Parenting Through Prayer

Before I write anything else, let me say that my prayer life has not “arrived.” This is not an area that’s anywhere approaching a personal strength. I’m far closer to the pilgrim at the beginning of a journey than the guru at the end of it. 

That said, I did finally get around to reading A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller, an excellent book that’s circulated around The Crossing for a while now. One of the passages that made a vivid impression on me was the following:

It took me seventeen years to realize that I couldn’t parent on my own. It was not a great spiritual insight, just a realistic observation. If I didn’t pray deliberately and effectively for members of my family by name every morning, they’d kill one another. I was incapable of getting inside their hearts. …It didn’t take me long to realize I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids and more to God. It was actually quite relaxing. 

Since parenting also frequently numbers among my “non-strengths,” this section was like a cool cup of water pouring down my parched throat. Most parents I know seem well acquainted with an invisible force field surrounding their children that stubbornly repels instruction, encouragement, entreaties, etc. Like all of us, our kids hear through their hearts. And reaching hearts is a far different proposition than a sound wave hitting an ear canal. Thus the need for God’s grace and, by extension, the vital importance of prayer. 

Later in the book, Miller writes about praying specific biblical passages for his family and others, and even compiling short prayers cards to keep a few passages in mind for each individual. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t yet gotten around to making my own cards, but I have been thinking about and praying though passages that are relevant for my still very young children (ages, 5, 3, and 1 at this writing). As an encouragement for others who (a) have younger kids in particular and/or (b) are trying to take a few halting steps toward praying more intentionally for people they love, I thought I’d include some of them here. No doubt there are many, many more passages that would be helpful, but the idea is to have something manageable to at least draw from on a fairly regular basis. So here they are, along with a few words on why I’ve included them: 

Psalm 27:4: One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

If there’s one thing I want for my kids above all others, it’s that they believe the gospel and experience eternal life with Jesus Christ. David’s words point me toward praying for that all-important goal.   

Ephesians 6:1-3: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

I’ve been praying this for all my kids, but for my one-year-old in particular. He’s at a developmental stage where he’s more and more able to understand (and be responsible for) basic instructions from mom and dad. And developing a respect for parental authority is a crucial step in a young child learning about and heeding God’s good authority. 

Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

My kids are constantly struggling with wanting their own way while disregarding the needs of other people, including the rest of the family. And yes, I quite often end up praying this for myself while I’m at it. 

Philippains 2:14: Do all things without grumbling or questioning…

Not much explanation needed. Did I mention the part about praying these things for myself as well?  

Colossians 1:9-10: And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

My oldest starts kindergarten in two days. Throughout his education, I hope that the foundation of his faith will only grow more solid, he would develop God-pleasing discernment, and he will be a positive influence for Christ wherever he goes.

Finally, here are a couple of passages that I’m praying for myself in relation to being a dad:

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Let’s just say I know someone who can get a little overzealous in his lecturing…

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

I’m struck by the fact that Paul (under the inspiration of the by the Holy Spirit, no less) can urge the Corinthians to imitate him because his life exemplifies one who closely follows Christ. After I get over wanting to fire myself as a parent, I pray that God would increasingly make me into a genuine and tangible example for my kids of what a follower of Jesus looks like. Needless to say, I’m grateful that “with God, all things are possible.” 

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