FORT WORTH, TX – I don't know where I first heard it, but I have always loved the saying, "Having happy children is good, but a parent's real job is to mold great adults." It is with this thought running through my mind that I make my list of prayer requests for my children this school year.
Yes, I would love for my children to ace all of their classes, always have someone to sit with at lunch and receive all of the best awards at the end of the year. However, would the ease of a great year truly build strong character and emotional endurance? Yes, it would be easy, but muscles are not built by a life of ease. In the same way, my overarching prayer for my children this year is that their spiritual, emotional and academic muscles will grow stronger and their endurance through instruction and personal relationships will grow deeper and wider.
Specifically, these are the three ways I will pray for my children during the coming school year.
1. I pray they will grow in their love of God and learn to trust Him more.
Just recently, all four of my children have accepted Christ as their Savior. I pray this year they will continue to grow in knowledge of Him.
I wish this was as easy to measure as their physical growth, but this year I will look for opportunities to gauge where they are in their walk with Christ. I pray that my children will see Him move in ways they have not experienced before. I know this cannot always be done with sunny skies and cool breezes. I pray when the hard days come for my children, I can help them turn to Christ for comfort or direction.
Of course, this means that I myself need to strive after the Lord wholeheartedly as well. If I desire them to draw closer to Christ, I must draw closer to Christ as well.
2. I pray they will continue to grasp the command of Colossians 3:23
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men." (Colossians 3:23) As they do their math homework, as they do their chores, as they help a sibling, I want them to grow in their understanding of God-focused work. The sin tendency within us automatically gravitates towards laziness and self-centeredness, but I pray we will learn to counteract that tendency with a heart toward working for the Lord in whatever we find ourselves doing.
In the same vein, the second part of this verse is equally important. Many tasks are attached to immediate rewards, either personal or social. A child does his schoolwork in hopes of a good grade. She completes chores with the expectation of an allowance. He practices an instrument to impress the instructor. Earthly rewards are not bad for children, and in some instances they help spur them on to work harder.
However, the insatiable desire to please their Savior and honor Him with a good work ethic is important over a lifetime. Therefore, my prayer this year is that my children may simply grow in their understanding of what it means to "work as unto the Lord."
3. I pray my children will have opportunities to learn to love well.
At school, there are many different personalities. Each instructor, each peer will have good days and bad days. I pray that my children will flex their love and compassion muscles to show grace to those around them. Honestly, this does not come easily for all my kids, but to love those around us is a way we can point people to Christ in a very tangible way.
I pray my children will look for opportunities to be kind and to love with the same love that Christ has so greatly given us. When I first began to pray intentionally for my children in this way, they were in pre-school and early elementary. Now, they span middle elementary to middle school. Each has grown a lot in knowledge and stature. Their walk with the Lord is living and active, and it is the true joy of a parent to watch the Lord work in them personally.
One of the greatest benefits of praying for your children is to see their daily struggles and triumphs. It is when I pray for them that I slow down and think, in depth about each of my children, each personality, each circumstance, each talent, each struggle. As this school year starts, it is my desire to continue praying for them with renewed purpose. May this year be fruitful and powerful in drawing each of us, myself and my children, closer to the Lord.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Lenow and her husband Evan, an ethics professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, are parents to four children. This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Seminary.