As a young mother, I often struggled to pray for my sons in ways that differed from the default, go-to kinds of prayers: “Lord, please guide, guard, and protect my sons. Bless them and help them to be a blessing to you and to others.” There was and is nothing inherently wrong with such praying; however, I desperately longed to branch out and pray more specifically for them in kingdom-impacting ways. I decided to ask the Father how he wanted me to pray for my kids and, over time, I was stretched and challenged to connect with God on their behalf in some new and spiritually significant ways.
At this juncture, I’d like to add that although it is important to learn how to pray for your family, it is God’s desire that we spiritually train up the next generations. Therefore, it is also key to teach your children and grandchildren how to pray. The very best way is to pray with them, giving them multiple opportunities to express their hearts to God, to listen to his voice, and experience his presence. It is great if families simply learn more about relating to God in prayer together because we are all wired in unique and different ways to grow in intimacy with him. Exploring the depths of the Father in creative ways is often the best way to help our kids know him and desire to spend time in his presence.
I’d like to introduce you to two of my favorite ways to pray for my children and grandchildren. I know these are gifts from God in response to asking him to teach me how to pray in spiritually significant ways with and for those I love.
Praying the Word of God with and for Your Family
I don’t remember how it happened or who introduced me to praying the Word of God, but it revolutionized the way I pray—about everything—especially my family. It gave voice to the things on my heart, and I could pray with confidence that what I was asking God to do was in perfect alignment with his plans and purposes. Here are two practical and powerful possibilities for praying Scripture into the lives of your kids.
Pray for the character of Christ to grow toward fullness in your family. I have often prayed this Scripture (Paul speaking to Timothy) for my children and grandchildren: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). As I personalize it, the prayer becomes, “Father, please don’t let anyone look down on (insert name of person) because she is young, but may she set an example for other believers (and I like to add, “and non-believers”) in what she says, the way she lives out her life, how she loves God and others, in letting her faith shine, and in purity before you.” Sometimes I focus on just one of these aspects.
Find Scriptures to pray that will impact kingdom growth in those you love. For example, praying the fruit of the Spirit into our lives (Galatians 5:22, 23), praying for the armor of God over them as protection against the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18), and praying the wisdom of Proverbs for them.
Praying in Creative Ways as a Family
Every one of us is uniquely created by God to meet with him in prayer. He did not request that all of his people bow their heads, close their eyes, and say the same prayers over and over. He designed each one of us for himself—differently and specially.
If we try to pigeonhole the entire family into one way of praying, we will spiritually limit or inhibit the ways each person is uniquely designed by the Father to commune with him in prayer. There are many creative ways to explore the depths of God. The family should always be a safe place to stretch and grow into the depths of prayer. Here are a few brief suggestions to help you along this journey.
Change your body posture from time to time. Prayer is not dependent upon whether you stand, kneel, or bow, but body postures give expression to the attitudes of our hearts. There are many such examples in Scripture. Let the Spirit prompt the postures of your prayer times.
Sing your prayers to the Lord. Worship is prayer, for it is directed to God. Spend time in worship together. Perhaps try singing Scripture back to the Lord, or even singing the prayer in your hearts.
Draw or create your prayers. There are times when words fail us and drawing, painting, or other artistic expressions give voice to what is upon our hearts to pray. This is also a good way to encourage pre-readers or beginning talkers to pray.
Prayer walk your neighborhood. A wonderful activity for a family is to walk through your neighborhood together, praying for needs that are known or unknown. Keeping your eyes open is a must in this activity.
Pray as you go. Learn to pray about people and situations as you come into contact with them. For instance, when an ambulance goes by, train yourselves to stop and pray for the people who need help and who are helping.
Pray now. When someone expresses a need or asks you or your family to pray for them, don’t wait. Stop and pray for them right then so you don’t forget. You will be amazed at how it blesses others to be prayed for in the moment they have a need.
Pray the world. Consider adopting an unreached people group, or even the nation or nations representing your family heritage. Learn as much as you can and ask God to draw the unreached and lost into his kingdom.
Pray “so that” prayers. Every prayer should be prayed for the glory of God. For example, “Father, please help (insert name) to find a job in the place you have prepared for him ‘so that’ he might have many opportunities to be Jesus to others.” Or, “Lord, would you heal our friend ‘so that’ you get all the credit and ‘so that’ even the medical people would be amazed at your power more than their own skill?”
No matter how or what you pray about, ask God to help you to be the answer to the prayers you pray. Perhaps as you pray over a need, the Spirit will prompt one of your children, or even all of you at once, to provide the means to meet the need. For example, if you are praying for the homeless people in your community, God will likely move in your hearts to serve at a homeless shelter, take sandwiches to people on the street, or provide a warm blanket to someone in need. Or, perhaps as you are praying for an unreached, unengaged people group, God may suggest to one or more of you that you adopt this people group in tangible ways by supporting a missionary family or a Bible translation ministry who is preparing to engage with these people.
This is just the tip of the iceberg—there are so many other ways to pray! Let your family members be creative and imaginative with the Holy Spirit to help and guide you. Children do not have junior Holy Spirits . . . and they may teach you many things about entering into the presence of the Father!
Parents do not need to feel pressure about being the prayer “experts” before their children. If an environment is created where the entire family is free to pray with and for one another in the unique ways God has made available to each, your home will be continually inhabited by the presence of the one who loves you all and has given you the gift of prayer.
Kim Butts is cofounder (with husband, Dave) and vice president of Harvest Prayer Ministries in Terre Haute, Indiana. She is the author of The Praying Family:Creative Ways to Pray Together and has coauthored three other books and written for a variety of publications. You can learn more about Harvest Prayer Ministries at www.harvestprayer.com and find many articles and blog posts on prayer.