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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pray This for Your Children

Last Sunday, I preached my annual state of the church address. As one of my main points, I emphasized the need for our church to pray more. Then on Tuesday morning, I was emailed a post written by Dr. Greg Harris. Greg is the author of a series of Glory Books, the pastor of Lake Hills Community Church, and a Professor of Bible Exposition at The Master’s Seminary. You can find his works here at Glory Books Ministry.

Back to his blog. When I read it, I immediately thanked God for sending it to me. It ministered to me as a timely word to a father of six who desires to pray more effectively for his children. It instructed me with sagely wisdom in how to lead the saints to be faithful advocates before the throne of grace for their children. It gave strength to a weary warrior needing the hope of the promise of prayer for the children in his church. I pray now that it will minister to you.

I again thank God for Dr. Harris and for his gracious consent to let me share his post with you. The remaining words in this post are from Dr. Harris.

“I Pray This For My Children”
by Greg Harris
Copyright 2010

            The Bible clearly shows that parents during Jesus’ earthly ministry 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). Nothing has changed other than Jesus not being currently visible (1 Pet. 1:8); we still want—and so desperately need—Jesus to bless our children. This shows both our continuous looking to Him and the realization of our vastly limited capacities as parents.

As with most items related to discipleship—and parenting as Christians most definitely is a God-ordain and commanded aspect of discipleship (Eph. 6:1-4), I have learned there is much more to Jesus blessing Betsy and my children than merely asking Him to do so. Of course, asking Jesus to bless our children is not bad in and of itself—only quite limited.

For instance, 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 them to do that? How do you get kids at the age be so well-behaved and be such a blessing?” Always the answer from the heart would be, “Betsy and I are not perfect parents, and our children are not perfect children.” Often people would not believe that based on the scenario they saw before them. We most certainly did see God’s blessing on our children, but we knew they were still quite young and had not at that time yet faced the teenage and adult years with all the temptations and snares and dangers before 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 the answer I gave people 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, Betsy 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 sideline and actively watch as our children walked with God, or, in one case, 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 and by no means a given—I have been the rejoicing father of a prodigal who has returned to the Lord.

Then following along the lines of “The Cup” chapter question repeated in The Cup and the Glory of “What do you pray for . . . when you pray?” would repeatedly come a similar question by many, especially from younger parents: “What do you pray for your children when you pray for them?” I have also been asked this question dozens of times.
Below is the answer for some of the prayers prayed for our children. It is not that my answers are exhaustive, nor does it mean that each element had to be prayed in every prayer session. Also, seasons of life necessitate changed elements within the prayer. But here is what I pray/prayed 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, I pray that our children will see Betsy and my relationship with God (Eph. 5:22-33)—although obviously imperfect—will be a natural carryover to our working with them (Eph. 6:1-4). 
I pray . . .
            —for our marriage.
            —for our parenting. 
            —for wisdom and discernment in each of these areas (James 1:5-6; 1 Pet. 5:5-9).
            —for what to say; for what not to say.
            —for godly disciplining that will not exasperate (Eph. 6:4).

I pray that God will bless beyond our capacities and limitations to be parents.

I pray for my children . . .
            —that they will come to a saving grace of God early in their lives (1 Sam. 3:7). 
            —that their hearts will always be tender before God (2 Chron. 34:27).
            —that their hearts will always be inclined to God (Josh. 24:23). 
            —that they will fear God and turn away from evil (Job 1:8).

I pray for my children . . .
            —that God will raise up godly influences for them, and
            —that they will become godly influences.
            —that they will have godly friends and be godly friends to others.
            —that true biblical Wisdom will be their close associate (Prov. 1-9; 1 Cor. 1:22-24; 1 Cor. 1:30). 

I pray for my children . . .
            —that God will make them be/become blessings to others (Philemon 7).
            —that they will be thankful to God and to others (Luke 17:11-18; Col. 3:15).

I pray for my children . . .
—that God will grant them an insatiable hunger and thirst for Him and His Word (1 Pet. 2:1-2).
—that they will worship God in spirit and truth frequently (John 4:23-24).
—that they will have a Second Coming mentality (1 John 3:1-3).
—that they will live their lives with eternity in view (Phil. 3:20-21).

I pray for my children . . .
            —that they will come under strong conviction when they sin (Ps. 51), and
            —that they will confess their sins to God (1 John 1:9) and to others (James 5:16).

I pray for my children . . .
—that God will protect them from themselves, violent people and the evil one. (I received these three prayer items from a godly uncle of mine who has since gone home to be with the Lord).

I pray for my children’s spouses, if they are to have them (1Cor. 7:7), . . .
            —that God will cultivate godliness and the same traits already mentioned within them.
            —that God will bring them together at the proper time.           
            —that they will honor Him in the courtship and keep them pure before Him.
            —that God will be the center of their home and this become evident to others.
            —that God would bring them to a godly, Bible-centered church, where they may grow in their walks with the Lord, both individually and collectively. 

I pray that my daughter will become a Proverbs 31 woman and my son an Ephesians 5 man whether God grants them spouses or not.

I pray for my children . . .
—that God will be at work within them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
—that God will grant them a sense of excellence in doing things unto the Glory of God in the everyday activities of their lives (1 Thess. 4:1 and 4:10; 1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 1:20).
—that they will know experientially that He alone is worthy to receive all glory, honor and praise and live their lives accordingly (Rev. 4:11; Rev. 5:1-11).

I pray for my children . . .
—that they will not be conformed to this world, but instead they will be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:1-2) and the washing of water with the Word (Eph. 5:26).
—that they grow in the grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18), and
—that they grow in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

Simply put, I pray for my children . . . 
—that they will walk with God all the days of their lives (Judges 2:7; 1 Sam. 1:11; Ps. 23:6), and
—that we will see the fruits of a lifetime of walking with Jesus before His throne (Rev. 4:9-11). 

Dr. Harris' post originally appeared on his blog Glory Books Ministry Blog.

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