Children’s vivid imaginations embrace the concept of Superman, the Tooth Fairy, and other fantasies. As they grow older and these fairytales are disclosed for what they are, we don’t want God to fit into the same category. But how do we avoid that? How do we help our children differentiate between God and fantasy so that the Christ child we celebrate at Christmas isn’t put in the same category as Santa and his elves? It’s important for our children to know that God is real.
Even though God’s attributes are clearly seen in his creation, sin suppresses the truth about God’s reality, darkens our hearts, and makes us foolish. While we desperately want our children to love Jesus, we depend on God to give them true, saving faith.
Only God can change our children’s hearts, but we can lead them on a path of faith to show them God is real. This path assumes that “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
Believe that He Exists
Before we can lead our children on this path of faith, we need to be familiar with it ourselves. Do we truly believe that God exists? That there’s any reward in seeking him? That knowing Jesus is better than anything else this world offers? If we don’t, our children will see right through us.
Children may be inexperienced, but they’re smart. One morning they may ask why the Tooth Fairy’s handwriting matches our own. Or why there are presents hidden under the blanket in the closet. Our actions reveal that the Tooth Fairy and Santa don’t really exist. What about Jesus? They can’t see him either. Does that mean we’re pretending about him too?
If we’re simply going through the motions of faith, our children will know. If Jesus’ death and resurrection don’t make any difference in how we talk to them or treat our husbands, our children may start to wonder about our faith. Even if we worship Jesus on Sunday morning, if we worship our schedules, exercise, work, or Netflix during the week, it won’t take long for our children to see what matters most to us.
But if we live with a daily awareness that our actions have eternal implications, the same is true. Our children can see that we believe God is real when we humbly confess our impatience and anger, ask forgiveness, point to Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, and change our behavior. Even if it seems like they aren’t paying attention, they often notice when we read our Bibles, make meals for new moms, and leave early to serve at church.
None of us do this perfectly. But each time we blow it in front of our children, we have another opportunity to point them to Jesus, the only one with a perfect track record, the only one who can save them and their sinful parents.
As they mature, our children will still ask questions, but hopefully, it won’t be about the authenticity of our faith. We want to establish trust so we have a voice and influence in their lives as they process what they believe is true.
Another meaningful way we can lead our children on a path of faith is through prayer. When we seek God with our children, we show them that we believe he is real and expect him to answer.
Through faith in Jesus, we can boldly approach God in prayer. We praise and thank God for who he is. We confess sin. We also bring him our requests, the very thing God himself invites us to do. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). If prayer is a struggle or you’re not sure how to involve your kids, keep it simple. Our prayers are short, usually before a meal or bedtime.
Recently, my husband and I have included our kids in prayer for some tangible needs. When the cost of car repairs was greater than the value of our car and we didn’t have money to replace it, our family prayed. All of our children rejoiced when Daddy parked a well-used but highly-functioning mini-van in front of our house, a gift from a church friend—and a gift from God.
Inevitably, there will be times when our children pray with us for something and the Lord chooses not to answer as we’ve asked. What about when Grandma doesn’t get well or a parent’s new job means a best friend moves away? Are we setting our children up to believe God isn’t real? No, those are opportunities to consider God’s character.
God isn’t a fairytale genie who grants whatever we wish. He’s a perfect heavenly Father who knows what we need far better than we do. So we teach our children to pray like Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done” (Matt 6:10). We ask with open hands. God’s response to our request might be yes, no, wait, or any number of other answers. No matter how God answers, praying with our children provides an opportunity for us to teach them truths about his character.
What’s something that your family genuinely needs that only God can provide? What’s something that’s impossible for you to do but God is able to do? Consider inviting your children to pray regularly with you until God answers.
Our great hope as Christians is that one day we will see God’s face. Until then, we walk on a path of faith. Even though we don’t see Jesus, we believe he exists, and we want our children to experience the same joy and hope that we do. Praying together is one way to show our children that God is real.
 Romans 1:18-22
 Ephesians 2:8-9
 Hebrews 4:16
 1 Corinthians 13:12 and Revelation 22:4
 1 Peter 1:8
Note: This article was first published with the title “Showing Our Children that God Is Real” on Risen Motherhood.