Sunday, March 22, 2009

Let Us Pray For The Children

It was our turn to lead and host our small group of young families from our church. Since we'd been having so many good discussions around marriage and parenting, I decided to lead us in a review of things we should pray for our children, as compiled by a staffer in John Piper's church.

Two things occurred to us as we were discussing these items as a group. First, we noted how much these represented things we wanted for ourselves, both for its own sake as well as to be a good example for our kids: to choose Jesus for ourselves, to be generous in our giving, to fully utilize the unique gifts and perspectives God gave each of us to serve others.

Second, we noted that despite the uncontroversial nature of these things we should pray for our kids, these would never enter into the minds of parents who aren't themselves believers. This was surprising to me: normally, one considers the Christian full of good moral things that every parent, no matter what the religion, would think to be good for their kids.

And yet we are increasingly a post-Christian nation, a generation that has become cynical of religion and leery if not mocking of those who take such things seriously. We have also become a people for whom purity in thought and sanctity in marriage are no longer expected. Finally, we are inherently self-serving, seeking ever greater accolades and comforts and successes.

So the notion of cleaving to timeless truths, of having no instruction manual but the Bible and no gods but the God of the Bible, of saving yourself for marriage and holding captive your thought life against lust and greed, and of losing your life for the sake of the gospel and its expansion to the farthest corners of the world and the darkest crevices of our society . . . well, these can seem odd at best and dangerous at worst to even the most kind and open-hearted of secular people.

Lest we spiral despairingly into a defeatism - our own example is far cry from what we wish for our kids, and our society too hostile and too suffocating for such values to blossom intact in their lives - we are reminded that this is not about our efforts. Sure, we are to hold ourselves to the highest standards possible, and instruct our children as best as we can.

But ultimately, we start and end that effort where we should: on our knees in prayer to God. He wants these things far more than we do, for us and for our children. With His help, we can say no to the pernicious conforming of our values and ideals to those of the world, and say yes to being transformed in mind and body and direction and purpose. Where we are unable by human effort and wishful thinking, He is able - to keep us on the path, and to shepherd our children through the same minefield.

And so let us know that our children are watching, and shore up our lives accordingly. And let us be aware of the influences, some subtle and some not so subtle, that seek to misdirect and hurt and claim our children for some other purpose than what God has made them for. But before, during, and after, let us also pray for our children, and in doing so join our desire for their protection, provision, and promotion with One who is supremely able to protect, provide, and promote.
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