As a Christian parent, my greatest desire is for my children to trust and follow Jesus. I want good things for them, but the world is full of frightening possibilities that threaten my kids’ faith and future.
Maybe like me, you find yourself overwhelmed with concern for your kids and you just don’t know where to start when it comes to prayer.
For centuries Christians have written prayers and used the prayers of others as a guide. Even the first disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus gave them what we call The Lord’s Prayer.
Sometimes we need inspiration to know how to pray. That’s why I wrote this. I hope this post will inspire and help you talk to God about your kids and the anxieties you carry for them.
Scriptures to pray over your children
Prayer is a conversation with God. When we use our Bibles to pray, God talks first, we listen and respond. If we make a practice of talking to God about what we read in our Bibles, we’ll have plenty of help with what to pray for our kids.
Here are 8 Bible verses and prayers to use as a starting place.
Prayer for your children’s protection
I am guilty of wishing I could raise my kids in a bubble.
Drugs, alcohol, sexual perversions, greed, love of money, abusive people… the options for destruction surround my kids like a pack of wolves. How should I pray?
The famous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” may sound childish, but the truth is, the Lord is the one who keeps our kids’ souls. He is our hope for their protection.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- whom shall I dread? Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.”
Psalm 27:4 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for a child in crisis
When we get bad news about our child, or they experience trauma or loss, the overwhelming sense of helplessness is paralyzing. We want our kids to be strong and courageous, but when fear breathes down our necks we too need the anchoring truth of who God is to help us pray.
“God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil.” -Psalm 46:1-3 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for children’s health
God has not promised our kids health. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.(John 16:33)” But Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy that says, “…he himself bore our sicknesses…” (Isaiah 53:4) Though our children may not be healed of mental or physical maladies, we can pray they will trust the Christ who bore their brokenness in his own body, and can raise them to new life.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will have life even if he dies. And he who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
Pray like this:
Praying for a rebellious child or teenager
Next to the death of a child, watching a son or daughter rebel against your guidance, and especially against Christ, is heart-wrenching.
In Psalm 51, David writes a broken-hearted prayer of repentance after his sin was exposed. It was only after recognizing his own sin that he was able to teach others to turn to God. In our prayers for our children we must seek God’s wisdom to discern where our own confession of sin and repentance is needed to help our kids return to obedience.
“Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.” -Psalm 51:12-13
Pray like this:
Prayer for your child’s future
God knit our children together, weaving their personality, talents and number of days like a master tapestry, before their first cry. We can pray with confidence in the goodness of the God who holds their future in his hands.
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:7,11
Pray like this:
Prayers for your child’s success
Because God’s thoughts are not like ours, the way we and our kids measure success may leave us with an insatiable thirst for more. We want our child’s ideas of success to grow out of God’s thoughts, not their own. Whatever our children set out to do, we want them to be motivated by a desire to glorify God.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for teenage relationships
Next to the “terrible twos,” the teenage years have the most notorious reputation for trouble.
Teens live in a tension between playful childhood and adult expectations. The fact that teenage relationships are between two immature and broken people means there will inevitably be trouble. We can’t keep our kids from this kind of suffering, but we can pray that in their relationships they will learn to love others well.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for my daughter or son to come home
The goal of parenting is to launch our children out into the world equipped to follow Jesus. We want this to be a deliberate and happy launch. We don’t want anger, shame, and lust for the world to drive our kids away from home. When a child leaves home in rebellion, the desire for them to come home is a desire for reconciled relationships. Like the Father in the prodigal son story, we must look for restoration. Praying is how we watch for the day when God brings our child back to a right relationship with us and him.
“So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. – Luke 15:20 CSB
Pray like this:
Never Stop Praying
As our kids grow through the various stages of life we must never stop praying for them. Using these 8 verses and prayers we can begin praying with confidence in what God says. The Holy Spirit will help us when we’re weak and don’t know what to pray.
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” (1 Samuel 12:23)
And click here to get free printables of these 8 scriptures and prayers. And here for an editable word document of the same.
I don’t have a “typical” Christian household in which to raise my boys. Reading the Bible with my boys when my husband is not a believer has been a challenge. But the truth is, even where both parents are Christians, the practice of regular Bible reading with kids is probably a struggle, if it happens at all. In another study byLifeway, among American Protestants, only a third say they read the Bible regularly. If only a third of us are reading the Bible regularly, then the struggle to read the Bible with my kids is the norm.
