When learning to pray, children (and adults!) often fall into a rut. They use the same words and pray the same things every time.
We have used the teaspoon mnemonic for many years to help guide our prayers—TSP: thank you, sorry, and please—but children seem to need a bit more guidance than that.
What’s more, talking to someone you can’t see, and who doesn’t talk back immediately, seems pointless and boring to many children.
I came up with an idea to help, to make praying fun, and to prompt the people praying to consider more things to pray about.
I made two dice, about 15cm/6in a side. One die has ‘t’, ‘s’ and ‘p’ on opposite faces. The other has ‘Me’, ‘Family, ‘Church and Sunday School’, ‘Other People’, ‘The World’, and ‘God’ on its faces.
And then we play a game.
Each player rolls the TSP die first. If it comes up ‘s’ they pray a ‘sorry’ prayer. Otherwise they roll the other die, and the two dice together give the prayer topic.
The rules we have are:
An example session might go like this (all names are made up, but the prayers are ones I’ve heard from kids):
Philip throws an ‘s’. He prays, “Sorry, God, that I hit my brother this morning. Amen.”
Lily throws a ‘t’ and ‘Family’. She prays, “Thank you God for my aunty who had a birthday yesterday. Amen.”
Cassie throws a ‘p’ and ‘God’. She prays in Tagalog, then says “Please God send Jesus back soon. Amen.”
Overall, we’ve found that the children enjoy using the dice, and even those who come from non-churched backgrounds want to pray, and can find things to talk to God about.
I’ve also used the dice in a men’s home group as a preliminary exercise before a more extended period of prayer. Here the prayers tended to be more sophisticated and a bit longer, but I achieved my aim: we got out of our normal rut, and we prayed for more of the things that we ought to be praying for.