We've never been big fans of the rote prayers like "God is great, God is good." We wanted our children to learn from a very early age that talking to God is a natural thing. I would never expect my children to greet their daddy each day when he returned from work with a poem that said,
"Daddy is great, daddy is good,
thanks for working so I can eat my food."
That would be ridiculous. Why, then, would I teach my children to talk to their heavenly Father that way? If God is merely a religion, then there would be no need for dialogue. But I have a personal, daily relationship with God. I speak to him; He speaks to me. It is not a relationship built on rhetoric. Therefore, I desire for my children to learn to talk with God as naturally as they communicate with their earthly father.
Our bedtime prayers are a time for us to teach our children how to talk to God. It is an intimate, one-on-one time with each child. Unless, of course it is very late and we all pray together for the sake of time. (Just keepin' it real.) Some nights we have a conversational prayer. By this I mean we talk about things, pray about them; talk about some more topics, pray about them; rather than mommy's turn to pray ... child's turn to pray.
This is the perfect time to let my each of my children know specific things I am praying for them. I often pray aloud during our nightly prayers that our son will grow to be a leader and a man of God. He hears me say this and even though he can't quite grasp all that a "man of God" means, he knows my desire for him to seek God as he grows.
One of the rewards has been his excitement over getting to pray. Usually at dinner my husband will ask "who would like to pray?" Immediately, our son says, "I do!" While his meal-time prayers are still developing and often hunger-driven for speed, it delights my heart to see his enthusiasm to pray. I've recently observed some eye rolling from family members because they think he just wants to be the one to pray so we can eat sooner. I see it as a man of God in the making. If it charms my heart this much to watch my children pray, I can only imagine how delighted their heavenly Father is.