When Nick and Eva learned their family was growing, they were over the moon, and honestly, a little overwhelmed too. When they told their pastor the news a few weeks later he said “Congratulations! I will be praying for you and your little one.”
Later, they sheepishly admitted to each other that they had not been praying much for their unborn baby, beyond “Thank you Lord for this child, please keep everyone healthy.” They wanted to pray for this person that they already loved, but weren’t sure what to say.
Children need prayer, and the Bible teaches us to pray “at all times and on every occasion.” (Ephesians 6:8) so how should we pray for them? What should we pray about?
Parents themselves need prayer: Parenting is challenging, and full of temptation to be selfish or angry, focus on the wrong priorities, or even blame things on your child or spouse. When we become parents, we may often ask God “What should I do?”
What is the best guide for learning how to pray? Scripture teaches us how to pray, and assures us that the Holy Spirit will help us.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)
We can use Jesus’ teaching on prayer, and his model prayer (the Lord’s Prayer) to guide what we pray for:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:5-13
Didn’t see anything about parenting in the Lord’s prayer? We’ve provided some prayer starts below. (hint for those looking for connections to the Lord’s prayer: many of them relate to “your will be done…”, “daily bread”, “forgive us…”)
Prayer for your child:
- Praise God for his creation: He knows this child and their purpose, and designed their body.
- Thank the Holy Spirit that he hears our prayers and intercedes for us and our requests.
- Ask for your child’s physical well-being and development, and thank him for the ways he has provided so far. Even small things like hand-me-down swaddling blankets are part of God’s provision!
- Pray for your child’s spiritual well-being; this is even more important than their physical needs.
- Pray for God’s guidance and strength for the church- for your child’s future Christian teachers and mentors and friends that are part of God’s family. Ephesians 6:18 says “Pray … with all kinds of requests … keep on praying for all the saints”
Prayer for yourself and spouse as parents (and if you’re expecting, you are parents now):
- Pray for an attitude of humility and being Christ-like, that you would think of others (including your child) more than you think of yourself.
- Pray to be a good steward and caretaker.
- Pray that God would bring godly counsel and mentors into your life as parents: the Bible talks in Titus 2:3-5 about older women teaching younger women how to love their husbands and children and show kindness.
- Pray for wisdom in decision making. Parents have to make a lot of decisions – more on this later!
- Pray to confess your sins: as a parent, I have had to ask for forgiveness from God and from my kids when I lost my temper, didn’t do something I committed to do, or didn’t believe them when they told the truth. Confess to God in prayer, and also try to make peace and reconciliation with your child.
When you pray for wisdom regarding a decision about your child, are you prepared to hear and obey?
It can be intimidating to ask God’s guidance. What if he asks you to do something hard? Unpopular? Or worse, uncomfortable! We want God’s help, but are we prepared to accept the help he gives when it’s not what we want to hear?
For example, friends of mine prayed about what type of schooling their child should receive the coming school year, and the answer wasn’t the one that appealed to them personally. Nevertheless, they stepped out in faith and responded to God’s word.
Sometimes the answer isn’t convenient, or without cost.
What about circumcision?
American parents often feel like they “need to make a decision” on the topic of whether or not to circumcise their new son, but they’re not sure or not in agreement on which choice is best, so they may turn to prayer and even report “Well, we prayed and feel like God wants us to circumcise our son.”
Here’s the thing: we know that circumcision is not medically necessary. Your healthy son has no diagnosis or disease that warrants amputation. God created his body and called all his creation very good.
In many ways, there’s is no real decision to be made; we wouldn’t pray about whether to pre-castrate (or half-castrate) our boys in anticipation of testicular cancer, even if we had a family history of it. And yet people feel they “have to” make a similar decision regarding their son’s foreskin. Moms and Dads from other countries don’t even consider this at all and are shocked by this cultural practice.
Beyond being not necessary, circumcision harms boys and the men they become. After circumcision, your son’s body will not function as God designed it. Normal, God-designed protective and sexual functions and sensation will be gone forever.
Dads, you may think “well, I’m circumcised and I’m fine”– and in the sense that you aren’t aware of any ill effects, you might be right – but there are complications that result from circumcision which often go unnoticed by most men and boys if they just think it’s “normal”.
- Between 10 and 20 percent of circumcised males will experience iatrogenic meatal stenosis at some point in their lives.
- The natural lubricating function of the foreskin is missing in circumcised males, creating a need for artificial lubricants to alleviate unwanted friction during intimacy.
- Keratinization of the glans as a result of the mucosal tissue being constantly exposed, leading to a dulling of sensation over the time and contributing to cases of Erectile Dysfunction
- Many men have too much skin removed, as there is no way to safely predict how an infant’s penis will appear after puberty. This lack of slack skin can cause pulling, tearing, and other frustrating issues.
- Many men will report that wearing certain kinds of underwear or pants can be quite uncomfortable due to the rubbing of the material against their exposed glans.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not to say that you are somehow fundamentally broken or that you cannot live a full life, but these seemingly minor annoyances are not normal. Neither are more serious complications such as infections or hemorrhage that can kill an infant, “botched circumcisions” (some of which involve loss of the glans or the entire penis), MRSA or other infections developing at the wound site, etc. These are all risks most doctors who offer circumcision do not mention, but they are all real and these risks are taken every day for little to no real benefit.
So if it isn’t necessary, and it does harm…should we pray about whether or not to do it?
When you put it that way, it sounds absurd. We shouldn’t pray about whether or not to do something harmful and disrespectful to our sons and to God’s wise design. Nor should we say “Well, I prayed about it” as an excuse to end the discussion when we are now aware of the harmful aspects of circumcision.
Prayer is not a magical experiment, where you state your plans to God and then God zaps you and magically gives you the correct decision (which happens to be what we wanted to do in the first place). Neither is it a litmus test where you state your plans and then use your feelings to discern God’s will, where if you feel peaceful afterwards, then he’s ok with it, and if you feel uneasy, perhaps you should reconsider.
God can certainly use our consciences to speak to us, but ultimately, what we decide to do must be in line with God’s word. God never contradicts himself and we ought not to pretend that our feelings about something make it right or wrong, true or untrue. Instead we should seek his will in what he has revealed to us, which he has done for us in scripture.
People say, 'I had a peace about it,' when explaining what they think God wants them to do. But Jonah was peaceful enough to fall asleep on a boat while running away from the command of God. And while his disciples slept, Jesus didn’t sleep a wink in a garden where he struggled and fought to focus on obedience. Whatever the 'peace of God that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus is,' it's definitely not the warm fuzzies. ~author Rebecca K. ReynoldsClick To Tweet
“If you want to hear God speaking to you, read the scriptures, if you want to hear his voice audibly, then read them aloud” ~Rev. Chris RosebroughClick To Tweet
“Wait … what if I’ve already circumcised one or more of my sons?”
Romans 8:1 says “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Understand that God doesn’t condemn you, and this article isn’t meant to make you feel bad for your past decisions. Perhaps you didn’t know that it was even an option to keep your son intact. Perhaps no one told you that, even in our imperfect world, the foreskin almost never experiences problems, and most of those can be treated easily. Maybe you even prayed a sincere prayer that your son’s circumcision would happen safely.
All of us who experience the saving grace of God are growing in faith and holiness. Whether the wrongs we have done are intentional or not, Jesus took the punishment for those upon himself at the cross. We can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” in prayer knowing that we will find grace and mercy there.
We pray in order to speak to God and hear from him what he wishes us to do. In praying, we learn to be more like his Son.
Lord, make us Christ-like. Help us to care for the little ones you’ve made and entrusted to us.