Some of the best teachable moments I have experienced with children in the church sanctuary have happened while worshippers are offering the Lord’s Prayer. One day as I prayed this prayer with my eyes closed, I felt a hand pulling on my sleeve. When I opened my eyes, a little girl whispered to me, “What’s a hallowed?” Another time, this time praying with my eyes open, I watched a group of three young children speak the few words from the prayer they recognized while happily drawing with crayons. Even though young children may not fully understand the words that comprise this foundational prayer, they seem to recognize it is important to the people saying it and it is something worth learning. Like Jesus’ disciples, they want to know how to pray. In this lesson, children will explore the story of Jesus teaching his disciples to pray and will wonder about how they might enact the things Jesus calls on us to offer in prayer.
Begin your time with the children by exploring the differences between the pronouns I/me/mine and we/us/our. Offer several sentences using these pronouns. After you say each sentence, ask the children who the sentence is about. For instance, you could say, “I feel sleepy this morning” and the children will tell you that you (the speaker) are the focus of the sentence. As you use the plural pronouns (we/us/our), try to incorporate a variety of situations. Some sentences should focus on a set of people who are easily identifiable (we are at church right now) and some should be about less distinct group (we attended the Fourth of July parade). Conclude this part of the lesson by noting that the singular pronoun (I/me/mine) is always very clear. The person speaking is the focus of the statement. However, when we use plural first-person pronouns (we/us/our), we may be talking about a clearly defined group of people, a group that is not as easily identifiable, or a group of people we have never met.
Exploring the passage
Prepare to read aloud Luke 11: 1-4. (Note: The Revised Common Lectionary reading for this week also includes verses 5-13. This lesson will only focus on the first few verses, as they discuss the Lord’s Prayer.) Tell the children that the story they will hear comes from the Gospel of Luke. It is very short, but it contains a very important lesson that Jesus taught his disciples. Remind the children that Jesus often told stories to his disciples in response to questions that they asked him or that people in the community wondered about. Sometimes the disciples had to really think about the story to discover the lessons Jesus was teaching them. Other times, he would offer them clear directions. Today’s story is one where Jesus is very straightforward. In the reading, Jesus will teach the disciples how to pray. Encourage the children to notice what Jesus tells them to pray about.
Read aloud Luke 11: 1-4. After reading, ask the children to recount what Jesus tells the disciples to pray for. Make a list of their responses on a whiteboard or piece of chart paper. As you record each item, be sure to include the pronouns used in the scripture (ex. “Your kingdom come”). Once the list is complete, circle the pronouns in each of the lines. Walk through each asking the children who is referred to in each part of the prayer. Who is the “you” who is “hallowed”? (You may also want to define hallowed for the children). Whose “kingdom” are they praying to come? Whose “daily bread” and “sins to be forgiven” are they asking for when they pray? Note that the first part of the prayer is about God. Jesus tells the disciples to ask for God to be honored and for God’s kingdom to be brought about. Then, the prayer focuses on the needs of the people. The disciples are asking for bread and forgiveness for themselves, but they are also asking for it on behalf of all God’s children. They are focusing their prayer not just on their own needs. They are asking God for the same thing for everyone.
Relating the passage to our lives
Share with the children that this prayer is one that we offer every time we worship together. They may also offer it other times. Some families use the Lord’s Prayer before a meal or when they pray together. Many people include it in their individual prayers to God. As disciples of Christ, we do as Jesus taught his first disciples. We pray a prayer that asks for the same things that Jesus’ disciples asked for.
Continue the discussion by asking the children to wonder about how the items in the prayer come to be. How does God’s kingdom come to earth? How are people given their daily bread? How are their sins forgiven? Encourage the children to notice that the prayer is really calling on us to partner with God to make sure all God’s people are cared for. With God, all that is in the prayer will come to be.
Help the children connect what they have learned to their own lives. Ask them to select one or two of the parts of the prayer that feel important to them. For instance, they may decide that “forgiveness” or “daily bread” are key needs in their communities. After choosing the part(s) of the prayer they will focus on, have the children make a list of ways the church community can partner with God to make their prayers a reality. Note their responses on a whiteboard or sheet of chart paper. Then, give each child or pair of children a sheet of chart paper and crayons or markers. Ask them to make a poster that will teach others about this action. Hang these posters in the church so that others can see them and learn from the children. Alternately, the group can create a list of actions to include in the weekly church newsletter or bulletin.