sharing with your brother.”
Sometimes, it’s silence.
And sometimes, what God has to say sounds like it’s probably my kids and not in fact the voice of God (we’ve gotten a few nonsense answers to the what-did-God-have-to-say-to-you question).
But those times when it seems like it really is God speaking to my kids makes everything else worthwhile.
Listening to God: Why Teach Your Kids to Listen to God in Prayer?
There are many different ways that we can hear from God. Sometimes it’s through a word spoken to our hearts in prayer. Sometimes is through Scripture. Sometimes it’s through other people.
And for each one of us, including each one of our kids, how you naturally hear from God will be different. For myself, and one of my kids, we rarely hear God ‘inside our own heads’. I most often hear from God through Scripture, and sometimes through other people. That is what my natural inclination is.
But I’ve found, even for those of us who aren’t naturally inclined to hear God in this way, if we sit and listen to God in prayer for long enough, then we start to get better at it. I now sometimes do hear God ‘inside my head’, where a year ago this basically never happened.
By teaching your kids to sit and listen quietly during prayer time, you are teaching them a valuable skill. You are teaching them to quiet their minds for long enough that they can hear the still, small voice of God.
God tells us to engage in this practice. For example: in Psalm 46:10, God says “Be still, and know that I am God.” That being still part is crucial.
For more on listening prayer, whether listening prayer is Biblical, and a deeper dive on how listening prayer helps us to hear from God better, be sure to check out my Listening Prayer Guide: How to Hear from God.
4 Steps to Help your Child Hear from God
This simple, ‘listening to God’ activity is a great practice to add to your bedtime routine. But really, you can teach your kids how to hear God and you can practice listening prayer any time throughout your day.
1. Find quiet space.
We like to do this prayer practice at bedtime, after we’ve read our daily devotion or Bible story, and at the end of our nightly prayer.
The most important thing is that you find a few minutes of quiet. All you need is 3-5 minutes. As you engage in this listening prayer practice, you may eventually want to sit in silence for longer. But to start, 3 minutes is plenty.
Make sure all distractions are put away. Toys are on their shelves. Phones are put away.
2. Invite God to speak to you, and ask him to help your hearts and your minds to be still enough to hear him.
Ask God if he has anything to say to you.
What you can say: Dear God, please help me listen to you today. Please help my mind and my heart to be still enough to hear you. God, do you have anything to say to me today?
3. Wait patiently.
This is the hardest part. Sit in silence for 3 minutes (or longer).
4. Record whatever God puts on your heart.
At the end of your prayer time, record anything that God has placed on your heart.
We put a big sheet of paper (about as big as my kids when they were about 6 years old) on the wall over the bed. Each night, they take a pencil crayon or a marker and write down what God has to say to them. You could also use a poster board and stick it to your wall. Or keep a journal or a notebook beside the bed. Whatever you use, make sure that you record whatever it is that God puts on your heart.
Some nights (maybe even many nights), you might not have anything to record, and that’s okay. Many nights, we don’t hear anything from God.
But persisting in this prayer practice even when you don’t hear from God helps you to develop the habit and attunes your heart and your mind to God. As you sit and listen for God in prayer, you will eventually hear him more often.