By Barbara Rainey
First posted on EverThineHome.com
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.