A friend who teaches the four-year-olds in Primary told me a
recent lesson included the story of a boy whose father was very ill. The boy
prayed to Heavenly Father to make his dad well, and the next day his father was
much better. My friend did not use that story with her class because it is not honest.
George was taught in Primary that Heavenly Father would
answer his prayers if he asked in faith. Eight-year-old George borrowed his
cousin’s new bike without asking. He crashed the bike into a ditch and broke
two spokes. Knowing his cousin would never forgive him for ruining her bike,
little George needed help—so he knelt beside the bike and prayed with all his might
for Heavenly Father to fix it. Unfortunately, his Primary lesson failed to
mention that not all prayers are answered affirmatively. George suffered a loss
of faith when he opened his eyes, beheld the still-broken spokes, and knew he must
take the consequences of his action.
Maybe the best approach for teaching children about prayer
is simply to teach prayers of gratitude—to offer thanks for the wonders and
beauties of the natural world, for the senses to enjoy these blessings, for the
necessities of life, and for the goodness and love of people in their lives.
Most adults overdo prayers of request—effectively turning
God into Santa. Maybe we should teach ourselves as well as our children to
limit asking to requests for the wisdom to recognize and take advantage of
opportunities and the strength to deal constructively with the challenges of life.