The reality is most Christians think and talk about praying than do it. While we tend to depend on intuition or others to help us navigate the complexity of parenting, prayer is the single most powerful tool we have as a parent. Prayer is not just something we should do; it is the only we can do.
If we train our kids to do anything, we must train them to pray. We must show them that prayer is our first reflex and our last hope in every situation. The famous pastor–theologian J.C. Ryle encouraged parents to train their kids in prayer:
“Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them up to a habit of prayer. Show them how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere. Remind them if they become careless and slack about praying. Don’t let it be your fault if they never call on the name of the Lord. Remember, this is the first step in religion, which a child is able to take. Long before he can read, you can teach him to kneel by his mother’s side and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise that she puts in his mouth. And as the first steps in any undertaking are always the most important, so is the manner in which your children’s prayers are prayed, a point that deserves your closest attention.”
We must model and teach our kids to pray, but we must also pray for our kids in secret. Here are five prayers every parent should pray for their kids.
Prayer for Captivation
“Lord Captivate my kids’ affections.” The great father of our faith, St. Augustine of Hippo, understood this. His book Confessions is the story of his misplaced affections and restlessness that resulted in him trying to find joy in things that could never satisfy. One of the most powerful aspects of Augustine’s story was how God redeemed him and how He used the means of the Word proclaimed and the prayers of his mother, Monica. The Lord heard Monica’s prayers, and Augustine’s heart and his affections were captivated by the beauty of Christ.
Prayer for Salvation
“Lord save my kids by your grace.” This prayer is powerful because it reminds us as parents of two things. God is God, and we are not, so salvation belongs to Him. We can’t even force our kids to eat broccoli; how arrogant is it to think we can save our kids? Our job is to pray that God, by His mercy, does save them. The means by which God saves kids is most often through the prayer, example, and witness of their parents. To our dying breath, our prayer should be, “Lord, save my kids by your grace.”
Prayer for Transformation
“Lord conform my kids into your image.” Kids receive endless messaging telling them that they are enough and that their happiness is the goal of life. Culture tells our kids that they belong to themselves. But we must pray that our kids are conformed to the image of Christ. When kids are conformed to the image of Christ, they understand the truth, “I am not my own I belong to God.” That our kids would see Jesus as infinitely more beautiful than anything this world could offer is the goal of this prayer.
Prayer for Sanctification
“Lord use my kids for your glory.” We pray this because we don’t want our kids only to make it to heaven. We want them to model in this world what heaven is like. Living for the glory of God changes our priorities. Praying this prayer for our kids does not come at the expense of the joy of our children. Theologian John Piper often says, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him.” The prayer for our children to live for the glory of God is not at the expense of their joy but is the foundation of it.
Prayer for Commission
“Lord send my kids to the nations.” We must pray this prayer to be faithful to the Great Commission. If we belong to God, we are commanded to “Go into all the world.” The Great Commission is not something that is optional but is foundational to our faith. We need to pray for other nations, particularly those nations that do not have a faithful witness to the name of Christ. We must ask God to put a passion for missions into our kids’ hearts and tell them about the need to pray and go.
Parents, model prayer to your kids; pray incessantly for your kids; and trust God to do what only He can do. Only God can save, captivate, conform, prepare, and send your kids. So, our job is clear: pray as much as we can; trust as deeply as we can.