The Bible clearly shows that, during our Lord’s earthly ministry, there were parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children:
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And after laying His hands on them, He departed from there.
Though Jesus is not currently visible (1 Pet 1:8), nothing has changed for believing parents. We still want—and so desperately need—the Lord to bless our children. This shows both our continuous looking to Him and the realization that our capacities as parents are limited.
As with most items related to discipleship—and parenting is definitely a God-ordained and commanded aspect of discipleship (Eph 6:1-4)—prayer plays a vital role.
When our children were younger, they would frequently accompany me many places I went, including the seminary where I taught. I was asked dozens of times, “How do you get kids at that age to be so well-behaved and be such a blessing?” Always the answer from the heart would be, “My wife and I are not perfect parents, and our children are not perfect children.” Though we certainly did see God’s blessing on our children, we knew they were still quite young and had not yet faced the teenage and adult years with all the temptations and snares and dangers ahead of them (Prov 1-9).
While seeing God’s hand of blessing, I realized the battle was only just beginning for us—and at times it was indeed a battle, and a very intense one at that, as both the world and the evil one actively worked to attract them to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16).
Part of my answer to those who asked me about raising our children would be that we repeatedly prayed for them and tried to raise them as God would have us do, especially as shown in Scripture. Even then, my wife and I knew we were not in full control; you cannot save your own children; you cannot live their lives for them.
We would stand on the sidelines and actively watch as our children walked with God, or, in one case, did not walk with Him for a prolonged period. I have been both the Prodigal Son and the father of a prodigal—and by the sheer grace of God—I have been the rejoicing father of a prodigal who has returned to the Lord.
As I talked to other parents about raising children, a similar question would repeatedly be raised, especially by younger parents:
“How should I pray for my children?”
This article is drawn from my response to that question. It is not necessarily exhaustive, nor does it mean that each item noted below must be included in every prayer session. Seasons of life often necessitate changed elements of emphasis as children grow older. But I trust this list will be encouraging and motivating to Christian parents as they intercede on behalf of those under their care.
Here is what I prayed (and still pray) for my children:
I pray for myself and my wife…
- as a child to my heavenly Father before praying as a father for my own children (1 Pet 1:17).
- for my own walk with God (Eph 4-6) before I pray for their walk; it starts with me, not with them.
- for my wife Betsy’s walk with God (singular) and ours collectively as husband and wife.
Any true ministry (and parenting most certainly is a ministry and an incredibly responsible ministry at that) is merely an extension of your walk with the Lord (or lack thereof). And though we fail miserably at this at times, my wife and I pray that our children will see our relationship with God (Eph 5:22-33) and that it will be a natural carryover to our working with them (Eph 6:1-4).
I pray for practical help…
- for our marriage.
- for our parenting.
- for wisdom and discernment in each of these areas (James 1:5-6; 1 Pet. 5:5-9).
- for what to say; for what not to say.
- for godly discipline that will not exasperate (Eph 6:4).
- that God will bless our children beyond our capacities and limitations as parents.
I pray for my children’s salvation…
- that they will come to a saving grace of God early in their lives (1 Sam 3:7).
- that their hearts will always be tender before God (2 Chron 34:27).
- that their hearts will always be inclined to God (Josh 24:23).
- that they will fear God and turn away from evil (Job 1:8).
I pray for my children’s personal interactions…
- that God will raise up godly influences for them, and
- that they will become godly influences.
- that they will have godly friends and be godly friends to others.
- that true biblical Wisdom will be their close associate (Prov. 1-9; 1 Cor 1:22-24; 1 Cor 1:30).
- that they grow in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).
I pray my children will be a blessing…
- that God will make them be/become blessings to others (Phil 7).
- that they will be thankful to God and to others (Luke 17:11-18; Col 3:15).
I pray my children will grow spiritually…
- that God will grant them an insatiable hunger and thirst for Him and His Word (1 Pet. 2:1-2).
- that they will worship God in spirit and truth frequently (John 4:23-24).
- that they will have a Second Coming mentality (1 John 3:1-3).
- that they will live their lives with eternity in view (Phil 3:20-21).
- that they grow in the grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18).
- that they will not be conformed to this world, but instead they will be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom 12:1-2) and the washing of water with the Word (Eph 5:26).
I pray my children will run from sin…
- that they will come under strong conviction when they sin (Ps. 51), and
- that they will confess their sins to God (1 John 1:9) and to others (James 5:16).
- I pray for my children’s protection
- that God will protect them from themselves, violent people and the evil one. (I received these three prayer requests from a godly uncle of mine who has since gone home to be with the Lord).
I pray for my children’s spouses, if they are to have them (1 Cor 7:7)…
- that God will cultivate godliness and the same traits already mentioned within them.
- that God will bring them together at the proper time.
- that they will honor Him in the courtship and keep them pure before Him.
- that God will be the center of their home and that this will become evident to others.
- that God would bring them to a godly, Bible-centered church, where they may grow in their walks with the Lord, both individually and collectively.
- that my daughter will become a Proverbs 31 woman and my son an Ephesians 5 man whether God grants them spouses or not.
I pray for my children to do good work…
- that God will be at work within them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).
- that God will grant them a sense of excellence in doing things unto the glory of God in the everyday activities of their lives (1 Thess 4:1 and 4:10; 1 Cor 10:31; 2 Cor 1:20).
- that they will know experientially that He alone is worthy to receive all glory, honor and praise and live their lives accordingly (Rev 4:11; Rev 5:1–11).
Simply put, I pray for my children . . .
- that they will walk with God all the days of their lives (Judges 2:7; 1 Sam. 1:11; Ps 23:6), and
- that we will see the fruits of a lifetime of walking with Jesus before His throne (Rev 4:9-11).