Recently, one of our local Christian radio stations had a prayer and praise day. For 12 hours straight, the phone lines were open and listeners could call and praise God for an answered prayer and also make prayer requests. During one segment of the day, listeners were invited to call in and nominate someone for the Faith Hall of Fame—someone whom they felt demonstrated faith by the way they lived. One little boy called in and nominated his mom. When the announcer asked this youngster why his mother qualified, he answered, “Because she prays for me every day.”
How I wish this were the proud boast of every child! At the risk of offending those of my generation, I have to say that on the whole, we’ve done a lousy job of parenting. Determined not to grow up, and mired in materialistic self-indulgence, this generation has neglected their children, spoiled them, modeled alcohol and drug use in front of them, and failed to provide the moral boundaries that teach them what is right and wrong.
I realize this is a generalization. Of course there are exceptions. Many of us provide computers and private-school education for our children to give them a head start on a successful adulthood. But of all the things we do for our children, prayer is the most important.
Why pray for our children? Because Satan wants them! Jesus told Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat,”1 and this is what the enemy wants to do to our children in these last days.
But we are not helpless in this struggle for the souls of our children! Lamentations 2:19 (NIV) gives us a plan: “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children.”
At this point in our discussion, I need to say something very important. Strive to be a praying parent, not a perfect parent. It’s not being a perfect parent that makes the difference in a child’s life. None of us are perfect, so how can we be perfect parents? It’s the praying parent that makes the difference. And that’s something we all can be.
Here are five ways we can pray for and with our children.
1. Pray a prayer of blessing on your children.2
How important it is that our children receive God’s blessing! Our kids hunger to know that they are loved, that there’s no one else who owns the key to our hearts in exactly the same way. And they hunger to know that God is their Friend and that His smile, not His frown, is on them. We have the incredible privilege as parents and New Testament priests3 to administer blessing to our children.
Call your children to your side at least once a year—perhaps on their birthdays or on New Year’s Eve. Place your hands upon their heads, representing God’s hands of provision and protection. Thank God for each unique child of yours, and then, inserting his or her name in the text, repeat the words of blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV): “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Parents, don’t miss out on one of your highest privileges—that of blessing your children. You don’t have to do it exactly as described above, but find your way to communicate God’s approval and delight in your sons and daughters, be they four, fourteen, or forty! And do you know what? God promises to put His name on your children and to bless them.4 What more could you want for them?
2. Make personalized prayer lists for each child.
The credit for this idea goes to Stormie Omartian, author of The Power of a Praying Parent.5 Designate a time each year, perhaps at the beginning of summer vacation, to make a prayer list for each of your children. Take pencil and paper in hand, and ask God to show you how to pray for each child over the next twelve months. Claim Psalm 25:14 as you do this, believing that He will reveal your children’s needs to you when you ask.
This exercise may take several days. Feel free to add to the lists as needed throughout the year.
3. Pray, claiming promises from Scripture.
Add gifts to the list you created in step two, and claim the associated Scripture verses:
A. Protection—Psalm 17:8, 9; 91:1, 2, 9, 10-12; Isaiah 54:17.
B. Love and acceptance—Isaiah 41:9; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:8.
C. Respect for parents and other authorities Proverbs 1:8, 9; Isaiah 30:1; Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20.
D. Godly friends and role models—Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 4:14; 12:26; 22:24, 25.
E. A hunger for the things of God—Psalm 86:11, 12; 119:2; Proverbs 14:27; Matthew 5:6.
F. Recognition of God-given gifts and talents Proverbs 18:6; 22:29; Romans 11:29; 1 Peter 4:10.
G. Freedom from fear—Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; Ephesians 4:17, 18, 22-24; Philippians 2:5; 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:7.
H. A sound mind—Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; Ephesians 4:17, 18, 22-24; Philippians 2:5; 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:7.
I. Freedom from alcohol, drugs, and other addictions—Deuteronomy 30:19; John 8:36; Romans 8:13.
J. Sexual purity—1 Corinthians 6:13, 18; 10:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; James 1:2; 1 Peter 2:11.
K. The right mate—Psalm 127:1; Proverbs 3:5, 6; 18:22; Malachi 2:13-16; Hebrews 13:4.
4. Make it real.
Children do what they see. If prayer is to be real to them, it must first be real to their parents. So model time alone with Jesus. Let your children “catch” you on your knees during times of private prayer and devotion. In this way, they’ll see that prayer is important to Mom or Dad.
Pray after the TV news. This will bring a sense of reality to prayer. Prayer becomes relevant when you make the real-life problems you’ve seen the subject of your talks with God.
Don’t fuss when your children don’t feel like praying. Pray for them aloud during those times, and give them space as they develop their relationship with God. A forced prayer through pouting lips and tear-streaked cheeks won’t benefit anyone. Don’t burden prayer with negative pressure to perform.
5. Make it simple and fun.
Keep prayer with the children simple and short. Teach them to be as specific as possible, and let them know that it is appropriate to pray anytime and anywhere. Use creative approaches to prayer, like “prayer balloons.” Write your prayer requests on slips of paper, insert them into uninflated balloons, and fill the balloons with helium. When released, the balloons become a visual object lesson teaching that our prayers ascend to God.
In our home, we enjoy creating “prayer stars.” Everyone kneels in a circle on the carpet with our folded hands touching at the fingertips. When we finish praying, we drop our still-folded-and-touching hands to the carpet, and then everyone leans back, pulling their hands apart in a v-shape along the carpet. The result is a starburst pattern on the carpet—a visible mark on the spot where we had family prayer.
Place a prayer or Scripture verses in your children’s lunch pails so that when they open them around noontime, they’ll know that you’re thinking and praying about them.
These are just a few of the ways to make prayer an important part of your children’s lives. Experiment. Be bold and creative. Just remember that of all the things we do for our children, prayer is the most important. It may be the thing that gets you a nomination into the “faith hall of fame” from a grateful child—and from Jesus, who prays for you without ceasing.6
This article is an excerpt from the book 5 Steps to Christlike Living.