Editor’s Note: In light of the message Jared Mellinger preached on 1/4/09, we’re continuing an additional week on prayer in parenting.
Do you have a child who is struggling to overcome a pattern of sin in their lives? If you are a parent you probably answered “yes.” Whether you are trying to figure out a way to keep your daughter in bed after you lay her down at night or you are constantly reminding a teenage son about his disrespectful attitude, all families experience recurring patterns of sin in the lives of their children.
As a pastor, I get to hear a lot of stories: “My child just won’t do their school work, all they want to do is play computer games.” “All they do is fight.” “He lied to me again.” The list could go on. There is however an interesting phrase many parents share with me as they describe their dilemma. “We’ve tried everything,” they say with exhaustion then go on to recite a laundry list of things they’ve tried. “We’ve given the rod, we’ve taken away their privileges, we’ve tried written confessions, going to bed early, doubling their chores, and still nothing seems to be working.”
Often prayer is last on the list, “All we can do is pray,” or not on the list at all. My wife and I have been through the same challenges with our children. One of the things I’ve learned, though, is prayer is not the weapon of last resort. Prayer is the weapon of choice. Consider changing your strategy with your children to include prayer right from the start. Here are a few things to consider:
- Pray daily for your children and ask God to help them with their current struggles.
- Pray with your children, asking God to help them overcome their particular battle with sin. (And leading them to ask God themselves.)
- Examine your own heart in prayer. Sometimes the work God is doing has more to do with our growth and sanctification than our children’s.
- Expect God to pour out his grace for change on their lives and simply be faithful to discipline your child in love and then watch. (Check out Andy’s blog from last week for more on this point.)
- Never lose sight of the gospel when sin strikes. Every discipline session is an opportunity to take your children back to the gospel.
The greatest change we have seen in our children has not come from our work through discipline, but has come through God’s work of grace in their hearts. Don’t give up discipline or creative ways to lead your children in the midst of their sin, but take up prayer like a soldier takes up his rifle; he wouldn’t go into battle without it. As he walks cautiously on the battlefield it is the first thing to part the brush. It’s not hanging on his shoulder as a last resort, but leading his way through every trial.