By Katie T. Kennedy, Crosswalk.com
In this unsteady world, we often feel out of control. We grasp for what we know to be certain because everything else is out of our jurisdiction.
However, if God gave us full command over our life, would we even need Him? If all He did was bless our perfectly laid out plans, how would we build our faith, develop the ability to persevere, and deepen our dependence on Him?
There are a few things we have control of. We get to decide how to spend our time. We are technically in control of our thoughts (although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it). Lastly, we determine what we pray for and how frequently.
Knowing we have sanction over these areas, how can we use this knowledge to protect our families (without following them around in our preverbal helicopter)?
Here are 5 suggestions.
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1. Pray Scripture for Them
I attended a speaker one evening (it takes a lot to get me out of the house in the evening). The speaker’s name was Jodie Berndt. She has written a few books. The one she referenced that evening is called, Praying the Scriptures over Your Children.
Her message and book changed the course of our family. It wasn’t Jodie’s words per se, although she delivered a strong message, rather she reframed my mindset about Scripture.
In addition to reading and studying the Bible, she taught me how to merge prayer and Scripture. I had always treated prayer and reading the Bible independently. Jodie showed me the power of uniting them for our family’s specific needs and protection.
Her strategy is simple; find a verse and personalize it for an individual family member. Pray it every day. Jodi’s book is organized so you can easily find Scripture for a specific area of interest. I selected Scripture to match growth opportunities (aka. areas of struggle).
I found a verse for each one of my children and inserted their name. Then I began praying these prayers every day. Years later, not days, I observed how their actions were mimicking what I was praying for them.
For my oldest daughter, I pray Philippians 2:3-5. “Let Madelyn do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility value others better than herself. Let her look not only to her own interests, but also the interests of others, and let her attitude be the same as that of Jesus Christ.”
I have watched her heart change when it comes to interacting with her sisters. She often puts their needs before her own. For a nine-year-old to make this transformation, it could only be the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer.
Just the other day, I told our youngest daughter Charlotte to be ready for her gymnastics class by a certain time. We had arrived home from school and I was frustrated and out of patience. The car ride had been filled with fighting and screaming. Madelyn, now 11, pushed aside her responsibilities and took it upon herself to help Charlotte get dressed and in the car on time.
I was taken back by her kindness and love towards her sister.
When I first initiated this new prayer effort, I felt a little left out. I wanted specific prayers for my husband and myself. So, I made us some. I went a little overboard with mine and now have about ten prayers for myself. I need that much help.
I pray Ephesians 3:17-19 for myself because I desperately want to know the breadth, the length, the height, and depth of God’s love.
God’s words are infinitely better than anything I can create.
The unintended benefit is these verses are being written on my heart. Whenever I hear these verses spoken at church or in a devotional, I smile because they have special meaning to me and remind me of my loved one.
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2. Bless Them Every Day
Scripture is filled with examples of people being blessed. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, the very last act He conducted was to bless His disciples: “He lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).
There is the story of Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing from his father. Esau begs his father for a blessing, but Isaac has already given his blessing to Jacob (Genesis 27).
Our pastors bless us at the end of a church service and send us off. We bless our food before we partake in a meal. Blessings occur quite frequently when you stop and think about it.
How can we model this act for our children?
My husband has taken ownership of this action after being encouraged to do so by a wise friend. Every single morning, he says the same blessing over them: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you. May you learn a lot. May you have lots of fun and may you be kept from evil all day long.”
This simple step takes mere seconds and has become a part of our morning routine. My husband puts his hand on their head or shoulder if he can. If he happens to be traveling, he will have me put him on speaker so he can speak these words to the kids. Or I will say them for that day.
Some days our kids jump out of bed, race downstairs to get their blessing. Other times they roll their eyes when we won’t let them leave until my husband has blessed them. That’s ok because we believe it’s important. We believe it makes a difference.
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3. Prayers of Protection
One of the personalized verses I wrote down and repeat every day for my family is Jeremiah 7:23. “Lord let our family walk in all the ways You command us, that it may go well with us. I pray for a hedge of protection over our family.”
Imagine your family having a hedge of protection around them. Who wouldn’t want that?
I can name multiple occasions where I believe God intervened to protect one of our kids. Like the time my two-year-old barreled down the driveway on her tricycle heading to her daddy who was down the road with our other girls. She took off with both of us thinking she was with the other one. I’m confident she never stopped to look for cars as she charged on the busy road. Praise Jesus there was not a car to meet her as she left our driveway.
This same daughter nearly missed a head-on collision with a car as she rode her bike ahead of me. I could only pray from behind as I watched helplessly. At the last minute, the car saw her and swerved away.
I learned two things from these occasions. First, I need to hang up this child’s bike before I have a heart attack. Secondly, God is constantly reminding me to keep praying for my children.
Can I be absolutely certain the reason my child was spared on those occasions was because of this prayer, no I cannot. That’s why they call it faith. What I do know is that God hears our prayers so I will keep saying them.
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4. Turn Them to Jesus
While I hope my kids will always come to me to share their challenges and joys in life, my main goal is to turn them to Jesus.
I will always pray for my children while I am on this earth, however; if I can teach them to pray for themselves and eventually their own family, then I am directing them to the one person who has infinite power and control over their life.
I want them to trust their family, pastors, and selective friends for advice, but I really want them turning to Jesus for answers.
Paul David Tripp makes this point succinctly in his devotional, New Morning Mercies, “We do tend to put people in the place of God and ask them to do for us what only he can do. We do look to people, who suffer from the same condition of sin, weakness, and failure as we do, as if they were the fourth member of the Trinity. We ask them to cause us to be happy. But they cannot give us those things. They simply never, ever will rise to the level of our expectations. In our relationships, we often try to drink from a dry well, and then we wonder why we come up thirsty. No human being can be your personal Savior.”
I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t pretend to. When my kids come to me with questions or problems larger than my pay grade, I do the only thing I can think of.
I get on my knees and lift the concerns audibly to our Father in Heaven and ask for guidance and wisdom. When He answers our prayers, we circle back and give Him thanks and praise.
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5. Prepare Them for Adversity
God never promises a calm, peaceful life. I am one that needs a constant reminder of this. I often get overwhelmed at obstacles thrown my way. I have to remember challenges are opportunities for growth and a chance to deepen my dependence on God.
As a child, I don’t remember facing significant adversity. I had the usual girl drama but everything else seemed to run smoothly. My parents, probably in an effort to protect me, unintendingly provided the allusion that life was trouble-free and effortless. As an adult, I had to learn the hard way how to face hardship.
We must teach our kids about the evil forces against Christians today. The enemy is at work against us, especially as we spread the good news of Jesus to others (Ephesians 6:11-12).
The world is a difficult place. We don’t want to scare them with the full reality of today’s world, but we do need their eyes open that we are not yet in Heaven.
Our kids will face affliction, just as you have. Fixing all their problems will set them up for an unrealistic world. Instead, let’s coach them on how to respond to others and show them how to pray about their problems. This will provide a strategy for whatever they might face in the future.
The key is tenacity. Encourage them to get back up after they fall, because they will fall.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
I know that trials produce good fruit in my soul, and I hope one day I can get to the place where I consider my trials pure joy. I am not there. Even if I reach that place one day, I will still lift up my prayers of protection for my family and others.
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