What is the most important gift you can give your child?
A quality education? A healthy diet? A childhood full of fun memories? A large inheritance? A home filled with love? A box full of legos?
Each of these are wonderful gifts that can make a significant impact on a child, but I believe one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is your prayers for them.
If God is our children’s Creator (Ps. 139:13), the only one who can save them (Acts 4:12) and effectively change them from the inside out (2 Cor. 3:18), what could be more important than faithfully bringing them to God in prayer?
And yet, I’m sad to say that it has not always been a priority for me. Praying for my kids has sometimes been like my workout routine–weak, sporadic, and aimless.
In Luke 11, Jesus gives guidance that can both strengthen and equip us as we pray for our kids. Here are six simple prayer principles to consider:
1. Plan a Time and Place to Pray (Lk 11:1)
Luke 11:1 “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’”
Jesus’ disciples came to Him after He finished praying “in a certain place.” Repeatedly in Luke’s gospel, Jesus makes a point of pulling away from the crowds to spend time with His Father in prayer. He prays before big decisions, (Lk 6:12), all alone (9:18), and sometimes with others (9:28). Prioritize prayer for your children by scheduling a time slot in your schedule. In addition to personal morning prayer time, my wife and I take a few minutes every night to pray with our children in their bedrooms as we put them to sleep. We all plan for those things that are important to us, so plan a place and time to pray for your children.
God, grant me the grace and wisdom to organize my daily schedule in such a way that prayer for my kids is demonstrated to be the priority that I know it is.
2. Bring Your Children to their Father (Lk 11:2a)
Luke 11:2 “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father…”
Jesus begins his model prayer by referring to God as His “Father.” When we purposefully address God as our “Father” as we pray for our children, we are reminded that children are ultimately not ours, they are God’s. If our children have been “born again” through repentance and faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, they are children of God and we are first and foremost their brothers and sisters in Christ. Begin your prayers by addressing God as Father and remembering that He loves your children more than you do.
Father, I acknowledge the fact that the children who call me daddy are not my own. As a steward of these precious gifts, I bring them to you to ask how you want me to parent them.
3. Submit to God’s Sovereign Plan (Lk 11:2b)
Luke 11:2 “…hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.”
Jesus continues His prayer by calling for God’s holy name to be reverenced and God’s kingdom rule to be realized. As a dad, I’m often more concerned that my name is respected and my plans for the family are carried out. However, Jesus’ prayer reminds me that our identity and mission as part of God’s family is ultimately more primary than the reputation of the Dalrymple family. I have plans and hopes for my kids but these must take a backseat to God’s good and sovereign will. I must submit to God’s plans because He is the King of my heart and our home.
God, I submit to you as King and ask that you reign over my heart and home. Guide my planning for my children so that together we might serve your kingdom purposes for your glory.
4. Ask for Daily Provision and Protection (Lk 11:3-4)
Luke 11:3–4 “Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.””
Jesus lists a few different examples of requests to make to our heavenly Father. It is very easy for me to default to praying for the urgent physical needs of my children—including their health and safety—but fail to prioritize their spiritual needs. They need both provision of daily bread but also protection from sinful temptations. They need to grow healthy and strong, but also to grow in love, forgiving others who have wronged them. By God’s grace, we must care for what food goes into their bodies as well as what attitudes come out of their hearts.
God, I pray that you would cause my children to grow physically and spiritually every day, protected from the temptations of Satan who desires to harm their souls and bodies.
5. Don’t Stop Praying for your Child (Lk 11:5-10)
Luke 11:9 “…And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
After Jesus’ model prayer, he gives a brief story about a dad who reluctantly helps out a friend who repeatedly knocks at his door and asks for help in the middle of the night. Jesus gives this illustration to teach about the power of persistence and determination in prayer and concludes, “…ask [and keep on asking], and it will be given to you; seek [and keep on seeking], and you will find; knock [and keep on knocking], and it will be opened to you.” If you are a parent like me who wonders if your children will ever overcome certain sin struggles, don’t stop praying! There’s nothing impossible with God.
God, please help me to faithfully labor in prayer for my children, knowing that you have invited me to persist in prayer and there is nothing too hard for you.
6. Pray with Confidence in the Father’s Goodness (Lk 11:11-13)
Luke 11:13 “…If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Jesus concludes His teaching on prayer by using yet another fatherhood illustration. When our children ask us for good things (like a fish or an egg), we don’t respond with evil gifts (a serpent or a scorpion). How much more will our good Father in heaven give us (and our children) exactly what we need?
If God doesn’t give your children what you are praying for, you must trust that it is not truly good for them. In this gospel account, Jesus highlights our children’s greatest need and His greatest New Covenant gift–the indwelling Holy Spirit.
God, in your perfect wisdom as a gracious Father, I trust that you will always answer prayers by giving to my child only what is good for them. Above all, I pray that you save them so they might have the Holy Spirit’s presence.
I am thankful for godly parents and parents-in-law who have spent their lives walking with God and raising their children and grandchildren to do the same. But I strongly believe that it was their faithful prayers that have made the biggest difference as I’ve joyfully watched each of my siblings continue to love and serve the Lord with their lives.1
Our parenting prayers demonstrate our dependence on God and our trust in Him as the One who gives His Holy Spirit and effects lasting change in our child. May God grant us the grace to be faithful parents who labor in prayer.
This does not diminish the incredible value of a godly legacy. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that parents with a child who is not walking with God failed to pray–unanswered prayers for children don’t reflect on the parent or on the power of prayer but on the purposes of God. So keep praying for your children (and grandchildren)! ↩