On a recent visit I asked her to retell the versions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Three Little Pigs she told us as kids. She said she couldn’t because, just like her biscuit or buttermilk pancake recipes, she never wrote them down.
My mom redeemed every childhood story she told. To the best of my recollection my mom redeemed Goldilocks and the Three Bears by turning the three bears into a hospitable foster home for Goldilocks. A safe haven where she could rest, eat and relax, even laugh, while the bears worked to help her find her way home.
Jack and the beanstalk, is a little fuzzy for me. But I think she told it something along the lines of, Jack’s mom was broke and sent him off to sell their beloved cow Betsy in exchange for money to buy food. But Jack was a dreamer and when told about the magic beans he could exchange Betsy for, that would surely lead to a magical bean stalk that grew to heaven, where Jack could get the golden egg laid by that great goose in the sky, he couldn’t resist. That golden egg would guarantee Jack and his mom would be fed and well cared for. All I remember after that is that Jack’s mom was mad that he got duped, so he threw the beans out the window, fell asleep crying and woke up to an enormous beanstalk that ascended as far as the eye could see into heaven. Jack climbed the stalk, in a half dreaming state, and when he arrived at the top, he went looking for the golden egg. He found the egg and instead of stealing it, he told the goose his plight and the goose gladly gave him the egg. When the giant discovered Jack with the egg and began chasing him Jack scrambled down the stalk and I honestly don’t remember what my mom did with the story after that. But I bet she made Jack convert the giant to kindness and they became friends who frequently visited each other and shared the wealth the had with all their neighbors.
She did the same redemptive retelling of the Three Little Pigs. By the end of the tale, the wolf repented of his sins, entered a work program with the pigs and built new homes for everyone.
My mom doesn’t like stories with sad endings. I guess no one does. I recently heard a podcast with Karen Swallow Prior, Jane and Jesus, where the guest was a female scholar of Jewish and Yiddish literature. In the interview she talked about how in Jewish literature, there are no happy endings. Sometimes there are no endings at all…. The story just drops. No resolution. No resolve. No Messiah. No redeemer. No happily ever after. No heaven.
I’ve thought a lot about what that lady said. The idea that there’s someone who will redeem all the bad things and make them come untrue seems too good to be true. A tale that is meant for fairyland, not earth. Not 2022. Not all our wars and murders and lies and greed and abuse and neglect and genocide and hatred and fear. Maybe we think there is no happy ending, no rescuer to make things good and right because we think this is the ending.
To some, my mom’s version of childhood stories seem insulting to real life. Turning all the bad moves these classic characters made into graduates from etiquette school feels unreal…because it is. It isn’t the way of any life, not even animal or plant life.
So should we all be fatalists and stop looking to redeem stories or write stories with characters who do what’s good and right? No, I don’t want to live or write or read like that. But stories with bad endings, unresolved endings that don’t redeem the evil or suffering or pain of the story, also tell a part of the great true story we all draw our stories from.
Listening to The Habit podcast recently, the guest talked about how all the stories we write are ultimately drawn from creation. We don’t make up new stories. We just draw themes and truths from the Great Story that God wrote. Redemption, rescue, repentance, doing good works, learning to love, all spring from God’s story, and feed the river that flows to the oceans full of all our stories.
My mom has long hoped in her Redeemer. She has suffered the pain and evil that make one wonder if anything or anyone can make things right. I love the way she edited the childhood stories she told me to include truth from God’s deep well of redemption. It’s one of the things I love most about my mom. She believes in happily ever after.
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.