My earliest childhood memories are wrapped in feelings of gratitude for the heritage of prayer in our modest home. Rather than saying, “It’s time to pray,” I remember my parents saying, “It’s time to talk to God.” In our Christian family, prayer was an extremely important value that was spoken over us throughout my entire life. Words cannot express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for this gift.
My sister and I were born two years apart. As toddlers we had a precious custom that we performed each night during our bedtime prayers. In the evening as bedtime approached Daddy would call us into the living room to pray, or rather to “talk to God”. A large-framed man, Daddy would kneel by the forest green sofa. Either my sister or I would squeeze beneath him and kneel to pray. I’m not really sure how this tradition began, but let me just say, this picture of the Father’s love is my earliest childhood memory and will forever remain nestled in my heart. My sister and I would fight for this place kneeling underneath our praying Daddy; Mama always kept track of who had knelt under Daddy the night before to keep it fair.
This nightly ritual whispered softly to me the grace and love of God, my heavenly Father. My daddy would pray over us, both literally and figuratively, and it always made me feel secure and safe.
Now, as a parent, I understand. I know that my daddy wasn’t just teaching me to thank God for puppy dogs and butterflies, or to ask for no rain on my birthday, or to make requests for loved ones. He was modeling a relationship with God. His prayers were not just with me but for me. I have no doubt that as he would listen to our tiny little prayers, he was praying that we’d grow up knowing God and experiencing His amazing love.
Consequently, he (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
What an endearing picture of how Jesus intercedes for me, just as my Daddy did. This kind of love of a father for his child is incomparable.
As believers, praying for our children is such a grace-filled way to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. For years I liked to think I was a faithful “pray-er” for my children. I would make long lists in my journal. I prayed through index cards for each of them with dates and details highlighted in different colors. I joined prayer groups that were specifically designed for moms to pray for their children. I read books on praying for your family. The list goes on and on and on.
None of these things are wrong unless I’m driven to do these things in a formulated, conditional kind of way. A law-driven prayer life when my prayer is based on something I do to earn God’s favor is such a chore. Freedom in praying comes from a true understanding of God’s character and his unconditional love for both me and my children. Oh to be free, free indeed!
In recent years I have come to understand, by the grace of God, that the motivation behind my prayers might have been misguided. Admittedly, too often my prayers for my children were driven by what I thought was best for them (oh, and what was best for me). I was praying my imperfect will for them instead of God’s perfect will for their lives.
Thankfully, over time I’ve gained new perspective. I now understand, and have chosen to believe, that God’s ways and plans for them are so much better than mine. There is tremendous value in praying His desires for my children rather than my own.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8, 9).
With this new perspective that I’ve gained from God’s Word, I am free to pray in a humble, open-handed kind of way. My long list of wishes for my children has become a beautiful conversation between my heavenly Father and me about His perfect love and plans for them.
Until we have a better understanding of God and His character, we will never be able to fully trust His orchestration and sovereignty. You see, this is the key: His love for my children is so much greater than mine. His power in their lives is sufficient to take care of them. His forgiveness is limitless. His grace for them is flawless. His provision is complete. He is a far superior parent to them than I could ever be.
The hearts of our kids will break in disappointment. They will be weak and frail. They will feel unloved and unaccepted. They will be needy and desperate. They will be sick and afraid. They will long for things of this earth that were never meant to be theirs. As a mom who loves them dearly, when I see them hurt it hurts me. But this is my comfort: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
I simply cannot imagine how Jesus hurts for me as He is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for me, perfectly. He knows my pain and the pain of my children more deeply than I could possibly imagine.
May we pray for our children to kneel beneath the loving arms of a Father who is more passionate about them than we as parents could ever hope to be. And as a result, may we all find freedom in Him.