Objective: To help each child learn how to pray to Heavenly Father, and know that He will listen.
I think the biggest “take away” that I would hope to give the children though this lesson is that Heavenly Father hears their prayers. I know that we Latter-day Saints can easily get caught up in the cultural aspects of prayer, what I often call the “works” part, such as whether we have closed our eyes or folded our arms, or if we’ve used the “proper” old English pronouns correctly, but regardless of these things I believe Heavenly Father hears every sincere prayer.
The Bible Dictionary is a good resource to read over for this lesson. (It’s interesting to me that prayer is more a duty of the faithful rather than a commandment, and nothing about it is found among the list of interview questions for a temple recommend). However, when we pray, we are commanded to pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
To me, the purpose of praying “in the name of Jesus Christ” is not so much that we are to end every prayer with that phrase as much as it is to be like-minded with Jesus Christ, and to pray as he would pray, to seek his understanding and to request those things that build up his kingdom and that bless others. After all, the Hebrew meaning of our word “name” is shem, which seems to have more to do with a person’s character and authority than what we are called by our parents at birth. At our baptism we make a covenant that we will take upon us the character (name) of Jesus Christ and so our prayers are to be similar to the way Jesus would pray, if we are to learn to be like him. I think it’s useful then to teach children that our prayers should be as much about others, if not more so, as they are about ourselves just as Jesus Christ prayed to Heavenly Father more often for others than he did for himself. Look over 3 Nephi 19 20-36 for a great example. In this chapter, it’s significant that the Nephite disciples are commanded by Jesus Christ to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, which they do through their desire and earnestness. Of course, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t still conclude our prayers as we customarily do.
We can teach children that during times when we are worried or very concerned our prayers will seem to be mostly about ourselves, but that during those times we can at least begin our prayers expressing gratitude for the many blessings we have been given.
Lastly, I think it’s important to teach respect during prayers, kneeling whenever possible and practicable, but that they can (and should) pray silently in any position or in any place wherever they are. Then they can more easily always have a prayer in their heart.