Should children be taught to pray even if they haven’t professed faith?
Yes. I think we should teach our children to pray as soon as they can say anything. The first words they should say are, “Dear Jesus, thank you.”
I say this because I can’t discern when a child is being spiritually wrought upon by the Lord. I don’t put much stock in children’s professions of faith. They seem to come and go. What matters is whether or not they have been born again.
I don’t know when a child is born again. I don’t assume that a child must become a blatant rebellious unbeliever before he is regenerated. He can start to believe at a young age. And because he can believe at a young age, and because I can’t tell precisely when his faith becomes his own and authentic, I don’t want to wait too long before I start treating him as a believer.
Also, practically, it seems right to put the vocabulary of prayer into a child’s mouth from the very beginning. That way, when his faith is born, he has a whole vocabulary, orientation, and habit that the Lord can use.
It would be very awkward or even cruel to leave your child out of family worship or prayer. You should take his hand around the dinner table and have him bow his head too. You would never tell your child that he isn’t included in the prayer because he is a pagan. You can’t treat your children that way.
You have to build the disciplines of the Christian life into your children from the beginning, all the while praying that they are going to grow up and mean what they say. They may mean it at age 2. You just don’t know.