“You’ve got to pray for my children, their exams are next week!”
It wasn’t the first time our friend had approached my wife and me with this request for prayer. Through the years, she had often asked us to help her pray about her many needs.
These revolved around her struggles as a parent, often to do with her girls: their grades, their reluctance to attend church, and their “disrespectful and ungrateful” attitudes towards her.
As always, my wife made time to listen, and pray with her too. We knew that it brought her immense comfort, and that she needed support. At the same time, we had to ask ourselves a few questions.
Had we allowed our sister in Christ to become overly dependent on us when it came to praying for her children? How could we help her to grow in her prayer life? How could we encourage her to learn to talk to her heavenly Father on her own?
Help! How Do I Pray for My Children?
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What Motivates Our Prayer?
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Why do we pray? What motivates us to talk to God?
Maybe we feel obliged to. Perhaps we pray only when we want God to meet a certain desire or need. But what if we saw prayer as a conversation with God, in which we could share our inner thoughts, including our worries and deepest fears?
Consider Jesus’ words in John 15:7, where He promises that God will grant the prayers of those who “remain in” Him. We may wonder what it means to remain, or to abide, in Jesus.
To remain in Jesus is to maintain our vital connection to Him, the true vine. When we remain in Jesus, the Holy Spirit transforms our lives through the Word, sharing with us the mind and will of Christ.
What if we saw prayer as a conversation with God, in which we could share our inner thoughts, including our worries and deepest fears?
More and more, we become able to submit ourselves and our children to Jesus’ authority, and to live according to His way. His priorities become our priorities, and His plans become our plans. In the process, He helps us and our children to bear spiritual fruit.
If we seek to remain in Jesus as we walk with God, we will see prayer not simply as a “line” to request things from God, but more so as a means of building and maintaining our relationship with Christ.
Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus shows us how we can pray for our children:
I have not stopped giving thanks for you,
remembering you in my prayers.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the glorious Father, may give you
the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
I pray that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order that you may know
the hope to which he has called you, the riches
of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Paul fervently prayed that his fellow believers would know God better. We can pray the same thing for our children—that the Holy Spirit would give them wisdom to understand the greatness of God’s power and the hope they have in Christ.
At the heart of prayer is our relationship with God. If we see prayer in this light, we will see each prayer for our children not only as a request for their well-being, but also as an act of entrusting their lives to God’s loving will.
Praying for God’s Will for Our Kids
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know
what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself
intercedes for us through wordless groans.
And he who searches our hearts knows
the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes
for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Sometimes, it is difficult to tell the difference between what we want for our kids—these things can come from human ambition—and what they really need in order to flourish as children of God.
For example, when we pray that our kids would do well in their studies or careers, is it because we want them to make us look good? Is it because we want them to elevate our image as parents?
Or, is it because we truly desire that they make full use of the talents and abilities that God has given them for His purposes and glory?
Just as we need to humbly recognise that we cannot parent with our own strength, we also need to understand that we need the Holy Spirit to help us pray for them.
The good news is that God helps us to pray. The Holy Spirit not only puts the right words in our mouths and in our hearts, but also prays to the Father on our behalf.
We can take comfort in the assurance that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
Many of us struggle with praying for ourselves and our children. Just as we need to humbly recognise that we cannot parent with our own strength, we also need to understand that we need the Holy Spirit to help us pray for them.
At the same time, we can also take comfort in this amazing truth: prayer works.
Prayer Can Change Things
Elijah was a human being, even as we are.
He prayed earnestly that it would not rain,
and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.
Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain,
and the earth produced its crops.
While Elijah held the office of prophet, he was still a man, a mere mortal. Yet, his prayer resulted in dramatic weather shifts, bringing glory to God. When he prayed for drought, the skies held back rain (1 Kings 17:1–7). When he prayed for rain, it poured (18:41–45).
We are told that God listens to His people’s cries: “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18); “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12).
We are also assured that God answers prayers made in faith and in accordance with His will: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15).
And we are reminded that God loves to hear us and give us what is good for us: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).
What encouragement from the words of Christ himself in Matthew 7:11! There, He compares our love for our children to God’s love for us as our Father.
Prayer can change things, because God wants to change things.
As our children are ultimately God’s children, He wants the best for them too. He desires to answer our prayers for their good.
Prayer can change things, because God wants to change things.
At the same time, let us remember that we experience the power of prayer only because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. His sacrifice enables us to draw near to “God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
May we dedicate ourselves to praying to God with humility, depending completely on Him to act in the lives of our children, as we surrender ourselves—our fears, concerns, and hopes—to Him.