14 Aug 2020
The children are bickering, supper is burning, and your patience is thinning. How in the world do you bring prayer into this?
Prayer may be a parent’s most potent resource, yet also the most underutilised. We forget to pray. We overthink it. Perhaps prayer intimidates us because we feel we don’t know how to pray. Or we’re unconvinced prayer does anything. Besides, we wonder, does God really want to hear from us? About this?
Yes, weary parent, he does. Scripture tells us to pray about everything and to pray at all times (Phil 4:6-7, Eph 6:18).
Ponder this: We, parents, have a perfect parent who knows our family’s past and future, who loves our children more than we do, and who never grows tired. God invites us to run to him with our concerns, much like the desperate parent from Mark 7 who had a big, scary problem: her daughter was ‘possessed by an impure spirit’. As soon as she could, this mother fell at Jesus‘ feet and begged Jesus to heal her girl. Initially, Jesus’s answer seemed to be ’no'. Mum persisted, and Jesus healed her daughter. [Mark 7:24 -30]
Pray immediately. Instead of trying to pull ourselves together and ‘fix’ things ourselves, we turn to God, just as we are. Given the culture, the Mark 7 mum had no right to approach Jesus. But that didn’t stop her. She recognised the Lord was her only hope. Jesus honoured her request not because of her status, but because of her unmistakable faith and God’s will to do so.
Thankfully, prayer doesn’t require pleasant moods and perfect attitudes. Anger, fear, and frustration can propel us to honest prayer. While it’s often helpful to step away from a heated argument, we want to discipline ourselves to step toward prayer. It wasn’t our finest moment as a family but one of our mealtime prayers went something like this: God, we’re all angry at each other right now. Thanks for the food.
Pray specifically. Approaching God humbly (recognising he is in control) doesn’t mean we don’t come boldly and with specific concerns and requests. Forget flowery language. Simply ask God to work in you and your kids:
• Help me understand why he is afraid.
• Give me the right words to explain why she can’t see that movie.
• Soften his heart to see that he treated his brother unkindly.
• Please provide a friend for her at school today.
Pray persistently. Occasionally, God responds faster than we could imagine. At other times we won’t see any answers at all. Whatever the scenario, prayer deepens our dependence on and intimacy with God. As parents, we want to enjoy our children, to listen to them and for them to listen to us. God desires a similar relationship with us: he wants our hearts and he wants us to know his heart. Even when God seems silent, don’t give up. Press in closer to God and keep praying. God works in his time.
Sometimes, children reach a point where they want nothing to do with prayer. Instead of forcing them to pray, we can reassure our kids that God welcomes their emotions. Feelings, no matter how strong, don’t change God. Bringing hurt, disappointment, and doubt to the Lord is prayer. Let your child know you’re praying. Text your teen asking how you might pray for them. Slip a note under their door that says ‘I know you are struggling with ___. I am praying.’ Your child may not respond at all. Don’t worry. Keep praying for your child, both visibly and privately:
• Place your hand on the closed door of your angry teen and pray for God to work.
• Kneel in his empty room and pray that God would fill him with a hunger for righteousness.
• Hang socks out to dry and pray for family members by name.
Parents, breathe a sigh of relief. We have a loving parent that we can turn to, day or night. We aren’t meant to go it alone. We get to pray, about everything, at all times.