How to pray for your children

This! I could not be more excited about this new wonder for little kids and big kids and all the kids in us! I can’t turn these pages without choking up the happiest, with worship, with kinda heart-bursting joy! It’s an honor to welcome Matthew Paul Turner to the farm’s porch today. His wife Jessica is one of my dearest friends; we’ve journeyed together through life, sharing struggles and triumphs of parenting and life. And Matthew has heart for the marginalized and whether it is with his work with World Vision or serving people in his community, he loves people deeply. Few children’s book writers manage to capture the message of Scripture as beautifully as Matthew. For the past four years I have invited him to the farm’s front porch. His books are story time favorites in our home and have moved me to tears. Today, he’s sharing his heart for praying for our kids in honor of his gorgeous new book When I Pray for You. Shiloh and I have read it again and again over the past week. It will bless your story times tremendously. I am so grateful for his words here today. It’s a grace to welcome Matthew to the farm’s front porch today…

guest post by Matthew Paul Turner

From the moment I saw you, I started to pray.

My wife, Jessica, had been in labor for more than a day, an experience that began with preeclampsia and an induction, then many long hours without much progress.

Watching Jessica fight through the pains of childbirth was much harder than I thought it’d be. Like most fathers, I felt pretty helpless.

After 33 hours, our midwife announced that it was time to deliver a baby, I was feeling all the emotions—excitement, anxiety, fear, uncertainty.

Jessica’s best friend, Angie, was in the delivery room with us for most of those moments.

There was a moment or two while Jessica was pushing that I looked at Angie with worry on my face. She grabbed my hand and whispered, “Everything’s okay. I promise.”

I prayed a lot of prayers while witnessing Jessica fight to bring our first baby into the world.

As someone who was raised in the church, I cannot remember a time in my life when prayer wasn’t an important, tangible, and earnest part of my life.

Even during seasons of doubt, when I’ve struggled with my faith, I always prayed.

And though I’d spent a lot of time praying in the moments leading up to seeing our baby boy for the first time, I had no idea how much my life, my faith, and my understanding of prayer was about to be turned upside down.

And then it happened. The midwife announced, “we have a baby!”

And then I watched as she pulled our son from Jessica’s womb. Seeing Elias for the first time changed everything. At least, that’s how it felt. As soon as I heard the first squeals of my 8-pound baby boy, tears welled up in my eyes as I whispered to God, “thank you.”

A few moments later, as I held my swaddled son in my arms and rocked him as he slept, I prayed my very first prayers over him.

Big prayers and small ones I have sent God’s way

My thoughts about prayer had certainly evolved and changed many times throughout my life. But nothing has affected my prayer life more than what I watched happened on July 12, 2008—the day I watched Elias, my firstborn—come into the world.

I’d always heard that becoming a parent would affect how I engage God, but it wasn’t until the day I became a daddy that I began to understand just how deeply the experience of parenthood would alter how I pray, how often I pray, and perhaps most importantly, for whom my prayers would be said.

And that’s one promise to myself I’ve kept. Every single day (or nearly), since that early Saturday morning during the summer of 2008, I’ve spoken audible prayers to God on my son’s behalf.

I prayed that Elias would be strong. I prayed that he would feel safe. And I prayed for God’s help as I strived to be a good parent.

‘Cause when I pray for you, God knows this is true.

Every word I whispered was a prayer for me, too.

As Elias has grown up, so have the prayers I say. When he started school, I prayed that he’d be a kind friend. I prayed that he’d be a light among his peers.

And I kept praying that I would be a good parent, showcasing kindness and light in how I interacted with him.

One thing I’ve also realized is that many of the prayers I say for Elias haven’t been made up of words. Sometimes they’re sighs or pats on the head or deep, intentional breaths or momentary thoughts—split-second hopes or dreams that my soul feels yet doesn’t need to express with words.

I pray when you’re smiling and when you feel sad.

I pray when you’re sick, embarrassed, or mad.

And because I believe in the power and mystery of prayer, sometimes what I talk to God about centers on whatever is happening that day—Elias’s school event or his soccer game or an unplanned but necessary trip to the dentist.

These are the kind of prayers that I believe help our kids understand the practice and practicality of how prayer works in our current, everyday lives.

These prayers also convey to my son that God cares about the details of his life, that God sees him and is with him and is involved in what’s happening to him in the here and now.

And isn’t that how prayer changes us—by encouraging us to see and experience and become vulnerable to the ways in which God interacts and showcases love toward us?

I pray you love well, that the light in you swells…

Elias will be 11-years old in a few months, a blink or two away from being a teenager, and just a few more blinks away from experiencing high school, his first prom experience, his first heartbreak.

With each change of season in Elias’s life, the prayers that I pray will change too. And rather than my prayers being said while he’s wrapped inside my embrace, they’ll likely to be said from afar, all the while hoping he’ll be praying similar prayers on his own behalf.

That’s one of the emotional realities I hoped to capture in When I Pray for You, the hope-filled sentiment of a parent praying for their beloved, while also realizing the reality that as their kids grow, so do the prayers we say over them.

At the moment you realize it’s time to explore;

I’ll pray God gives you wings and,

like an eagle you’ll soar.

I have three children now—Elias, Adeline, and Ezra—and each of their arrivals and stories have inspired new prayers, new hopes, new dreams, new sighs to be expressed over each of their lives.

I don’t believe I’ll ever stop praying for them.

Partly because I believe in prayer, but mostly because my hope is that each of them live their lives in such a way that, to God, how they love, how they give, how they dream will be prayers.

‘Cause when I pray for you,

I pray all that you do

brings love and brings light,

and helps the world shine like new.

 

 

Matthew Paul Turner has done it again. Like his other children’s books, When I Pray for You is full of encouragement, profound truth and hope. It is a book you’ll want to read again and again. 

When I Pray for You celebrates the dreams, hopes, and longings parents pray over their children, and shares with the little ones how much care and concern a loved one feels for them.

[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]