Teaching Kids How to Pray

Karl and Gus, circa early 1990's

TWO LISTS: The “Sorry List” and the “Lightening List!”

Everyone who listens to my podcast knows I’ve been ministering with Gus, my teaching partner, since Bible College – they may not realize, that one of our routines is included in every lesson of DiscipleTown! (The children’s church curricululm I write for DiscipleLand, which you can use regardless of what Sunday School curricula you use.)

Here is a sample from Lesson Two of How to Pray! Yes, now you too can can do a wacky puppet routine – or convert it to a skit – and introduce the topic of your lesson in a humorous, and yet very thought provoking manner, that really gets the point of the forthcoming lesson across.

The Lesson is on Repentance and the the Main Point of this lesson is: In prayer, God shows ways we need to change!

Note: “Puppet” refers to “Gus” but in the curriculum, you are encouraged to use your own puppet so I leave it generic. (This is my pre-edited version, the final version from the publisher may be slightly different.)

Puppet comes out and is very excited about the lesson today because he understands that it is about repentance. Teacher says it is indeed. Puppet says that he has put together two lists. Teacher asks what the lists are. Puppet says, “Well, the first list is my ‘Sorry List.” Teacher, says, well, that sounds great! What’s on that list?” Puppet says, “Well, I wrote out all the stuff I’m going to do that that I feel sorry about.” Teacher says, “What?!?!” Puppet says, “Well, there’s  just some things I gotta do, but that I know are wrong, and I feel really bad about ‘em, so I thought I’d better confess ‘em ahead of time, just to make sure God knows I’m sorry about ‘em. You know, then it’s not as bad, as if I just did ‘em and didn’t feel bad, you know, like some people we know.”

The teacher is flabbergasted, and says, “That’s doesn’t make any sense, “If its wrong its wrong, it doesn’t matter if you feel sorry or not, if its wrong, it’s… well, its still wrong. Even if you say you’re sorry about it in advance. It’s almost worse then.” Puppet says, “Well, I’m confessing it? Doesn’t that count for anything?” Teacher says, “Yeah, its premeditated wrongness! That’s what it counts for!” Puppet says, “Bummer, I was afraid you were going to say that. So feeling sorry isn’t enough, huh?” Teacher replied, “No, to repent means to change your mind about it, it means to go the other way – its more than just being sorry, its deciding not to do it.”

Puppet sighs and scratches his head. Pauses, and then says, “O.K., I repent then, I’ll rip that list up, I repent then. I won’t do anything on that list, and I’m so glad God forgives me. I’m forgiven, right?” Teacher says, “You sure are.” Puppet says, “That’s good news. I feel so much better.” Teacher asks, “I’m almost afraid to ask, but what’s the other list?” Puppet says, “Oh, that’s my Lightening List.”

Teacher is exasperated again. “Lightening List! What is tar-nation is that?!?!?” Puppet answers, mater-of-factly, “Why the people I want God to strike with lightening, that’s all, why? Something wrong with that too?” Teacher is about to lose it. “Yes! How can you have a list like that?” Puppet says, “Simple, they all did something to me, and unlike me, they haven’t repented yet. So I think they should be struck by lightening.”

Teacher takes a deep breath and says, “Didn’t you just say it was good news that God forgave you of your sins?” Puppet answers, “Yes, but what’s that got to do with anything?” Teacher says, “Everything! The Bible says you will be forgive as you forgive others. In fact, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructed us to pray, ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive others who have sinned against us.’ So that means, if you don’t forgive the people on that there list – why should God forgive you?”

Puppet stutters, “Uh, well, uh, gulp – I guess, if I get forgiveness when I don’t deserve it, they should get it too, even though they don’t deserve it?” Teacher says, “I think so.” Puppet throws his hands up, “Do you know what this means?” Teacher says, “No, what does this mean?” Puppet answers, “This means I have to rip up my last list, and now I don’t have any lists left.”

Teacher says, “That’s O.K., you’re on a better list, the list of the forgiven – and there is no better list than that!” Puppet says, “I’m gonna start a new list, my Blessing List, all the ways God has blessed me!” Teacher says, “Now you’re talking!”

To learn more about my lastest DiscipleTown unit, How to Pray, I’d encourage you to read all about it.

Prayer is not an unfamiliar topic to children – but do we truly teach children How to Pray? For too many Christians, of any age, prayer is something reserved for times or trouble or perhaps meal times, instead of being a means for connecting with their Creator on a daily basis and deepening their walk with God. That is the meaning the purpose of prayer, but it is a skill that must be taught to children so that they can discover the richness of having a meaningful prayer life. Teach a child to pray, and there are a great many other things you will not have to teach them, for the Holy Spirit will do it for you.

That’s why I was eager to write a series that taught children How to Pray! In order to give children a simple mental framework, the many aspects of prayer are broken down into four areas that start with the letters of the word P.R.A.Y. – Praising, Repenting, Asking and Yielding. While there is certainly more to prayer than can be captured in four simple words, each of the lessons expands on these and hints at the broader aspects of prayer and that they will have a life time to explore the power and joy learning How to Pray!

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