But I wonder if at least one of the reasons we parents find it hard to read the Bible with our kids is because we are shooting for some kind of ideal family devotion. I’m sure there are other reasons, like- it’s hard to get a kid to read anything if it’s not on an app or screen, and we’re all so busy going different directions that trying to get everyone together to read seems nearly impossible. But I believe God has given us really clear instructions that help me throw my idealism out the window without throwing Bible-reading with my kids out too.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-7
This instruction from God to his people helps me so much.
Catch this sequence: God tells his people to first have his words on their own hearts. Then he tells us to “impress” his words on our kids. That means we can’t just throw a Bible, or a Bible app at them and tell them to read it. We are gonna need to get real with them. We’re gonna need to talk to them. And many times its going to feel like they aren’t listening or don’t care.
I have two teen boys. When they were little, they squirmed and fussed and sometimes sat still and listened for a whole minute. When they hit pre-teen they were tired and barked at the idea of having to sit still for a few minutes so mom could talk to them about Jesus. Now they’re at the end of their high school years and they listen a little more attentively. Sometimes. And sometimes I can drag out of them some of their own thoughts. But most of the time I have to take away a phone because they pulled it out to look at Snapchat while we’re supposed to be hearing what the Bible says. Or they get up and walk to the kitchen for a snack saying, “It’s ok mom, keep reading. I’m listening. I’m just hungry.” To which I get frustrated and have, more than a few times, given up and stopped the “devotional” time.
My point is, reading the Bible with your kids and talking to them about what God is trying to say through what you read is not going to be a neat and easy activity for most. But that’s exactly how God said it’s going to be. “When you’re at home”, “When you’re out on the road”, “When you’re getting ready for bed,” and, “When you get up,” all involve everyday life interactions. And those are never neat or easy.
The thing is we just need to start. We don’t have to forgo talking to our kids about what God says because they’re almost grown and we’ve never talked to them about it before. We don’t have to take a course on theology to start either. We don’t have to have a candle lit, and neatly-dressed, well-behaved kids sitting in a circle with their Bibles and journals opened either (although I confess this, I would love that!). Really there are only four things we need to impress God’s word on our kids’ hearts, giving them a good start at spiritual health:
Get God’s word on YOUR heart first. Parents, grandparents… whoever you are raising kids, if you don’t take in God’s word and wrestle with it yourself, you’ll have nothing to give your kids. Spend time reading, asking God and other Christians your questions about what you read. Write down your thoughts. Confess your doubts or angst. Praise God for what speaks to you.
Share the above with your kids! The other day I sat down at the table while my 16 year old was perusing IG and said, “Hey son, can you put that down for a minute. I want to tell you something.” He put his phone down and gave me his attention and I told him I had read a Psalm that morning and it helped me because the person who wrote the Psalm basically told God, “Why aren’t you answering me? How long is life going to be this hard?” My son looked at me kinda blank and said, “Okay….” I got up, put my arm around him and said, “I just want you to know, God knows how you feel. And he wants you to talk to him about it. He is working through it all. He loves you. And I love you.” My son accepted the hug and said, “Ok, thanks mom.” That’s it. No big revelation. No hour long reading with questions and reflection. That was it. This kind of conversation can and should happen throughout your day. Every day.
Engage your kids. And require them to engage. I know with my kids, it’s been hard. They’re teens. They’re boys. They’re distracted by the screen that’s become a part of their hand. They don’t like to read. They want to go off-roading and build a bonfire. But notice this verse in Deuteronomy says impress God’s word on your kids’ hearts. In the original language that means “to pierce.” I’m a busy mom. I work full time, I’m tired. I have to fight the urge to let reminding my boys to read their Bibles be enough so I can relax and watch my show on Netflix. It’s going to cost you and it’s not going to be easy. You might have to tell your 5 year old to stop twirling in circles and look at you and listen 10 times in a 1 minute talk. But do it. The message we bring should pierce our kids. That doesn’t mean we all have to be Spurgeon, but we should seek to get a response of engagement from our kids. For me, with teens, that means I ask them their thoughts and require a thoughtful answer, not just, “I dunno, can we go now mom?”
Let the everyday things of life guide what you talk about from the Bible. This verse in Deuteronomy instructs parents to engage their kids with God’s word in everyday life situations. You can use a book or guide to engage your kids in God’s word. Those are good and helpful. I use my church’s daily reading or an app my kids’ youth group is using. But also, when you’re driving somewhere with your kids and a song comes on the radio that makes you think of something God’s been impressing on your heart from what you’ve read or heard taught from the Bible, tell them! Let the everyday rhythms of life be the fodder for drawing your kids’ attention to the good news about what God has done for us in Jesus.
