She’s a beach girl and I’m a farm girl, but Jodie Berndt and I have much in common. We share a love for good books, fresh candles, and old, well-crafted buildings made from wood and stone. We also have a huge heart for God’s Word, and for the way God invites us to slip our hand into His, partnering with Him to accomplish His good and pleasing purposes through our prayers. I discovered Jodie’s writing when I picked up a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children; now, I am thrilled to welcome Jodie and her newest release, Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary Edition to the farm’s front porch today…
My brother, David, graduated from the University of Virginia, where the commencement ceremonies include a grand procession down “The Lawn,” a walk made familiar by generations of graduates.
David was walking with a group of his friends when he spotted our parents in the crowd of onlookers. Removing himself from his peers, he threaded his way through the procession and ran over to our folks, encircling Dad’s neck and planting a kiss on his cheek in a very public display of gratitude and affection.
A few days later I received a letter from Dad describing David’s impromptu embrace and telling me how much it had meant to him as a father.
Dad went on to recount about a dozen similar memories and blessings from his children’s growing-up years, pointing out that they were “all a testimony of God’s tender mercies, one after another after another, being bestowed upon our family.”
Dad wrapped up his letter with a challenge:
“God is so faithful,” he wrote, “and we must remember to stop occasionally and ‘build an altar of thanksgiving’ before we hurry on our way.”
The Bible is bursting with altars built by those who wanted a lasting memorial of God’s faithfulness, His promises, and His life-changing power.
Noah built one after the great flood; Jacob erected one after God changed his name; Moses put one up after God gave the Israelites an incredible victory over a powerful foe.
In each of these instances — and plenty more — the altar signified the time and place where God showed up and proved His faithfulness, His power, and His love.
I don’t know about you, but I am not nearly as good at building altars as I am at building to-do lists, thinking of all the things I want God to accomplish in my life and in the lives of the people I love.
Rather than thanking God for “His tender mercies, one after another,” I often find myself consumed with present concerns, unmet desires, and problems that have yet to be solved.
In Bible times, an altar was often a pile of stones set up by someone so that they (and their children, some who were yet to be born) would have a visible reminder of God’s provision and His faithfulness. I actually have a couple of stones – and one or two seashells – on which I’ve written dates and a few words or a Bible verse that speak to what God has done.
More often, though, my “altar” is simply a page or two in my journal, one where I revisit prayers (which sometimes look more like scrawls) from the previous months and thank God for how he has moved, often in ways I did not expect.
With the perspective of time, I can see how God has expanded my vision, stretched my faith, and said no to some of my longings so as to make room for His.
(I realize that this might sound sort of heady, but don’t get any ideas. My journal is not fancy. It’s got arrows and abbreviations and chicken-scratch writing that I sometimes struggle to read. But I tell myself that the Bible altars were probably no architectural masterpieces either. I imagine that, to someone who did not know their meaning, they mostly just looked like…rocks.)
If the idea of building an altar is a new one for you, maybe give it a try. Not only is altar-building an exercise in gratitude, it’s also one of obedience: “Tell God your needs,” the Bible says, “and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.”
Write a few words on a rock. Or in a prayer journal. Or just grab an old basket and encourage your kids to be alert to the ways they see God at work in their lives, and to note those things on a slip of paper (chicken scratch is approved!). Slip the notes into the basket when nobody’s looking. And then, every once in a while, let the dishes or the homework wait while you read what’s in there together.
(P.S.: A special dessert is a great way to ramp up interest if your kids are like mine were and seem a little reluctant, sometimes, to try another one of mom’s great prayer ideas.)
The altars you build with praise and thanksgiving are the pillars of a vibrant prayer life. Every single time you reflect on God’s faithfulness—whether His blessings seem big or small—you add a stone to your prayer legacy.
And don’t worry if you didn’t grow up in a home like I did—one where people prayed about math tests and headaches, and talked about Jesus like He grew up next door.
Prayer is God’s gift to us all.
As Andrew Murray put it, prayer is the “root and strength” of all else that we do.
And when we aren’t sure how to pray (or we worry because maybe our thoughts are a bit jumbled and we don’t sound as polished or convincing as we’d like), that’s okay.
God knew we’d need help.
And He sent the Holy Spirit for that very purpose. “We don’t know what we ought to pray for,” Paul writes, “but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with wordless groans.”
You might not have started your parenting journey with a prayer legacy. But you have one now.
And speaking of a prayer legacy…
Let’s be intentional about teaching our children to pray.
Let’s help them discover the good plans God has, purposes laid out and backed up by Scripture.
Let’s show them how to anchor their trust in God’s Word—not just the pages, but the person—as they learn to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.
Jodie Berndt is the bestselling author of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children and the follow-up volumes for Teens and Adult Children. A speaker and Bible teacher, Jodie believes that there is not a need we will face in parenting—or in any part of our lives—that God has not already thought of, and provided for, in his Word.
The altar-building story Jodie shares here is from the just-released book Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary Edition. This updated and expanded edition includes all the stories, prayer principles, and biblically based prayer verses readers loved in the original book, plus all-new material includes sections on praying for a child’s sense of identity, praying for their use of technology, and building a prayer legacy with specific strategies and a collection of child-friendly Bible verses designed to help children anchor their hope in God’s Word.
This beautiful hardcover volume comes with a satin ribbon and a presentation page, making it perfect for gifting. And if you want to use the book as a Bible study or for small group discussion, you’ll find the companion Study Guide and a free, seven-session Video Series (a $29.99 value).
Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: 20th Anniversary Edition teaches you how and what to pray for your child(ren) in the following areas: faith, character, safety, relationships, and the future. In this expanded edition celebrating the twentieth anniversary of a modern classic, you will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision — and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting!
[Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership for today’s devotion ]