Prayer for Our Children

Hearing about children that have gone wayward, chosen their own way and left parents grieving is scary.  Isn’t it?  You wonder if you will be in their shoes someday.  News of another family struggling through the sorrow of watching a child make life-altering decisions without God prompts this post.  We don’t know what God has in our future.  We don’t know what He has planned for our kids.  We do know Him.  And we have His grace to strengthen and empower us whatever comes our way. I’m grateful for that. And, Lord, help me never to take that grace for granted!

I wanted to share this prayer with you that I have had posted on my bathroom mirror for several years.  It’s a reminder to me every time I look at it that the only thing that could keep our children from the choices that will damage them is this… God.  Simple answer.  Profound truth.  And yet we have a part that He has given us to play too… prayer.  It’s God working in them through His Holy Spirit that will keep them on the right path.  And He has given us the incredible privilege to pray for them, to seek His face about their needs, to cry out to Him for their struggles and challenges. 

This side of Heaven we may only see a little of the ways God will use those prayers.  And on the other side perhaps God will grace us with the full picture of the hidden perils, troubled waters and bitter battles we don’t see from which those prayers have protected and delivered our children.  Amen… let it be so!

Prayer for Our Children

Father, hear us, we are praying.

Hear the words our hearts are saying.

We are praying for our children.

 

Keep them from the powers of evil,

From the secret, hidden peril,

From the whirlpool that would suck them,

From the treacherous quicksand, pluck them.

 

From the worldling’s hollow gladness,

From the sting of faithless sadness,

Holy Father, save our children.

 

Through life’s troubled waters steer them,

Through life’s bitter battle cheer them,

Father, Father, be Thou near them.

Read the language of our longing,

Read the wordless pleading thronging,

Holy Father, for our children.

 

And wherever they may bide,

Lead them Home at eventide.

 

From Toward Jerusalem by Amy Carmichael

 

 

The Clouds of Guilt

Guilt.  The word even sounds like a heavy, gut-dweller doesn’t it?  When I think of guilt I picture Charles Schultz’s Peanuts cartoon character Charlie Brown whom he would sometimes depict with a rain cloud hanging over him as he went through his day.  Everywhere he went the rain fell continuously on him alone.  He couldn’t get out from under it.  His downcast face told the whole story of what that did to him inside.  That’s a good picture of guilt.  It hangs around.  It rains on our parades.  It makes us feel miserable, helpless and hopeless and weighted down.

Guilt comes in different forms.  There’s good guilt – the kind that leads us to repentance when we have done something wrong.  There’s false guilt – the kind we take on ourselves accusing ourselves for something we aren’t responsible for.  And there’s vague guilt – the kind that we can’t put our finger on the root.. it’s just there…hanging around.  It clouds your thinking and weighs down your heart.  Where does it come from?  The feelings of never measuring up.  Never being enough.  Never doing enough.  Failure.  Rules and obligations that we put on ourselves.  The feelings that come from thinking we never quite make it to the standard we imagine God or others have for us.  I must be guilty of something!  I don’t know what I’m guilty of but I feel guilty so it must be true.

A thousand times a day I can judge myself.  Why did I speak so harshly to her?  I should have apologized for that as soon as I did that.  We haven’t done family devotions in 2 months.  Our kids are going to be juvenile delinquents!  I hope no one ever finds out what a lousy parent I am.  I can’t remember the last time I prayed meaningfully for my son.  Why can’t I be consistent at spending time in the Word?  I’m such a loser.  I lost my temper again.  What’s wrong with me?  I’ll never be a good parent.  I haven’t thought about God for hours!  If my kids turn out okay it will be in spite of me.

Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.  It piles up and threatens to suffocate us.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  We somehow project our reasoning, understanding and wisdom onto God.  We think He thinks like we do.  He doesn’t.  Consider these words – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)  No condemnation.  No Condemnation.  NO CONDEMNATION.  We condemn ourselves but He doesn’t condemn us.  If He doesn’t condemn us why do we condemn ourselves? We raise ourselves above Him and judge ourselves by our invented standards of perfection, comparison or shame-based reasoning.

If we cannot point at a specific sin of commission (something we’ve done) or sin of omission (something we didn’t do) then we can choose to live in the freedom of No Condemnation in Christ Jesus.  Refuse to stay under that cloud of vague guilt.  It’s not from God.  He doesn’t condemn us and leave us with guilt that doesn’t point us to something clear and definite that we need to deal with.  Getting out from under that cloud of guilt is one step away. Repentance.  Simple confession of our lack of trust in Him and His words – NO condemnation.  Then rest.  Rest in the assurance that God isn’t done working in you and He doesn’t condemn you for being the less than perfect person you are.  We aren’t there yet and won’t be until Heaven.  He equips, He enables and He loves us in spite of our humanness which incidentally he knows all about.

So let’s start a club – the club of the formerly guilty.  We’ll call it The Forgiven.