Christian with kids, you have been entrusted souls to point to Jesus. Don’t let your idealism, your lack of Bible-knowledge, or even your busy life keep you from reading the Bible and talking about the message with your kids. Doing this is, as my pastor says, putting kindling around their hearts, that God will light it on fire for Jesus.
Honestly, I don’t want to send them. I want to hide them in a bubble of safety and happiness. But I have no such magic powers.
I do have the King of heaven’s attention though. He hears me. I know he does. And he promises to not abandon me or my kids. So, in this violent culture, on the day before I’ll send my two sons to high school, I have a burden for the King of heaven’s armies to hear my cries for my kids and my friends’ kids.
Yesterday a group of youth were in my backyard making the most fun they could out of the heat with sprinklers, a tarp, dish soap and a nine-square frame. As they were leaving I said, “I’ll be thinking of you all this week,” and I meant it. I remember being 14, 15, 16 and 17. Those years were the curb in the road that changed the direction of the rest of my life. Those were the years I was most confused. Those were the years I lost a friend to suicide and took a bunch of pills to try and sleep away the pain. Those were the years I tried to fit in by being different. Those were the years Jesus found me and named me and made me brave. The boys and girls who walked out my door yesterday will face all kinds of hard things in the years ahead. A mass shooting could be one of them. Lord, please keep them!
Moms and dads, you and I don’t have any magic powers to keep our kids from walking into a place where a mass shooter or any other evil might show up. We don’t even have the power to keep the evil of a demeaning lash at our kids from creeping out of our own hearts onto our tongues. We desperately need a hope bigger than the control we think we have or want to have in our kids’ lives. Join me today in committing to doing these three things. Not because they are part of the formula that’s sure to produce a safe, happy and godly child. But because the God who gave his son over to death to save us, calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Death will not win when we take the road that follows Jesus through death to resurrection.
Don’t hide the Jesus that died for your sin and the sin of your children from your kids!
I don’t know the circumstances around the writing of Psalm 78, but the writer calls the reader to remember all God has done for them despite their faithlessness. He reminds the reader that God has commanded his people not to hide the hope we have in God from the next generation.
Moms and dads, our kids are not going to hear the hope their souls long for in the world. They need us to tell them!
I think so many times we as parents fail to have frank conversations with our kids about Jesus because we are trying to create some ideal family devotion time. And for many of us, that ideal situation is never going to happen. I know in my home we don’t do family devotions. And sometimes I realize I haven’t mentioned Jesus or what he’s doing in my life, or a truth I’ve read in my Bible, to them for days! There’s something very spiritual-battle-ish about calling your kids to put down their screens, or stop for just a few minutes from whatever habits have taken over our lives, to look them in the eyes and say, “I want to talk to you about Jesus.” I know the first time I did this I got some mocking and eye-rolling and deep sighs. Push through it. Don’t let their faces keep you from telling them the truth. Don’t hide the gospel from your kids just because they make funny faces. They need to hear about their only hope- Jesus.
Listen to Them Tell You About Things That Seem Silly
My sons talk about their quads and the fishing lures they’re using and the kind of reeds they need for band and the kind of stretches they’re doing for baseball and the cool car they’re driving in a video game. None of those things grab my attention. I’m thinking about bills and plans for work and school and church and groceries and relationships and concerns for friends and family. But as I read somewhere once, if I want my kids to want to listen to me, I must be willing to listen to them. They need to know I care about them where they are. That doesn’t mean I have to throw responsibility to the wind and play video games with them all day long, but it does mean listening to what has them so enthused, they’re willing to tell you about it.
Listen to learn what motivates them. Listen to learn what they’re afraid of. Listen to learn how to pray for them.
Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
If you want to draw the purposes God has for your child out, listen to them. Listen for what God is doing in them. Listen for evil thoughts they may be listening to. Thoughts like, “Nothing matters.” “No one cares.” “Nothing I do makes any difference.” The only way you’ll hear those things and sense those deep waters churning in their hearts is if you take the time to listen to the surface things that seem like no big deal.
Talk About the Hard Things
It drives my kids nuts, but when the thought crosses my mind I’ll randomly ask them, “How are things going with your friends? Are any of them doing drugs? Are you using drugs? What sins are you struggling with? How’s your relationship with God? Do any of your friends worry you? How are you feeling? What are you hoping for? What’s your goal?” I don’t pester them with one question after another. Actually I have. That doesn’t work. Don’t do that. But I don’t refrain from bringing these questions up just because my kids respond with disdain. Pray for wisdom, and ask questions.
