December 17, 2020

How Should We Pray for Our Children?

Nathan W. Bingham & Sinclair Ferguson
How Should We Pray for Our Children?

Christian parents tend to have great concerns--and often great fears--about the spiritual lives of their children. How should we be praying for our children and grandchildren? Today, Sinclair Ferguson encourages us with thoughtful guidance.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining us this week is Ligonier Teaching Fellow Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, calling in from Scotland. Dr. Ferguson, as a grandparent, how would you encourage people to pray for their children and their grandchildren?

DR. SINCLAIR FERGUSON: Well, many questions"you think I've been asked this question many times before, but I've actually never been asked this question before. And maybe the first thing to say is there's no particular merit in being a grandparent, but there is this advantage that you've survived thus far. And so, even if you're not a particularly wise person, I think you probably pick up a lot of wisdom simply by longevity and observing things and being able to look back on your own life and think, "Now that I am this age, now that I do have children and grandchildren, what would I have wanted somebody to pray for me?"

And when I think about that question, I also think when we're praying for our grandchildren, we shouldn't isolate praying for their parents as well. Because the relationship between the parent and the grandchild is absolutely essential for the grandchild. So here, I think, if I can articulate, are some of the things that I would pray for or encourage others to pray for their grandchildren.

And I think the first of them might be to pray that they will be bound to their mom and dad by as many strings as possible. What do I mean by that? Growing is a long, long process. I think when I was young, people used to say you've not really become who you're going to be till you're in your mid-twenties. I think now that's probably until you're in your early thirties. And that's a long time for you to go up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down.

And one of the things I've observed, I think, in family life is that when well-meaning Christian parents tie themselves to their children only along the lines of what they regard as spiritual, when the child is in difficulties or the teenager is in difficulties, if you've bonded them to yourself only by one piece of string and it's under great pressure, you have no other avenue to them and they have no other avenue to you. And so I think one of the things to pray for is the children within the context of their parents.

Second thing I think I would encourage prayer for is that there will be signs of a spiritual springtime appearing in their lives. I actually think that many Christian parents live in great fear about their children's spiritual condition. And fear is never productive in the lives of our children, and actually it communicates itself. I've met parents, I think, who would certainly give the impression they've done all the right things for the children, but then when it comes time for the children to go away to college, they're absolutely terrified. And whatever they think they have done, it has given them no security, no peace.

And so, I think a really important thing to pray for is"and this affects parents as well as children"that the children grow within the context of a spiritual environment of home and family and church and friends. And that their Christian lives develop, in a sense one might say naturally, not by sudden events, but simply by being conscious of the presence of the Lord Jesus.

Then looking back to, I think, prayer that their commitment to Christ will be very decisive. This is not the same thing as praying that they will have a radical spiritual experience, but that their commitment to Jesus Christ will be absolutely primary in our lives, absolutely decisive. And I think that's important to pray because this is a very confusing world. I mean, when I was a child, moral temptation was still regarded as socially bad. And that has been almost reversed in the present time. But if a child has a decisive commitment to Jesus Christ, that's not to say they will never be tempted, but a lot of the pressure will be water off a duck's back to them. Because if they know they're Christ's, then they're able to say to the Lord, if they're demeaned, if people slight them because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they're able to say quietly to the Lord: "Lord, I know this isn't really about me. It's about You. And since it's about You, You take care of it, and I'll just go on living faithfully for You." So prayer for a decisive commitment.

I think another thing, looking back on our own lives as grandparents, I think most of us realize how important Christian friends have been to us. So praying that the Lord will give them a real brotherhood or sisterhood of believing friends.

And then I think another thing that I pray is that in God's mercy they may have a sense and may be helped to a sense of what it is the Lord wants them to do with their lives in terms of a calling. Of course, we can never second guess what God is going to do as a result of a sense of calling. But I think that sense of calling helps younger people to have a clear vision of the way ahead and not to be distracted. And I think we need to pray this because it's a very distracting world.

I guess I've gone on long enough, but I think another thing to pray for is to pray for their love for the church. And again, this affects the parents because children breathe in whatever the parents breathe out. And if the parents do not love the church that Christ loved and gave Himself for, then that's the atmosphere that the children will breathe in. But in a living church"I think in the Western world, this is the last place that this happens"in a living church for youngsters today, for older people to take an interest in them, for the children to be able to speak to older people, some of whom have had just remarkable life experience. So praying for them that they will very early on see the church as their extended family and they will grow in love for the church. And I think one of the wonderful things about that is that it means as they grow up, they're actually able to relate to all sorts and conditions of people"wise and simple, young and old, rich and poor.

So these are by no means all of the things, but I think these are some of the things that should be central in our praying for our grandchildren. And as I've said, it includes praying for our own children. And since we're praying for our own children and their spouses, and we should also pray for our grandchildren and their future and their families so that the Lord's blessing will go from generation to generation.