‘Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.’ 1 Samuel 3:9
Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 21:6–16
Children who are taught a form of prayer may perhaps by divine grace be enabled to use the form in all sincerity of heart: I hope they may; but I think they are more likely to understand the things of God, if instead of teaching them the form, you explain to them the meaning and the value of prayer. I take this to be the best plan. Let the Christian parent explain to the child what prayer is; tell him that God answers prayer; direct him to the Saviour, and then urge him to express his desires in his own language, both when he rises, and when he goes to rest. Gather the little ones around your knee and listen to their words, suggesting to them their needs, and reminding them of God’s gracious promise. You will be amazed and, I may add, somewhat amused too; but you will be frequently surprised at the expressions they will use, the confessions they will make, the desires they will utter; and I am certain that any Christian person standing within earshot, and listening to the simple prayer of a little child earnestly asking God for what it thinks it wants, would never afterwards wish to teach a child a form, but would say, that as a matter of education to the heart, the extemporaneous utterance was infinitely superior to the best form, and that the form should be given up for ever. However, do not let me speak too sweepingly. If you must teach your child to say a form of prayer, at least take care that you do not teach him to say anything which is not true. If you teach your children a catechism, mind that it is thoroughly scriptural, or you may train them up to tell falsehoods.
For meditation: When secondhand man-made devotions begin in the mouth rather than in the heart, they are not acceptable to God (Isaiah 29:13). The Lord Jesus Christ loved children to come to him as children (Mark 10:13–16); God can teach them heartfelt praise (Matthew 21:15–16).
Sermon no. 586
8 June (Undated Sermon)