You know what can’t grow in the light? Evil. My kids might hate it that I talk with them about sexuality, drugs, alcohol, parties, shootings, violence, sexual abuse, pride, sin and suicide, but I refuse to let the evil of those things do to them what they have done to so many in seclusion. If they face confusion about sexuality, drug use, violence and suicide in their life, I want them to face it armed with some wisdom and truth and the knowledge that none of that will scare me or Jesus away. I want them to know there is hope in Jesus, even when sin has caused so much damage. I want them to know when things seem hopeless, there is hope and if they can’t see it at the time, I’ll see it for them and stand guard until they pass through their shadows.
Parents we can’t control the circumstances our kids are going to face. But we can refuse to be passive in the face of evil. We can stand at the gates of hell with our kids and fight for them on our knees in prayer, and with the truth to their faces, and with open ears and fearless presence. Jesus can redeem anything. We must show our kids Jesus.
Kids are rowdy, they knock over our shiny religious teacups filled with anger, impatience and selfishness. But their rowdiness is no excuse for our complacency. Protecting our whitewashed lives is not what God has called us to.
When my boys were little I felt the tension between what I wanted to do with my days and what I was actually doing. Tending to my screaming toddler, appologizing to the parent of the child my child just bit and disciplining my child what felt like a thousand times a day was not in my plans. When your kids are little the days are full of unseen tasks that help them stay healthy, precious moments of firsts and tender affection. As Christians, we set out with creative ideas and plans to do what can feel like futile attempts to model loving Jesus and teaching them to say his name.
When your kids are older the days are packed with resolving conflict, long talks, hours of pleading in prayer, and casting vision for what you see God doing in their life. At this age you attend concerts that sound similar to nails scratching a chalkboard, but clap like it’s a professional orchestra. You attend baseketball games yelling, “Get your hands up! Get down by the hoop! Good try!” And all the challenging days of raising kids can feel they are keeping you from your real life. But as my pastor Jason Vance says to parents, spending all day working out problems with your kids is your real life.
Among parents and grandparents and non-parents in the church I see the same disillusion about kids. We tend to think of kids in the church as the people someone else will teach. Some of us think we’re too old, or not good with kids. Some of us think we’re too young and don’t know what to do with kids. Some of us find kids too annoying. Some of us find kids exhausting. But God has not called his people in the church to look at the coming generation and hope someone else is teaching them.
Jesus said we should not “despise” the little ones among us (Matthew 18:10). Despising children is a real problem in the church. It’s easy to say we are pro-life, but refuse to lower ourselves to goldfish, fruit snacks, snotty noses, crying toddlers and telling stories on the floor about the God who made those rowdy kids in his image and sent his Son to lay down his life for their sins so they could be with him forever!
Not everyone is going to bear or adopt children. But all of us are called to pass on the message of the gospel to the generation coming up behind us. There are exceptions of people who should not work with children due to criminal convictions, or cannot work with children due to disability or injury. But for most of us, our excuses for not teaching the next generation of kids in the church the gospel fall short. In reality we despise how children expose our pride and selfishness.
Just as we are facing a tsunami of elderly folks who need the humble-service of gospel bearing lives, we are also facing a generation of children who unless we teach them, will grow up not knowing the ways and delivering work of our God in Christ.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses commands the older generation in Israel to teach the younger generation what God has done, delivering them from slavery in Egypt. He tells them, “Hey you guys, God is telling you all to do all these things and let all He has done for you be on your heart because you’ve seen what he has done for you. But the generation after you hasn’t. So do what I’m telling you to do! And talk to the kids in your everyday life about all God has done” (My paraphrase of Deuteronomy 11).
But in Judges 2:10, after Moses and Joshua are dead and gone, it says, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” Israel had despised the children. They failed to let what God had done be on their hearts, and they failed to tell the kids among them what God had for them. Oh that we, the church in 2019 would not be guilty of raising a generation we despised, who don’t know the work the Lord has done for us!
Welcoming children in Jesus’ name, teaching them the gospel of Christ is a picture of the position of humility from which we enter the kingdom of heaven- like a little child, wide-eyed and rowdy, needing discipline and self-sacrificing love. We need to get down on the ground with the kids and remember the faithfulness of God to bear with us daily, like a grown up giving up his or her days to love and train a child in the ways of Jesus.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:1-5, 10