I Pray This for My Children
The Bible clearly shows that, during our Lord’s earthly ministry, there were parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children:
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And after laying His hands on them, He departed from there. (Matt. 19:13–15)
Though Jesus is not currently visible (1 Pet. 1:8), nothing has changed for believing parents. We still want—and so desperately need—the Lord to bless our children. This shows both our continuous looking to Him and the realization that our capacities as parents are limited.
As with most items related to discipleship—and parenting is definitely a God-ordained and commanded aspect of discipleship (Eph. 6:1–4)—prayer plays a vital role.
When our children were younger, they would frequently accompany me many places I went, including the seminary where I taught. I was asked dozens of times, “How do you get kids at that age to be so well-behaved and be such a blessing?”Always the answer from the heart would be, “My wife and I are not perfect parents, and our children are not perfect children.” Though we certainly did see God’s blessing on our children, we knew they were still quite young and had not yet faced the teenage and adult years with all the temptations and snares and dangers ahead of them (Prov. 1–9).
While seeing God’s hand of blessing, I realized the battle was only just beginning for us—and at times it was indeed a battle, and a very intense one at that, as both the world and the evil one actively worked to attract them to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16).
Part of my answer to those who asked me about raising our children would be that we repeatedly prayed for them and tried to raise them as God would have us do, especially as shown in Scripture. Even then, my wife and I knew we were not in full control; you cannot save your own children; you cannot live their lives for them.
We would stand on the sidelines and actively watch as our children walked with God, or, in one case, did not walk with Him for a prolonged period. I have been both the Prodigal Son and the father of a prodigal—and by the sheer grace of God—I have been the rejoicing father of a prodigal who has returned to the Lord.
As I talked to other parents about raising children, a similar question would repeatedly be raised, especially by younger parents:
“What do you pray for your children when you pray for them?”
This article is drawn from my response to that question. It is not necessarily exhaustive, nor does it mean that each item noted below must be included in every prayer session. Seasons of life often necessitate changed elements of emphasis as children grow older. But I trust this list will be encouraging and motivating to Christian parents as they intercede on behalf of those under their care.
Here is what I prayed (and still pray) for my children:
I pray . . .
— as a child to my heavenly Father before praying as a father for my own children (1 Peter 1:17).
— for my own walk with God (Eph 4–6) before I pray for their walk; it starts with me, not with them.
— for my wife Betsy’s walk with God (singular) and ours collectively as husband and wife.
Any true ministry (and parenting most certainly is a ministry, and an incredibly responsible ministry at that) is merely an extension of your walk with the Lord (or lack thereof). And though we fail miserably at this at times, my wife and I pray that our children will see our relationship with God (Eph. 5:22–33), and that it will be a natural carryover to our working with them (Eph. 6:1–4).
I pray . . .
— for our marriage.
— for our parenting.
— for what to say; for what not to say.