When Good is Bad

Good things can be bad things.  Yes, they can.  Food…. good for you.  Too much food… bad for you!  That’s an easy one.  How about this one – recreational sports…. good for you. Consuming recreational sports… bad for you. Ouch.. did I hit you where it hurts yet? Memorizing scripture… Good for you!   Memorizing scripture to be recognized as holy, righteous and noticed, approved my men…. bad for you.  Yes, even “spiritual things” can be “bad.”  We could be feeding idols.  “When you think of idols of the heart, don’t think of scandalous sins.  Think of harmless hobbies in which children will invest vast amounts of time.  Think of daydreams that provide excitement to a heart this is not finding true and lasting pleasures in knowing God.” (Tripp p. 97)

How do we feed our children’s idols?  By delighting in our children’s delight in possessions.  By delighting in their achievements and abilities.  By so overcommitting to activities that there is little time for family meal time, family devotions or simple conversation and family enjoyment. Are these things “bad?”  Not in and of themselves.  It’s not wrong to be proud of your child for doing well in some academic pursuit or musical performance IF and this is where the turning point comes between good and bad.. IF your child doesn’t conclude from your actions and words that life is all about doing things apart from God.  As Tripp says, ” ..don’t present a worldview in which life consists in things, and God is just the icing on the cake.  God is the cake!” (p. 106)

Our motives matter.  Important questions need to be consistently part of regularly evaluating our lives.  In other words, every activity that we add to our calendar that involves any member of the family needs to be held up to this check system:  Why are we doing this? What is our motive?  What will we have to say “no” to in order to add this to our family?  And most importantly, does God want us to do this, does this glorify Him?

Have you prayed about it?  Really prayed about it? Do you pray about what sports or other activities your family will be involved in?  It matters to God.  Do you pray about whether your son/daughter should do any sports or activities?  It matters to God.  Do you pray specifically about hockey registration, swimming lessons, music lessons, dance, skating, etc.?  It matters to God. Everything you involve your family in sends a message to your kids about what you value.  Tedd Tripp says, “While choosing from the dizzying array of choices, think carefully or you will inadvertently lead your children away from God rather that to Him.”  (p. 106)

Life consists of seasons and stages.  Everything does not have to happen all at once and some things don’t have to happen at all. If you are caught up in the fast-paced, over commitment of relentless running from one activity to the next with your family consider taking a fast.  Not a food fast but an activity fast.  You read that right.. a fast from activity. Honestly evaluate what is happening to your family because of the decisions that you’ve made regarding your schedule and then get radical about change!  Decide (Mom and Dad) what’s really important to you (your values) and eliminate for a season those things that don’t line up with those values.  Make it worthwhile.. 1 week is not a season. One month or more so you can really see a difference.  I won’t lie to you.. it won’t be easy.  You’ll feel pressured from your relatives, your neighbours, your friends, and your kids.  Hopefully, you won’t feel pressured from your spouse.  Get on the same page about what really matters, make some decisions and be ruthless!  Don’t give in to the pressure and support each other when the temptation is great.  You won’t regret it!

Let me give you an example of how our family made some life-defining decisions.  We decided early in our parenting years that we would not register our kids in sports or other programs if they interfered with our family dinner (a very important time to connect for our family) and spiritual commitments such as Sunday mornings and other service opportunities that we felt the Lord had directed us to be involved in.  But we would say “yes” to anything where we as a family, or most of the family, could serve together, after we had determined that the Lord was saying “yes” to that.  Because we decided on our boundaries before we were hit with the pressure of filling up our schedule with activities it became much easier to say “no” to those things that didn’t fit with our family’s values.  Consequently, we have been able to protect our family time and grow together as a family.

These decisions haven’t always been easy.  We have been pressured and questioned by other family members about our lack of involvement (my family were BIG Little League baseball fans and members when I – Ann – was growing up) and judged as “weird” by peers because we didn’t sign our kids up for all the latest fun events and activities.  We had a babysitter tell us that she felt sorry for our kids because of all they were missing out on. I’m not making this up… she was 17.

Every Summer we take everything off the calendar and evaluate it for the new year.  Should we put this back in?  Why?  Are we sure it’s what God wants us to do?  What are our “big rocks” (those things that are non-negotiable) this year?  Why?  Are these the “rocks” God has chosen for us?

How will we have time to teach our children about God, to show them how much He matters to us, to talk about our spiritual joys, answers to prayer, the gospel and the glory of God if we are running here and there and never together as a family?  How will we have time to teach our children about the destructiveness of sin, the worthlessness of possessions, the godly ways to respond to the things “life” will throw at them if we are busy here and there and don’t make the time to sit together long enough to have a conversation as a family?  It won’t happen unless you make it happen.  And you won’t make it happen unless you want it.  We always make time for what we really want.  Our values and motives speak loudly and clearly in our actions.

