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How to pray for your kids

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Topic Scripture: Matthew 6:9-15

Today we celebrate with our graduates and their families as they near a most significant achievement and milestone in their lives. In light of the occasion, I thought an exit exam might be helpful for us all. Let’s see if we are as educated as those we celebrate this weekend.

How long did the Hundred Years War last? 116 years.

Which country makes Panama hats? Ecuador.

In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? November.

What is a camel’s hair brush made of? Squirrel fur.

What was King George VI’s first name? Albert.

Where are Chinese gooseberries from? New Zealand.

How long did the Thirty Years War last? 30 years.

Perhaps more education is in order for us all.

This weekend we celebrate academic growth, but also spiritual. While our schools help our children to grow intellectually, we are responsible for helping them grow spiritually. So how can we pray for our kids?

As we return to the Sermon on the Mount, we find today the most famous prayer in human history. Let’s ask Jesus to teach us to pray for our children, whatever their age; for anyone we love; and for ourselves as well.

Praying through the week

Sunday: pray for their salvation.

“Our Father”—not “the” or even “my,” but “our.” The prayer begins with the promise of a personal relationship with the family of God. Note that Jesus was the first Jewish rabbi in history to address God as his personal abba or father. Now he invites us to do the same. And so our first prayer for our children is that they enter the family of God, that they become the children of God. We pray first for their salvation.

Pray for them to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord, early in life: “from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Parents often ask me how we know when our children are old enough to trust in Christ. Here’s the short answer I give: when they know they need to become a Christian. Not just when they want to be “saved,” or to join the church or be baptized. When you sense that the Holy Spirit has convicted them of their sins, that they need to be forgiven and saved. The Father loves them even more than you do; he’ll help you know when the time has come. In the meanwhile, pray every day for their salvation.

If your children are Christians, thank God for their salvation and pray for them to live this week in a way which pleases their Father in heaven.

Monday: pray for their spiritual growth

“Hallowed be thy name.” Pray that they would hallow or honor God in all they do. This is to pray not just for their spiritual salvation, but for their spiritual growth. As they begin another week at school, pray for them to enroll in Jesus’ school of spiritual discipleship and growth again this week as well.

Pray that they would want to know the Lord personally: “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” (Ephesians 1:17).

Pray for them to grow closer to God each day: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16).

Teach them to pray and to study Scripture. Model spiritual growth for them with your Bible study and prayer life. Pray with your kids. Read Bible stories to them. Share God’s word together. As you feed them physically, feed them spiritually.

Tuesday: pray for them to live in God’s will

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” His Kingdom comes wherever his will is done.

Pray for them to be yielded to the Spirit of God: “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). This is a daily command and need for our souls.

Ask God to reveal his will to them: “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9); “That you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10).

Pray for them to be yielded to all the ways God reveals his will: to those in authority over them (Romans 13.1), to parents (Ephesians 6:1-2), to Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).

Pray for them to seek God’s will first: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Pray that this becomes a reflex for their spiritual lives.

Wednesday: pray for their practical needs

Give us this day our daily bread

Pray for their needs this day and week—physical, emotional, relational, spiritual: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Be specific. Keep a prayer list for them, and teach them to keep one as well.

Thursday: pray for their moral purity

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

That they will hate sin: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).

That they will be caught when guilty: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).

That they will live in repentance and purity: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

That they will stay pure until marriage: “Flee from sexual immorality…You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18, 19-20).

Friday: pray for their future guidance

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

That they will be protected from Satan in each area of their lives: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15; “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith”; “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

That they desire the right kind of friends, be protected from the wrong kind: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them” (Proverbs 1:10); “I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way” (Hosea 2:6).

That they marry the person God has for them: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Saturday: pray for their service to God

Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

That they will be single-hearted in devotion to Jesus: “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2).

That their lives will lead others to Christ: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 6).

That they would fulfill God’s purpose for their lives: “We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

Conclusion

Of course, we cannot lead others further than we are willing to go. So on this Sunday after Easter, would you make a fresh commitment to the risen Christ as Lord of your personal life? Do it for your family, your Father, and your own soul as well.

And begin to pray in this way, each week. Make these prayer commitments the habit of your life and soul.

You may have read that the nations of the world are working together to construct a new lid on Chernobyl, the Russian nuclear reactor which went ballistic in 1986 and released more radioactive material into the atmosphere than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. It was the worst nuclear disaster in history. The “sarcophagus” constructed to contain the damage is now cracking and will fail. $768 million will be spent to build a new cover for the reactor, one which will protect the world from its radiation for another 100 years.

You and I live in a fallen world. Our children need our prayer cover as much as the world needs Chernobyl’s. Start building it, today.