Teaching Kids to Pray: The Five Finger Method

Teaching Kids to Pray: The Five Finger Method

When Katie was two, we were teaching her how to say grace. She had just finished up when Keith leaned over and whispered to her, “tell Mommy she’s pretty.” Katie promptly put both hands together again, closed her eyes, and said, “Dear God, please make Mommy pretty. Amen.”

But most of my girls’ prayers tend towards this: “Thank you that we had a good day today. Please help us to have fun tomorrow! Amen.”

Granted, it’s not that bad, but you know what I mean.

And I have decided this isn’t good enough. So here is our plan for teaching kids to pray:

Teaching Kids to Pray by Modelling Prayer for Your Children

Kids aren’t going to learn heartfelt prayers until we pray heartfelt prayers in front of them. So every night, after dinner, have a mini-prayer session where you do pray earnestly for something important for your family: a family member who needs God, a financial situation, a personality conflict. Something. When they hear you praying for someone, they learn how to do it, too!

Teach Different Types of Prayer

We are starting a new program where we are encouraging them to branch out in prayer. Different variations for this exist, but here’s one I’m working on. Look at your hand. If you notice, you have five fingers. Have the kids hold up their hands, and for each type of prayer they can lift up a finger until their whole hand is up.

1. Praise

Thank God for Who He is, for something about Him, for something He has made.

2. Thanksgiving

Thank God for something that He has done for you today. Encourage the children to make this as specific as possible. Not just, “Thank you for my mommy,” but “Thank you for giving me a Mommy who comes to my hockey game,” or “Thank you for Mommy who hugs me.”

3. Request for Someone Else

Ask God something. Again, make it specific. No “feed all the children” stuff, unless they’re really young. It’s better to ask God to give money to a family you know, or to help your sponsored child and his or her family, or to help someone you know who is sick. If there’s an ongoing need, pray for that every night. But try to encourage them to pray for something new, too.

For instance, we have a close friend whose five-year-old daughter is going through treatment for leukemia right now. We’re praying for her everyday, and then adding other requests, too.

4. Confession

What did you do wrong today? Hint: Kids are far more willing to pray this if you model it. Whenever you mess up, immediately confess it to God in front of them. If they see you doing it, they won’t feel so uncomfortable about doing it, either. And don’t let them say, “Forgive me for being selfish.” Always encourage them to use “when” statements: “Forgive me for being selfish when I wouldn’t share my lego.”

5. Request for You

I think this one should always come last, because the other prayers help get our hearts in line with God. Then you’re in a better place to make your own requests.

But this one can be tough. It’s fine for kids to ask for something for themselves. But make sure it’s not treating God like Santa Claus. No “God, please give me a new bike.” Ask them what their biggest struggle is. Maybe it’s getting along with a sibling, or a teacher they don’t like, or figuring out math. Pray about that.

Now all five fingers are up, and kids haven’t yet said, “help me to have fun tomorrow!” So you’re well on your way to raising prayer warriors! Congratulations, and don’t give up!

Do you want to help your children memorize Bible verses, too? Here are the best memory verses to get you started!


  1. >This is a nice article! I was disappointed when I went to my preacher and he said he had no resources on praying with children. I have winged it on my own, but I think my chaplain training helped me quite a bit. I love praying with my kids.

  2. Clippy Mat says:

    >that’s lovely.
    and you make it so easy; which it is when you think about it.
    thank you.

  3. techworldtraveller says:

    >Everynight we pray the Lord’s prayer (kinda the perfect prayer!) preceded by an improvised ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) prayer. Making sure we say “I love you God because you _”, “I’m sorry God for _”, “thank you God for _”, and “please help _” is a helpful model for the kinds of prayers we want our kids to hear. But my son still prays: “Dear God I pray for everyone in the whole wide world. Amen”

  4. >Thank you for this great post. We are going to start using the five-finger model with our 4-yr-old!

  5. >I’ve been struggling so with how to “teach” my kids (ages 7 and 4) to pray at night, so it didn’t sound like a Santa wish list like you said. The 5 finger idea is great — I’m going to try it with them tonight. Shoot – it’s even a good reminder for me too!

    Zen Mama Wannabe

  6. Anonymous says:

    >This is so wonderful! Thank you for helping me with my 7 year old Grandson. I am so excited about it myself .

  7. “Help make Mommy pretty!” That cracked me up! Thanks for a good prayer template. As our daughter is 3, I’m looking for ways to make prayer real to her in ways she can understand, so looking forward to trying this out.
    Lisa recently posted…Adventures in Involuntary Off-RoadingMy Profile

  8. We are going to start using the five-finger model with our 4-yr-old!
    Tulisa recently posted…Can You Really Capture His Heart And Make Him Love You Forever?My Profile

  9. My friend sent me the link for this article as I was doing devotion with my little one and she was having a hard time verbalizing what was on her heart. She always says she cannot pray like me, but I am trying to get her to be comfortable and know that her prayers does not have to be like mine and it just simple honest conversation with God.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I was taught A.C.T.S. “A” for Acknowledge; acknowledge Christ for who and what He is. “C” for Confess; as in confess your sins. “T” for Thanks-giving; where you gives thanks for all that the Lord as provided and done for you. “S” for Supplication; where you pray for others such as your family, friends, POTUS, and the Elders, I guess you could also pray for yourself as well. My public praying isn’t very strong or elegant but this little system has helped me especially when I have been asked or called on to pray. :-) !!!

  11. Steve Eloh says:

    thanks a lot for these 5 tips, on how we should teach the children to pray effectively. May God strengthens you r effort.”

  12. My 22yr old daughter has just returned ‘home’ permanently, 12000 miles away from me!
    I taught her to pray& believe in Jesus and did the best I could, failing miserably often!
    I too feel I could have done better. But they do take responsibility for themselves and God asks us to hold lightly so He can work through them.
    We sewed the seeds He and others must water.
    Trust God for your child who is leaving. What a privilege to have a great God to trust.

    I’ve just told God I’m still dissatisfied with my prayers and I’m sure He’s laughing.
    God is HERE. We can just talk to Him but I do love the 5finger method.
    And Sheila… God did it! You are pretty:)

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  1. […] remember when the girls were young, and I vowed that I would make sure they grew up to feel that prayer was natural. I don’t feel as if I’ve done that, and my one daughter is within two years of leaving […]

  2. […] here’s my post on teaching kids the 5-finger method for prayer. It works for us adults, […]

  3. […] When Katie was two, we were teaching her how to say grace. She had just finished up when Keith leaned over and whispered to her, "tell Mommy she's pretty." Katie promptly put both hands together ag…  […]

  4. […] When Katie was two, we were teaching her how to say grace. She had just finished up when Keith leaned over and whispered to her, "tell Mommy she's pretty." Katie promptly put both hands together ag…  […]

  5. […] Teach your children an easy way to pray. One option is the 5 finger method. It is a great visual way to remember to pray the different types of prayers (praise, thanksgiving, request for someone else, confession, and request for self). Go here to learn more. […]

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