In our society, children are viewed as a nuisance. The wisdom of the world, embodied by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, tells us that children will only drag us down. They will take our time, money, and energy. The Bible, of course, tells us something else. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Even so, many Christian families (and husbands in particular) have unwittingly adopted aspects of the worldly view. We may never say children are a burden, but do our actions demonstrate just how precious they are to us?
One of the most practical ways that you can show how important your children are to you is to pray for them. This applies to both fathers and mothers equally, but I will be addressing fathers in this post.
Dads, if you want to see an example of a man who interceded for his children, consider God’s servant Job.
And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. (Job 1:4-5)
For Job, interceding for his children entailed offering sacrifices to God. Today, Christians no longer need to sacrifice grain or animals to God because Christ was the final sacrifice for sin. However, we are still to offer up our prayers to God on behalf of our children. We can be confident that as Job made offerings for each of his children he also prayed for them and interceded on their behalf.
Note three things about Job’s prayers for his children:
- He prayed for each child individually (“according to the number of them all”)
- His main concern was their obedience to God’s Law-Word (“It may be that my sons have sinned”)
- Praying for his children was the pattern of his life (“Thus did Job continually”)
Job interceded for each child individually. We should do the same. In order to do this, we must invest time into each child in order to better know their needs. I have four children. I have friends who have more. No matter how many children we have, if we value them, we will make time to invest in our children. Job was not content to simply offer a general prayer for all his children. He spent time praying for each child and that child’s specific needs.
The text tells us that one of Job’s main concerns regarding his children was their obedience to God’s Law-Word. We know this because he says, “It may be that my sons have sinned.” In your prayers for your children, keep your priorities straight. The most important thing is not that your children get good grades or have perfect health. The most important thing is their obedience to God. This obedience ultimately must come from God’s Spirit, which causes us to pray diligently for our children’s salvation, which leads to holy living (i.e. obedience from the heart).
Praying for our children should be the pattern of our lives, rather than a sporadic thing. Job interceded continually for his kids. It will take some effort to make it a habit to pray for your kids regularly, but they are worth it. There are a number of ways you can make it a practice to pray for your kids. One idea is to pick a day of the week and spend some time in focused prayer for one of your children that day. For example, if you have four children and you pick Sunday as the day you spend some time in specific prayer for each child, then every month will give you one day for each child. No doubt you will be praying for your children in a general manner every day (during mealtime prayers, Family Worship, etc.), but it is also valuable to set aside some specific time to pray for each individual child. I have personally found that writing out my prayers are helpful in keeping me focused.
Remember, if we are going to effectively pray for our children, we must also invest the time to know them. We need to spend time with our children. Too many parents are so focused on other things (even seemingly good things like “ministry”) that they neglect the spiritual needs of their kids. Fathers, if you have not already made it a practice to conduct Family Worship every day with your wife and children, I recommend you begin with that in order to cultivate a pattern of spending quality time with your children. (For help with Family Worship, consider spending a few bucks on Joel Beeke’s book Family Worship.) Listen to your kids, seek to understand them, be patient and try to gently draw out what they are thinking. Observe them. Consider their struggles. If you do these things, you will have plenty to pray for.