In my seminary class on the doctrines of our faith, our professor Dr. John Hannah told a story of how he prayed for his girls when they were growing up. “I used to pray for their safety and their protection,” he said. “Then one day I realized what God would have me pray is for His will to be done in their lives. So I changed and started praying that. And I added ‘And give them the grace to accept what You have planned.’”
I remember having similar thoughts when we raised our six. I too prayed for safety, often because I loved our children and when they got hurt, I hurt. When they suffered, I suffered too. Because parents and grandparents love these little people God has given us, this is a natural prayer.
But is safety the most important request we can ask of God?
A story in the Bible helped me understand why praying for God’s will mattered so much. This scene in the Old Testament also caused me to fear offending God and helped me see the seriousness of tolerating sin in our children. It’s the story of Eli and his two sons.
1 Samuel 2 records that these two young men were “worthless men” who “did not know the Lord” (verse 12). Their sin was great, they “treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” (verse 17), and they “would not listen to the voice of their father” (verse 25). Soon after these pronouncements God spoke to Eli and asked, “Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me …?” (1 Samuel 2:29). Though Eli disapproved of his sons’ behavior, his words to his boys were empty and without conviction because he himself was guilty of the same excesses.
We parents must ask the same question of ourselves and our posture toward our children. Do we honor our children above God and His Word?
God brought the same charge against David, who God Himself labeled a man after His own heart. Clearly our devotion to a godly life does not preclude a softness toward our children.
David refused to discipline his son Adonijah, his favorite after his first three heirs had died. We can understand his softness toward this son. Wouldn’t we do the same?
In his grief over the deaths of his oldest three sons David found comfort in being lenient with this fourth son, his next heir. He knew what we know: When our children are happy and enjoying the best things in life, we are happy too. David needed some happiness in his life.
But God knows being soft on sin is a recipe for disaster. And Adonijah knew God had chosen his younger brother, Solomon, to be king. But he refused to surrender to God’s plan. He gathered an army, proclaimed himself king and rallied the people to his side.
In the ensuing drama between Solomon, his mother Bathsheba, and David on his deathbed, Adonijah and some of his men who were once David’s allies were killed. More loss and heartache for David and more unrest and insecurity in the nation. It didn’t have to end this way.
God’s declaration about David was blunt and forthright: He had never crossed his son, Adonijah, by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” (1 Kings 1:6). Parenting and grandparenting is a serious responsibility because the future of children is in our hands. And sin doesn’t just affect one person but has ripple effects on many.
Comfort is an idol in our land. So are all its cousins—safety, prosperity, happiness, abundance, popularity, and all the experiences of the good life. Have we lost sight of God’s values? Have we bought the culture’s lie that a life fully devoted to Jesus Christ is boring, destined to marginalization, and clearly unexciting?
If you’ve read this far wondering about the prayer of my title, here is my challenge if you dare. Yes, pray for the safety of your children … pray, for example, that your 16-year-old driver is careful and stays safe every time he or she gets behind the wheel. But I hope you will also ask God that His will and purposes and plans will be fulfilled in this child made in His image for purposes and glory we can’t imagine.
Why do I say “if you dare”? Somehow the enemy of our souls, Satan, has deceived us into believing that asking God for His will to be done is a dangerous prayer. We have believed turning our kids over to God is inviting His wrath and a disaster of some kind. We fear God will treat our kids like He treated Job in the Old Testament. But we forget God loved Job and in the process of his temporary suffering and loss Job SAW GOD! And his life after his trials was better in every way than before.
I bet if Job could be interviewed today and we asked if the hardships were worth it, he would reply “Yes!” a thousand times. Having been through many trials I heartily agree. What I’ve learned and seen in God makes every minute of the pain and losses worth it.
Dare we rob our children of the unspeakable privilege of seeing and experiencing an encounter with God?
Do we really think letting them play with sin, or letting them refuse to submit to our rules and standards (if our standards are godly and in line with God’s Word) is a safe path for them to walk?
Jesus taught His disciples to pray. But the Lord’s Prayer isn’t just a beautiful set of words set to music to be sung at weddings. Nor is it just a pattern to follow. Jesus in this prayer gave us the essentials for everyday prayer. Every day we are to worship God as Lord with words similar to His:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Then, immediately following this adoration, Jesus said we need to pray:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
Genuinely asking God to work His will in our lives and our kids’ lives feels like a risk because we are asking for a great unknown. And we are giving up control! But who knows your child better, you or His Maker?
Will you dare to pray this prayer for your children and grandchildren?
I’m praying this now for all my grandkids and their parents. And in some situations I’m asking God to do whatever it takes to get their attention so they will see their need of a Savior and surrender to Him.
Someone once said, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” I believe that’s true.
If you belong to the King your highest goal for your children is that they too would belong to Him and choose on their own to follow Him … because they see, in their parents and grandparents, models of adults satisfied and happy in Jesus.
As we close out this series of blog posts on prayer I invite you to take seriously Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Will you ask for His will to be done first in your life? Will you dare ask Him where you are being soft or permissive with your own choices and behaviors?
Then ask yourself what God would say to you about your parenting? Are you guilty like Eli and David of valuing your children’s happiness over their holiness?
Easter taught us the extremes to which God was willing to go to bring us back to Himself. All because He loves His children, you and me, that much. Will you let the grace and mercy and love and forgiveness of Jesus on the cross motivate you to want His will for your life and for your children and grandchildren more than anything else? Then will you be willing to do what is necessary to cooperate with His will?
The first step is prayer. Surrendered-to-His-will prayers followed by asking for the daily bread of His grace and strength to accept and follow His good will.
I hope you will join me and begin to pray this prayer for your children and grandchildren regularly:
My Father in heaven,
dearest Father of my child
who You love more than I possibly can,
may Your will be done in my child’s life.
May Your purposes be fulfilled,
for in Your plan will my child find deepest fulfillment
and meaning in life.
And grant my child the grace to accept Your good will.
Help him to trust You
and be willing to follow You even when the way seems hard.
Thank You that You are a good Father
who delights to give good gifts to Your children,
to those who believe in You above all else.
May Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
To help you talk to God, we encourage you to print the beautifully designed prayer in this blog post. Click here to download.
This is the final post in a six-part series on prayer. If you missed the others, here they are:
- “How to Enjoy Constant Access to God in Prayer”
- “Praying for Those Who May Be Difficult to Love”
- “Rushed Prayers: Treating God Like He’s a Vending Machine”
- “Unanswered Prayer: When God Doesn’t “Come Through” As You Expected, Then What?”
- “Are You Afraid to Pray Big Prayers? Nothing Is Impossible for God”