As Steve and I continue down this parenting path the Lord started us on twenty-eight years ago, we become more and more convinced of the necessity of prayer for our children. Reading through the New Testament recently, I was reminded of the example Paul has set for us in his prayer life. I believe we can learn much from Paul that will apply to us as moms praying for our children.
Paul prayed constantly for the churches and individuals to whom he wrote. Please bear with me in reading through all of the following verses, because I believe they powerfully show us the heart and passion of a man committed to his spiritual children as we want to be committed to our natural children.
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:8-9).
“Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16).
“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3).
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
“I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3).
“I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers” (Philemon 1:4).
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).
Paul knows that his example is a positive one: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Yet, look where his dependence remains in his heart’s desire for his spiritual children to grow in holiness and godliness. He is continually lifting his churches and converts to Jesus in prayer. He isn’t relying on his own wisdom, strength, or example. He knows his total dependence on the Lord and the dependence his “children” will need as well. It would seem to me that of all teachers, Paul would have had the least need of anyone to spend that amount of time and energy in prayer. However, he was completely aware of his weakness and the weakness of those he loved. He was continually crying out to the Lord for those “children.” Isn’t that true in our lives and our children’s lives as well—aren’t we all weak and needy?
Strong’s Concordance tells us that “without ceasing” means exactly that: “without intermission, incessantly, without ceasing.” “Always” means “at all times, always, ever.” To me these verses and words indicate a mind preoccupied with prayer. Are we praying for our children when we wake up in the morning, when we are working, when we are with them, when we are doing school, when we are in the car, when we go to bed at night, when they are struggling, when they are disobedient, when they are unkind, when they are peaceful, when they are helpful—without ceasing?
My tendency is to make excuses for my lack of prayerfulness. I am too busy. I can’t do school and pray for the children at the same time. I have a one-track mind. Am I busier than Paul was? I don’t think so. Wasn’t he always preaching, ministering, and serving in addition to working as a tentmaker? Paul was a busy man. My excuses are nothing but excuses. We do what is truly important to us.
As I have evaluated in my life how to make continually praying for my children a reality, three things have stood out to me. First, I must make this a prayer of my heart, acknowledging my need for help in this area and asking God to strengthen me for the task and to bring my children constantly to mind for prayer. I want Him to put on my heart what I should pray for my children as well. Second, I want to feel the urgency of the necessity of never-ceasing prayer for my children. Have you ever had a dear friend or loved one diagnosed with cancer? What happens to your prayer life in regard to that person? In the same way, as I truly see the importance of prayer for my children, it comes more naturally to my heart. Third, I should develop the discipline of prayer. I have discovered that my mind easily gravitates to simply thinking rather than to prayer. I have to make a conscious effort and decision to bring my thoughts around to prayer when I realize I am just thinking rather than praying.
After praying always for my children, the next challenge Paul gives me is to fill my prayers with thanksgiving, just as his prayers are filled with thankfulness for his spiritual children. Look back at the verses we read. How many of them have the word “thank” in them? Here are a few more.
“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4).
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren . . .” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
Think about what gratitude to the Lord for our children does as we pray for them. Thankfulness springs from a joyful heart. If we are continually thanking God for our children, it is hard to feel unhappy or angry with them. It prompts us to see our children in a positive light. It gives us hope for the areas of their failure and places their needs before the Lord. Spiritually, gratitude puts our thoughts where they ought to be—on the Lord rather than on anything negative about our children or ourselves. Being thankful for our children allows us to be in a place of rest and contentment concerning them rather than dissatisfaction.
Perhaps as we are challenged by Paul’s example of praying without ceasing for our children, our praying for them will be the most important step we can take in the turning of our hearts toward those children. It will be a true focus on them, and the best investment we can make in their lives. It may also be the most significant gift of love and sacrifice we could give to them. Will we be mothers who choose to pray without ceasing for our children? Will our prayers be filled with thankfulness for each of them?