Commending Your Children to God in Prayer
When my children were growing up I made it a point to pray for each of them regularly and asked the Lord to fill in for my parental shortcomings. Sad to say, now that they have grown up, I don't pray for them as often as I ought. I should do much better. And, as I think about it, when I do pray for them I don’t always pray for the right things. This is one element of my daily devotional discipline I wish to improve.
Toward that end, I recently purchased a copy of the revised Concordia edition of Starck’s Prayer Book. Originally written in German during the 18thcentury and first translated into English in 1921, this wonderful little book stands up quite well to the test of time. It contains prayer for many occasions and situations, but the one that really caught my eye is entitled “Believing Parents Commend Their Children to God in Prayer.”
The prayer includes a number of things you would normally expect to hear in such a prayer: thanksgiving to God for the gift of children; as well as petitions for help in raising them in the discipline and instruction in the Lord, that they would be well-grounded in the Christian faith, that they would lead godly lives, that the Lord would protect them from spiritual and physical danger, and that He would continue to provide for their temporal needs. But it also contains a paragraph that is just as important as all of them, but which most of us probably don’t think to pray. Or if we do think of it, we never voice it because it goes right at the heart of a parent’s deepest fears. Starck writes:
But if it should please You to make my children a cross to me, either by their sickness, or death, or any other calamity that I might have to see them suffer, grant me patience in such affliction, and remind me that nothing happens without Your divine direction, that my children were Yours before they were mine, and that You have sovereign power to take them again to Yourself. But if it is Your design by the suffering, misfortune, and death of my children to draw me to You, in order that I may recognize also in them that Your visible gifts are perishable, to stir me up to love You alone, the true and perfect God, keep me while traveling this thorny path in firm confidence and hope in Your almighty power, which can end and mend all things, even the crosses of my children.
Starck lived in a day and age when the loss of a child (or children) was all too common. In the days before antibiotics and modern medicines, every sickness was considered to be potentially crippling or even lethal, particularly among children. God has blessed us with many advances in medical science since that time that make the death of a child a rarity in our day. Praise the Lord! But that blessing has also come with a downside: our sinful minds have tricked us into believing that bad things can’t (or shouldn't) happen to us—they certainly shouldn't happen to our children!
But the reality is that we live in a fallen world. Bad things do happen. And even if disease or death are not an obvious threat there are many other perils and trials that we must all face on a daily basis. Each one of us has to take up his own cross. But we don’t have to carry the burden alone. Our Lord will do that for us. We have not, because we ask not. That’s why one of the best gifts we can give our children (and receive ourselves) is to pray for them. No, God doesn’t always answer our prayers just when or in the exact way that we would want, but He does promise to hear our prayers and to answer in a way that is best for us and for those for who we pray in Jesus' name. A prayer like Starck’s helps me to remember that.