One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is the gift of prayer. We are blessed to have a God who wants to communicate himself to us, and who wants to hear from us. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is an understanding of God’s desire for a close relationship with each of us through a strong prayer life. Throughout the Christmas Season, there are many opportunities to include more prayer time in the life of our families.

Use Your Nativity Scene

Kids are always captivated by the figures in the Nativity scene. Sit with them and let them handle the figures while you tell them about each character. Tell them about how God spoke to both Mary and Joseph, and how they listened and obeyed God. When you talk about the baby Jesus, tell them about how God wanted us to know him so badly that he became one of us to make it easier for us to talk to him. If you have a children’s Bible, you could read them the Nativity stories in Luke and Matthew while they play with the figurines. Ask them what they would say to Jesus if he was standing in front of them, and then use their words to formulate it into a prayer.

Give Prayer Gifts

Make one or two of the gifts you give your children on Christmas a prayer item; a prayer cube, a rosary, a children’s prayer book or Bible. Or give them “prayer tickets.” Every mom has been given “chore tickets” by their kids for Mother’s Day, right? Cut up paper strips and write short prayers or scripture quotes on them. You can make them for occasions like “when I’m afraid,” or “when I’m sad,” or “when I’m grateful” with a related prayer to help remind them that on every occasion we should turn to God. Or you could compose a prayer for each child–what your prayer for them is–and frame them.

Write a letter to Jesus

If your kids write letters to Santa, have them write a letter to Jesus at the same time. Ask them what they would ask God for (not toys) if they could ask for something to make the world better. Have them include a line or two about how they can help Jesus make that happen. You could keep them all and give them as a gift to your children at their Confirmation.

Incorporate prayer opportunities that are already part of Church tradition

The Book of Household Blessings has prayers for everything! You can buy the book, or find all of the prayers in it at usccb.org. Bless your Advent Wreath. Bless your Christmas tree. Pray the Blessing of the Bambino when you put Jesus in his manger and bless the Bambino when you put the Nativity scene away. Get some Oplatki and follow the directions on the package. Bring the kids up to your parish’s Nativity scene and talk about how it’s different from yours (or similar). Observe the Feast of Epiphany by blessing your doorpost and having some cake (always incorporate cake whenever possible).

Using creativity in prayer will help our children to experience God in everything. When we see God in everything, praying becomes like breathing and we can live St. Paul’s charge to “pray without ceasing.” Helping your child to be in constant communication with God–what better gift can there be than that?

Jennifer Elsensohn is pastoral associate in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.