Chapter 9 in Instructing a Child’s Heart is full of rich, valuable words of wisdom about training our kids to enjoy Him and make Him their true delight.  But more than that it is a challenge to us to be truly delighting in Him as well.  If you haven’t read it.. do it.  It’s long.. but well worth it!

Aiming for the Heart

Going after the heart of the issues with our kids is not easy.  It takes time, patience and wisdom from the Lord.  But it is so worth it!  Along the way it is kind of the Lord to give us glimpses of victory so our hope is renewed.  We’d like to share a note of apology that we received from one of our kids a week ago.  This was written (but not dictated) at our request after a difficult day. 

“Mom,  I am sooo sorry for being disobedient, disrespectful and a problem today. I’m sorry for: 

  • When you told me to clean my room and I disobeyed you.  
  • When I had a huge conflict with_________ and was being disrespectful.  
  • When I was having a problem with my math and I was grumbling and being very disrespectful by talking back and using an unkind tone.  
  • Arguing with you when you told me to take my work upstairs to work on it.   

I was being prideful, disobedient, unkind and disrespectful.  I am very sorry.  May you please forgive me?     ____________  

P.S.  With the Spirit’s help I will do my best to not do these things again.”

This came after input and “intense encouragement” from Mom to do some heart examining.  Does this encourage you? Your kids can get it.  They will respond to your efforts.  And your efforts won’t be wasted if you are aiming for their hearts with the Holy Spirit’s help. The time, and it was a lot of time, was all worth the effort when we saw this note.  Tedd Tripp’s encouragement to get to the heart will reap rich rewards for a lifetime not only in our kids but in future generations.  Keep the long look.  Make your choices about how to disciple your kids with your grandchildren and great-grandchildren in mind.  You are on the Holy Spirit’s team in this life-shaping work.  Talk to Him throughout the day asking for wisdom and insights into the hearts of your kids and how to handle the issues that come up.  Remind Him these are His kids on loan to you.  Let Him lead.. you follow. He is in the business of aiming for the heart.

 

Who’s the Boss

A good question for our families living in this culture.  Child-centered, self-exalting, self-esteem focused. My comfort, my feelings, my stuff.  How do we parent biblically in the midst of that?  The answer is always to look to the Bible for direction and perspective.  Biblical principles succeed….always.

So let’s talk about authority.  Scripture gives us the right flow chart:  Husband – wife – children.  So husbands and wives, parents, let’s focus on children.  Ephesians 6:1 – “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”  What does this look like?

Tedd Tripp’s definition of obedience is very good but quite wordy. In our family we translate that to:  ”Obedience is doing what you’re told instantly, joyfully and completely.”  Here’s the chart we have up in our house 24/7:

20140201_180917-1

Instantly – delayed obedience is not obedience.  Consider what your child is saying when they delay to obey, “I’ll do it when I want to do it.”

Joyfully -obeying with a grumbling spirit and attitude of complaint is not obedience. Your son or daughter is saying, “I’ll do it, but I’m not happy with it.  Why do I have to obey you?”

Completely – obeying partially is not obedience.  ”I’ll do it the way I want to do it, if I do it at all.”

Train your children to know what obedience looks like by instructing them with words, role playing right and wrong obedience, reading and discussing the biblical passages about obedience, sharing stories – yours, others or fictional ones of those who obeyed/disobeyed.  The Bible is full of examples of both and the consequences of those decisions.

Why is it important that we teach our children to live under our authority and live under the authority of scripture?  Simply, they will not willingly choose to obey God if they have not learned to obey you.  Obeying authorities in their lives, of which there will be many, will be a struggle for the child who has been trained to get what he wants, when he wants it and how he wants it.

It’s never too late to talk about obedience.  It’s never too late to instruct in obedience.  You’re never too old to grow in obedience.  Examine your own heart, aong with us this week.  How are you doing at obeying the Lord – instantly, cheerfully and completely?

Classy questions:  When does the child’s obligation to obey the parent end?  When they move out, get married, reach an age or level of maturity?

The Bible doesn’t give a specific age that obedience to parent’s should end.  Culturally, we try to put ages on it: 18 years old, 21 years old.  But, obviously, not all children are “mature” and ready to live on their own when they reach those ages. As our children grow older our direct authority over them should lessen as their maturity increases.  We begin to take on the role of advisers to our children as they advance through the teen and young adult years and they take on more and more responsibility for their choices and actions.  When a young man leaves home to set up his own home he becomes the head of that home.  We don’t have authority over him any longer.  When a young lady marries and submits herself to her husband’s authority she no longer is under her father’s authority.  For those that leave home, yet aren’t married the lines are grayer and fuzzier.  Gender plays a part as well.  Young ladies typically will need protection from their fathers even when they are not living at home and would be wise to seek his advice and blessing on decisions they have to make. Young men, likewise, would be wise to seek their parent’s advice and blessing as well although protection is not as big a factor.