There are few things more powerful and more profound a parent can do for their kids than pray for them.
“Men ought always to pray.” Luke 18:1
“I will that men pray everywhere.” 1 Timothy 2:1
I have a question to offer you. It is contained in three words, DO YOU PRAY? The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers or not, your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.
All the children of God on earth are alike in this respect. From the moment there is any life and reality about their religion, they pray. Just as the first sign of the life of an infant, when born into the world, is the act of breathing, so the first act of men and women when they are born again is praying.
This is one of the common marks of all the elect of God, “They cry unto him day and night.” Luke 18:1. The Holy Spirit, who makes them new creatures, works in them a feeling of adoption, and makes them cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15. The Lord Jesus, when he quickens them, gives them a voice and a tongue, and says to them, “Be dumb no more.” God has no dumb children. It is as much a part of their new nature to pray, as it is of a child to cry. They see their need of mercy and grace. They feel their emptiness and weakness. They cannot do otherwise than they do. They must pray.
– JC Ryle
Prayer is not merely a good idea for parents; it’s absolutely essential. Bishop Ryle’s point is well taken.
Kids instinctively cry when they need mercy. When we need mercy, we stubbornly exercise our well used muscle of self-will and self-reliance. We pray far too often as a means of last resort. I have read countless books over the years that deal with practical how to’s when it comes to parenting. These are helpful and essential but out of those books I have read precious few mention our need to call out to God for daily guidance and intervention. Our kids see what’s valuable to us. When pain enters our life, it tells our kids who are observing what we value most. Pain enters our life through the disappointments of the things we value most, so what causes us pain in our real treasure no matter what we say. The response that pain elicits reveals who we serve. Where you turn or what you turn to when life gets difficult shows what we trust to fix our situation. When you face difficulty, do you turn to the Lord in prayer as a matter of instinct or as a matter of last resort?
Prayer is needed in our communication with our kids. Having kids of any age will up your prayer life. Having kids makes you more aware of your need for God’s help because there are so many things that take place that you can not control. We don’t just communicate with our kids; we have to help our kids understand how to communicate with God.
Prayer is a sign that we are saved because it demonstrates our dependence on the grace of God alone. Many things show the validity of our salvation, but of all those things, I believe prayer is most essential. The reason prayer matters so much are it reveals to us and to others how much we really believe that we are saved by grace.
JC Ryle says:
“And I say furthermore, that of all the evidences of the real work of the Spirit, a habit of hearty private prayer is one of the most satisfactory that can be named. A person may preach from false motives. A person may write books and ,make fine speeches and seem diligent in good works, and yet be a Judas Iscariot. But a person seldom goes into their closet and pours out their soul before God in secret, unless they are in earnest. The Lord himself has set his stamp on prayer as the best proof of conversion. When he sent Ananias to Saul in Damascus, he gave him no other evidence of his change of heart than this, “Behold he prays.” Acts 9:11.”
Prayer does nothing to better our position or standing in ways we can reason. It’s a supernatural activity by which we experience Divine grace.
One of the statistics that many people throw around is that 75% of kids walk away from the church after High School. The question I ask is of those %75 percent who walked away from the church after High School how many of them either never knew God or walked away from Him way before they walked away from the church. Our kids need to know about God. They need to experience God, but they also need to have an ongoing daily conversation with God. Our kids may be in a small group they may serve in the church, but do they cry out to God when no one is watching.
Do they seek God in private? Prayer is a private conversation that has massive public ramifications. Our kids are walking away from an organized church that has failed to teach them to seek God personally.
Prayer is an external sign of inward humility. When we pray, we admit that we don’t have the answers that we need God’s help. Our kids need to see us pray in front of them to model to them that prayer has value but our kids must also sense we pray as a result of the priorities we have and the decisions we make. Prayer should be more than a mystical experience or a discipline we practice prayer is an evidence of our salvation, it is a means of us maintaining a holy life, and brings to our lives great contentment. A person who prays isn’t a holy out of touch person who flaunts their goodness. A person who prays in humble, dependent and holy. The ongoing conversation we have with our kids is vitally connected with our prayers for them and for us. We can not parent, lead, or guide our kids without the power of the Gospel without the grace that prayer drives us into.
Everything we do and each of these tools are entirely depended on private prayer. We need to raise kids who know how to pray. I read in Joel Beeke’s great book on Puritan Theology how the puritans taught their kids to pray. It was as helpful as it was practical. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.
1. Be short. With a few exceptions, don’t pray for more than five minutes. Tedious prayers do more harm than good.
2. Don’t teach in your prayer; God doesn’t need the instruction. Be simple without being shallow.
3. Pray for things that your children know something about, but don’t allow your prayers to become trivial.
4. Don’t reduce your prayers to self-centered, shallow petitions. Be direct. Spread your needs before God, plead your case, and ask for mercy.
5. Name your teenagers and children and their needs one by one on a daily basis. Be natural yet solemn. Speak clearly and reverently.
6. Be varied. Don’t pray the same thing every day; that becomes tedious. Develop more variety in prayer by remembering and stressing the various ingredients of true prayer, such as calling upon God to hear your prayers, adoring God for His titles and attributes, declaring your humble dependence and need, confessing family sins, asking for family mercies (both material and spiritual), interceding for friends and churches and nations, giving thanks for God’s blessings, and blessing God for His kingdom and glory. Mix these ingredients with different proportions to get variety in your prayers.
Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. Kindle Edition.
Let me close by saying blogging about prayer is not prayer. Talking about prayer is not prayer. Encouraging others to pray is not prayer. Prayer is prayer. Parent, leader, pastor Do you pray?