Teaching your children how to pray can be a daunting task. The best place to start is with common prayers for children that can be easily memorized. Children who are making their First Communion should have memorized most of the following prayers, while the Grace Before Meals and the Guardian Angel Prayer are prayers that even very young children can learn by repeating them daily.
1. The Sign of the Cross
The Sign of the Cross is the most basic Catholic prayer, though we don’t often think of it that way. We should teach our children to say it with reverence before and after their other prayers.
The most common problem that children have in learning the Sign of the Cross is using their left hand instead of their right; the second most common is touching their right shoulder before the left. While the latter is the correct way for Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, to make the Sign of the Cross, Latin Rite Catholics make the Sign of the Cross by touching their left shoulder first. Read more on Why the Right hand instead of the Left-hand be used to make the Sign of the Cross Here
2. The Our Father
We should pray the Our Father daily with our children. It’s a good prayer to use as a short morning or evening prayer. Pay close attention to how your children pronounce the words; there are a lot of opportunities for misunderstandings and mispronunciations, such as “Howard be thy name.” The Our Father is the oldest of Christian prayers, going back to Jesus Christ Himself, who, in Matthew 6:9-13, taught his disciples to pray in these words. For that reason, the Our Father is often known as the Lord’s Prayer. Because this prayer came from Christ, it is used in every Mass and in the Church’s daily prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office. All Christians should pray the Our Father daily.
The Our Father
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
3. The Hail Mary
Children naturally gravitate to the Virgin Mary, and learning the Hail Mary early makes it easier to foster devotion to Saint Mary and to introduce longer Marian prayers, such as the Rosary. One useful technique for teaching the Hail Mary is for you to recite the first part of the prayer (through “the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”) and then have your children respond with the second part (“Holy Mary”).
The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace! the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
4. The Glory Be
The Glory Be is a very simple prayer that any child who can make the Sign of the Cross can easily memorize. If your child has trouble remembering which hand to use when making the Sign of the Cross (or which shoulder to touch first), you can get some extra practice in by making the Sign of the Cross while reciting the Glory Be, as Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox do.
The Glory Be
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
5. An Act of Faith
Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity are common morning prayers. If you help your children memorize these three prayers, they will always have a short form of morning prayer at their disposal for those days when they don’t have time to pray a longer form of morning prayer.
An Act of Faith
O my God, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in three Divine Person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I believe that Thy Divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, who canst neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.
6. An Act of Hope
An Act of Hope is a very good prayer for school-aged children. Encourage your children to memorize it so that they can pray the Act of Hope before taking a test. While there is no substitute for study, it is good for students to realize that they don’t have to rely on their own strength alone.
An Act of Hope
O my God, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.
7. An Act of Charity
Childhood is a time filled with deep emotions, and children often suffer real and perceived slights and injuries at the hands of friends and classmates. While the primary purpose of an Act of Charity is to express our love for God, this prayer is also a daily reminder to our children to try to develop forgiveness and love toward others.
An Act of Charity
O my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.
8. The Act of Contrition
The Act of Contrition is an essential prayer for the Sacrament of Confession, but we should also encourage our children to say it every evening before they go to sleep. Children who have made their First Confession should also make a quick examination of conscience before saying the Act of Contrition.
The Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because I love Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
9. Grace Before Meals
Instilling a sense of gratitude in our children can be especially hard in a world where many of us have an overabundance of goods. Grace Before Meals is a good way to remind them (and ourselves!) that everything we have comes ultimately from God. (Consider adding the Grace After Meals to your routine as well, to cultivate a sense of thanksgiving as well as to keep those who have died in our prayers.)
10. The Guardian Angel Prayer
As with devotion to the Virgin Mary, children seem predisposed toward belief in their guardian angel. Cultivating that belief when they are young will help to protect them from skepticism later on. As children grow older, encourage them to supplement the Guardian Angel Prayer with more personal prayers to their guardian angel.
Prayer to the Guardian Angel
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love entrusts me here, ever this day [night] be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.