God has a masterful way of molding me through the landmark moments in my life and showing me His character that is revealed in Scripture. When I submitted to Christ, I saw the love of God in a depth that I had never fully understood. When God called me into ministry, I saw the strength of God using a weak and unlikely vessel like me. When I married my amazing wife Heather, I saw how incredibly selfish I was and how difficult it really is to love my wife like Christ loves the church.
Then I had kids, and things changed. A lot.
God in His grace has given our family a 6-year-old boy named Teague who loves all things athletic and is as tender-hearted as a first grader can be. Our 3-year-old daughter, Elliott, is equal parts soft and determined, sweet and fiery. Both of our kids are gifts from God, and they unearthed so many things about myself and about God that I had never seen.
The picture of God as our Father became a picture that was filled with sudden depth for me. Unconditional love was no longer just a concept I understood, but it was a reality I felt towards both of my children. I had given my kids a name, a family and a home, which is exactly what we see Jesus doing for the church in Ephesians 1.
Though God was writing beautiful lessons on my heart by being a daddy, I also was experiencing a heavy weight of responsibility I had not anticipated. I have been in ministry for 17 years and also served the church vocationally for 13 years — mostly discipling other people’s kids as a student pastor – but the weight of discipling my own kids unnerved me.
My avenue for making disciples was no longer a pulpit or a small group hosted in someone else’s home. Discipleship was now set to happen at my dinner table, in my backyard or in my car on the way to school. The shepherding of my family was so different than how I had pursued others in the past. I was clueless. I felt unqualified. I did not know what path to follow or what a first step even looked like.
It was at this point in my life where God pushed aside my pastoral pride and brought me to a place of dependence on His grace and His Spirit to move in the lives of my family. My fear and weakness were the catalysts to expand my prayer life to places that I had never gone. Abiding in the strength and grace that Jesus gives was the only way I would be able to adequately to lead my kids faithfully.
As Christmas approaches, I pray that I continue to be a daddy who rests in my Father so that I can shepherd my family well. I think back to the prayers I prayed over my kids and the prayers I still pray over them.
Here are some of the prayers I pray over my kids, and I offer them to you for you to pray specifically over your own children:
1. Pray that they will respond to the call of Jesus.
Though my kids are still young, I constantly pray that my children will submit to the call of Christ. I hope for and look towards this day with great joy. I cannot anticipate this day enough, so I do not think that is ever “too soon” to start praying for the salvation of my own children. That day may come soon, or I may have to wait and continually pray. I will patiently pray and trust in hope as Peter does in 2 Peter 3:9,
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2. Pray that they’ll reflect the love of Christ where God has placed them.
The distinctiveness of the believer is love (John 13:35), and I pray that my kids will be defined by love for God and love for others. In age that is desperately searching for meaning, identity, hope and love, I ask that Teague and Elliott will find that meaning, identity, hope and love solely in God. May they see the depth of God’s love for them expressed in His Word and in the Cross of His Son. I find myself constantly asking God for my kids to fall even more deeply in love with God and that in turn they will love His church and the world with the same sort of love Jesus has shown them.
3. Pray that they will stand for what is right.
I often feel like I am overly romantic when I look back at “the good ol’ days” of when I was a kid. Things just seemed simpler. Today temptation seems like it lurks of every corner (Genesis 4:7), seeking anyone to consume. The most desired attribute of our day is tolerance and inclusion. I pray that when my kids are faced with the temptation to sin or with the demand to back down from their faith that God will strengthen them. May they suffer for choosing to do good than to suffer for the consequences of doing evil.
4. Pray that their future marriage will reflect the gospel.
It is hard to imagine that one day I will be sitting and watching my children marry the spouse of their dreams. Given that my little girl is 2 years old right now, I secretly hope that day is not for quite a while.
My kids are going to grow up, just like I did. They will probably marry and have kids, just like I did. I pray that God will show Himself even more to them in those times. I pray my son will love his bride and give of himself just as Jesus did for the church. I pray my little girl will reflect the church in her love of and abiding with her husband. I pray their spouses will love and honor God.
It seems like forever away, but it is never too early to pray for my kids’ marriages.
5. Pray that their heart will be stirred for gospel ministry.
My kids can grow up to be anything they want — banker, professional athlete, doctor, ballerina or mechanic — but whatever they do I pray it is an intentional avenue to display the glory and gospel of God. That may mean that one day my son or my daughter will leave the comfort of home as a missionary for a foreign country that is hostile to the gospel. If that day comes, I pray I will celebrate God’s call on the lives of my kids, even if it may cost me their physical presence in my life.
Ultimately, Teague and Elliott are God’s children — not mine. He has stewarded them to me and I pray that one day I will be full of joy when God calls my kids — whatever the cost is to me as their daddy. They are made and saved for more than having Christmas morning at their parent’s house — they’re made to display the glory of God and make disciples.
When that day comes, it is my prayer that I will push my pride to the side, just as I had to as a young father, and depend on His grace and the prompting of His Spirit in the lives of my children.