With my own four children now out of their teenage years and into adulthood, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think back on my own parenting journey. On the one hand, I’m grateful for the Godly advice that was given to me by older parents who had already raised their now adult children. All of the good advice I had chosen to follow paid great dividends. On the other hand, hindsight leaves me with some regrets. . . things I wish I had done differently as a dad.
One of my personal parenting regrets relates to prayer. Yes, we prayed for our children. But all too often those prayers were squeezed in between other activities on our busy and frantic schedules. Looking back, I also realize that our prayers were “amped up” in frequency and intensity when we were in the midst of navigating difficult parenting matters with our kids. I’m sure that’s not unusual, but I do wish that the frequency and intensity of those “tough time” prayers had been the usual rather than the from time-to-time.
So, when asked by others what I might do differently if I could do it all over again, “praying more” would be one of my answers. If I could go back and give my younger self some advice, I would earnestly advise that younger self to pray for my children in the same manner that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemene the night before His death. The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote that there are five aspects to the way Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39 that we would do well to emulate. How might enlisting each of these aspects change the way you pray for your children?
First, our prayer for our children should be lonely prayer. This does not mean that we are to feel alone as we parent our kids. Rather, we are to look regularly for opportunities to withdraw from all the regular activities, hurriedness, and distractions of life to focus solely on prayer. Jesus was deliberately by himself where no ears but God’s ears would hear his prayers. A lonely prayer is an intense and focused prayer.
Second, our prayer for our children should be humble prayer. When Jesus approached his Father in prayer he fell with his face to the ground. This was a position that represented humble recognition of his Father’s power, sovereignty, and holiness. Sometimes we get lost in thinking that we know what to do and how to do it. Reality is, that if we depend solely on ourselves and not on God for guidance, direction, wisdom, and power, we are doomed to eventually fail. It’s better to humbly fall flat on your face while crying out to God in prayer, than falling flat on your face through failure rooted in self-reliance.
Third, our prayer for our children should be filial prayer. The word “filial” signifies the affection, respect, and devotion from a son or daughter to a parent. Jesus assumed a filial posture as he approached his Heavenly Father. In the same way, those of us who have been adopted by God as His sons and daughters must “plead” our adoption, recognizing that God has given us the right and privilege to approach Him as His children.
Fourth, our prayer for our children should be persevering prayer. The Bible tells us that while he was in the Garden, he prayed three times. Prayer for our children should be regular and ongoing.
And fifth, our prayer for our children should be submissive prayer. If you’re like me, your prayers are uttered while assuming that you know what the most desirable answer and outcome should be. But the prayer of Jesus reminds us that we must trust God’s wisdom, as He will give us the answer we need. We must pray, “not my will, but Your will be done.”
It’s never too late to learn new ways to pray for your kids . . . and everything else in life as we live in humble dependence and reliance of our sovereign God.