Pray for your kids. Pray with your kids.
I know you’ve heard this before. But read on. I promise you that you won’t feel preached at and you won’t regret reading this.
I will never forget this image that a friend shared with me as she prayed for me.
“I see you on a field where you planted a few seeds. A couple of them are sprouting, but they are tiny. You’re standing over those sprouting plants looking really frustrated because they are not growing as quickly as you like. You’re standing over these sprouting plants yelling, “Grow! Grow! Grow!’
I broke down in tears. You understand right? It’s not like I was asking for a million dollars and feeling frustrated that it didn’t happen. I was asking for a breakthrough, for growth – for essentially good things. But why was I not seeing much? Why was it taking so long?
This image is applicable to many areas in our lives: ministry, business, friendship, spiritual life, marriage,… and the list goes on and on. How often do we wish that what we planted would grow and that it would grow fast? But, we all know that just telling it to “grow, grow, grow,” isn’t going to work.
Parenting is kind of like this, isn’t it?
We plant seeds of Biblical truths, godly character, and Kingdom values in our kids and we sometimes see a little growth that indicates, perhaps, that what we have sown is starting to bear fruit. But then, something happens and we think, “Is anything that I’m teaching them sinking in? Why do they seem so disengaged and selfish? Shouldn’t they get this by now? Come on kids, grow up!” In our frustration, we begin to nag and think that repetition will surely get to them.
But, we quickly forget something about growth – it is mysterious.
We cannot control when and how quickly growth happens.
I remember watching my belly grow month by month as I carried my twins. It was the most mysterious and marvelous thing to watch. To see my body expand and transform into a shape I never knew it was capable of.
Reflecting on this, we can’t help but admit that our participation in the growth process was fairly minimal, although critical.
Yes, I made sure I ate well, got enough rest, religiously took my prenatal vitamins, and did not miss my check-ups with the ob/gyn.
But, did we actually cause growth to happen? Not really.
I did everything possible to create the best environment for the babies to grow and thrive inside me. But, I could not witness what was actually happening inside my body. Growth happened, invisible to my eyes except for my growing belly.
Growth is mysterious. Prayer is kind of like that.
Prayer embraces the truth that I, by my sheer will, cannot make growth happen.
Prayer acknowledges the mystery that exists in our lives. I have to admit: Prayer itself is mysterious.
In our Google-search, ask-Siri instant answer world, we can easily miss out on the gift of mystery that God invites us into when we pray. We expectantly wait for our unseen God to do only what He can do: to bring spiritual growth and renewal in us and in our children.
Perhaps this is why many of the great revivals in history started as people gathered to pray. As people expectantly waited for God to reveal himself, He, in His right time, poured out His spirit to bring about an awakening of people’s hearts toward Himself.
The truth is, we can create the environment that encourages encounters with Jesus, we can model a vibrant relationship with Him, we can cultivate a trusting relationship with our kids, and do all the things that the most respected Christian leaders encourage us to do. Believe me, I think those things are important. If they weren’t, I would not be writing a series 7 Principles for Raising Kids Who Love Jesus. But in the end, these things in themselves cannot bring a spiritual awakening in our kids.
We are dependent on the Holy Spirit to do what He can only do: breathe life into our kids.
We can’t make our kids love Jesus. Oh, how we wish we could.
In prayer, we acknowledge that our children are not ours, but His, and that we are dependent on Him to give our kids new hearts that desire and obey Him above all else.
We can’t convince our kids that Jesus is real; but oh how we wish they would be convinced.
In prayer, we release our inability to bring about conviction and invite God to do it, for nothing is impossible with God.
We can’t protect our kids from all the wrongs in our world; but oh how we wish we could keep them safe forever.
In prayer, we lament the evil in our world and trust in the promise of Jesus, “I will be with you until the end of the age.”
We can’t keep our kids from making wrong choices or even from breaking our and God’s heart.
In prayer, we become aware of our own wicked ways and our heavenly Father’s amazing kindness that leads us to repentance. We have eternal hope that this same kindness that leads to repentance is available for our kids.
As we pray for our kids, we become aware of our deepest hopes for them. Then we offer them to Jesus; entrusting our kids back to Him, as He entrusted them to us.
The temptation to take control of the gift God has given us is strong. But, we resist this temptation by going to Jesus in prayer.
The lure of “do more and pray less” parenting is always before us.
Everywhere I look, someone or something wants to tell us what our kids really need, what success looks like, and how to achieve it. It is easier to get swept away by the current than to swim against it.
But prayer, I believe, is the strength that fuels us and our kids to keep going, to keeping heading forward in the direction that Jesus is moving. Without it, we don’t have the power and the tenacity to keep at it. We need supernatural parenting power and wisdom that can only come through prayer.
The Apostle Paul, while in prison in Philippi, encouraged the church with these words (The Passion Translation of Philippians 4:6-7):
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.
Are you feeling pulled in different directions, worried, and overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood?
The answer isn’t to search for the answers online or to keep spinning in circles of anxiety in our mind. The answer is to be saturated in prayer, to offer up our requests before God with gratitude, and to bring every detail of our worries to Him. He promises to grant us peace that transcends human understanding and He will make the answers known to us through Jesus.
Let’s choose today to pray more for and with our kids.
Let’s pray more for our kids when we see something that troubles us rather than keep nagging at them.
Let’s pray more for our kids when we see that budding of something beautiful, asking the Holy Spirit to continue whatever that He is doing in them.
Let’s pray more for ourselves so that the tank gets filled-up again and again.
I don’t want to parent without being prayerful. I can’t afford to parent without the power and wisdom that only the Holy Spirit can give.
But, more than anything, prayer changes us. As C.S. Lewis writes,
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.
Let’s pray more and perhaps do less so that we create space for Jesus to direct our parenting.
Parenting puts us in a place of dependence that leaves us poised to experience God. Let’s choose prayer today.
**If you missed Principle 6: Quickly Forgive, you don’t want to miss it.**