In 1979, my father, Larry, was the manager of computer operations for a major oil company. It was the dawn of the computer age and, at that time, computers were just beginning to change from luxuries to necessities. In an industry of high competition, time was just as valuable as money. Then, it happened.
For no apparent reason, the computer room (at that time, computers took up rooms, not laps or desktops) shut down—dead. The computer operators were not able to reboot the computer and could not find any reason for the problem. In an effort to get up and running, Larry called in the A-Team of technicians … no success. They called in the regional technicians … no success. The room was full of operators, managers, and junior and senior technicians all scratching their heads.
The next day, an intern returned from vacation and wondered what the problem was. No one gave him a very thorough answer, convinced he had nothing additional to offer. He strolled around the room to kill time and then asked, “Shouldn’t this button be pushed in?” He pushed it, and the computer rebooted.
The technicians and managers, my father included, had gone to great lengths to address the problems. Yet all the while, the solution was so simple; it’s just that no one stopped to think of the basics.
In the same way, as parents we are so willing to give our children all we think they need. We give them food, clothing, and shelter. We give them entertainment and enrichment. We sacrifice our own hobbies, preferences, and personal interests on their behalf. Most of us would give our own lives to ensure their success and happiness. Yet is it possible that we are missing their most important need?
Corrie ten Boom once wrote, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” As parents we should be asking ourselves, “Is prayer for our children a normal part of our daily lives … or is it something we do only when we feel helpless?”
The truth is, we can never pray enough. We need power from God to do all He’s called us to do, and so do our children. In addition, we are raising our children in a world with values contrary to our own—a world that seeks to attack and destroy our children. And so much of the attack is out of our control. We can’t defend them against all of these attacks, but we can always pray!
A common misunderstanding
With all of the needs children have, many parents wonder if prayer is actually their greatest need. This often stems from a very common misunderstanding. As parents we fall into the trap of believing that we are the ones providing food, clothing, and shelter. We think we are the ones giving them the love and care they need, building character into their lives, and teaching them spiritual truths. While we are often used by God as the vehicle for these needs, it is always God who provides all things, and it is God who is responsible for moving in their hearts (Matthew 6:25-33).
Even the most well intended parents cannot force their children to accept their love and care. While most children will not deny a free home and free food, not all will see these as tangible acts of love.
God is at work in the lives and hearts of your children. He is the One who restrains your children—and you—from being the worst among sinners. God orchestrates the events in their lives, and ultimately they will come to faith only when His Spirit draws them.
That’s why praying for our children must top our list of parenting priorities. In their book, While They Are Sleeping, Anne Arkins and Gary Harrell write:
One of the most important things we can do for our children may occur in the still of the night—while all is quiet, and they are sound asleep. That is … to pray for them—faithfully, and fervently petitioning the Father on their behalf—involving ourselves in the work He is doing in their lives. Prayer changes things … prayer changes people. There are many times when far greater results come from quiet communion with God than from all the rhetoric available to mankind.
As parents, God calls us to much action. We are to take part joyfully in the care and nurture of our children. It requires much commitment and stamina. However, all might just be for naught if we fail to recognize our need for God’s power, their need for God’s power—their need for prayer.
Praying for our children
Even when we realize the importance of praying for our children, we often allow ourselves to be deterred, even discouraged, in the process. Here are a few suggestions to help you pray for your children with effectiveness and power.
A: Acknowledge before God that your children belong first to Him, then to you. Acknowledge that His love for them is even greater than your love for them. Acknowledge that He can and does influence them more than you do. Acknowledge your own dependence upon Him to fulfill the calling He’s given you as a parent (John 15:5).
B: Be an example of Christian integrity for your children. Don’t be their excuse for not doing as they ought. Be available to pray with, and not just for, your children. Be trustworthy as a model of Christlikeness for them. Recall what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” The calling is this: Be what you desire them to be.
C: Consistency is key. Don’t give up on them. Allow consistency to characterize your prayer life for them as well as your love and care of them. Consider using a prayer guide such as While They Were Sleeping or a book like How a Man Prays for His Family to encourage regular prayer. Don’t allow the behavior of your children to draw you away from praying. They will feel your lack of consistency; they will feel your consistency as well (Psalm 1).
Stick with it
It really can be that simple—and that challenging—all at once. As complicated as parenting can be, how sad it is to know so many who have forgotten the simple and uncomplicated blessing of praying as parents. As we pursue effective parenting techniques, we have to remember the basic call to pray … to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
There comes a time when our children may not express their love to us in the same way. It may seem as though they are pulling away. Don’t allow this tendency to create a distance. Pursue your children with great fervor. Pursue God on your children’s behalf all the more. Stick it out, both in action and in prayer, until you release them from your home and into their own lives as adults.
As you do this, you will communicate to your children that they always have someone on their side fighting in their corner. They’ll know you mean it, and it will give them great confidence. They may not always appreciate it. They may even try to push it away. If they do, consider these words from evangelist Charles Spurgeon: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
This is the type of sacrificial love and prayer our children need to see, feel, and experience from all of us. If our children succeed in life, let us thank God for His great work in their lives. If they wander into the things of this world, let it not be because their mom and dad failed to plead with God on their behalf. And, if and when they return, let us again turn our thanks and praise to God Himself, who is the great Father of us all.
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.