Family & Community Life
Spirituality & Children
Prayer Box: A Spiritual Tool for Families and Children’s ClassesView Photo Gallery
Teaching kids about prayer and connecting them to the Word of God can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Children are so in tune with their physical world that helping them make a spiritual connection with scripture can prove challenging. I have found that it helps to have something concrete that they can see, touch, and relate to physically.
With this in mind, I created a prayer box for our Bahá’í children’s class. Our box is filled primarily with Bahá’í prayers and quotations, but it could easily be adapted to any Sunday School or other religious class where kids are learning short prayers, passages from scriptures, etc.
The idea for the prayer box came from my daughter’s first Bahá’í School teachers, Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Belzer. They were both retired schoolteachers, and they created simply amazing lessons and materials. Mrs. Jackson died of cancer a few years ago, and I always think of her when I pull out our prayer box.
I started with a plain white photo box and had the kids help decorate it with fancy stickers. (You can also provide a small box for each kid to use as their own mini-box at home.)
Inside the box, we keep different prayers that we’ve learned, or symbolic items that represent those prayers. At the beginning of each class, we pull out a few of them to say or sing together. The kids love to reach into the box and pull something out, and the visuals really help them learn.
The first prayer we learned was this:
He is God! O God, my God! Bestow upon me a pure heart, like unto a pearl.—‘Abdu’l-Bahá
I typed up the prayer on cardstock, then changed the word “heart” to a heart graphic and the word “pearl” to a picture of a pearl. Using pictures for some of the words helps differentiate the prayers visually. It’s also good for the little ones who are just learning to read.
On another day, we did a craft in class to add to the box for this prayer:
Immeasurably exalted art Thou, O Lord! Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. Verily, Thy protection over all things is unfailing.—The Báb
We made a simple house out of cardstock and glued the prayer to the front of it. A house is a good visual for any kind of protection prayer or quote, and it’s a simple craft to put together. Just a big square for the house, a big triangle for the roof, and some smaller squares for windows. I added some bushes on the sides, but you could add flowers or whatever to the bottom.
Some prayers in our box aren’t all written out. For example, we had a different visual for this prayer:
God grant that the light of unity may envelop the whole earth, and that the seal “The Kingdom is God’s” may be stamped upon the brow of all its peoples.—Bahá’u’lláh
On an envelope, I glued a sun with the word “UNITY” on it to represent “the light of unity.” I also printed a picture of the earth and laminated it. As we sing the first part of the prayer, we “envelop the whole Earth” with “the light of unity” by inserting the earth into the envelope.
Then as we sing the last part of the prayer, I take the “seal” (which is a circle with “The Kingdom is God’s” written on it and Velcroed to the envelope) off and hold it up to the kids’ foreheads (“brows”). Once again, having the visuals helps with both the memorization and meaning of the prayers.
Another project we made for the prayer box was a cardstock mini-crown with the word “THANKS” on it for when we sing this prayer:
My God, my Adored One, my King, my Desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee?—Bahá’u’lláh
Some objects in the prayer box don’t have any words at all—just a simple, symbolic item that represents a prayer or quote. For example, we used a foam circle as a “spot” for the quotation:
Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made and His praise glorified.—Bahá’u’lláh
This is one of the first songs most Bahá’í kids learn to sing—there’s a really beautiful melody to it you can hear here.
We used a feather to represent another prayer kids learn very early on:
O God guide me, protect me. Illumine the lamp of my heart, and make me a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.
The reason I use a feather is because I taught the kids to say it in Lakota sign language. I’m so thankful to have learned that version. Some kids really need to move, and so often we try to make them sit still for prayers. I actually use hand movements a lot in helping kids memorize, but it’s cool to have real sign language to go with the words, especially from an indigenous language.
The prayer box has been one of my favorite teaching tools. Kids love the ritual of it, and I love having part of class already planned out each week. There are a lot of things you could add to the box—prayer beads, items from nature, pictures of holy places, etc. There are also different ways to use it, such as having different kids each week pick out and lead the prayers, laying out each item to display on a table and then having them choose, closing your eyes and reaching into the box to pick, etc.
And the best part is that by involving children’s hands—as well as their hearts—in prayer, you can help them connect to God in a fun and natural way.
Annie Reneau is a freelance writer, homeschooling mom of three, lover of chocolate and travel, and former assistant editor with Brilliant Star. She shares her thoughts on parenting at Motherhood and More.
Updated on 5.10.13