I looked up from my gardening to see my two youngest children, Virginia and Robbie, in animated conversation. They made such a pretty picture, sitting in the grass with the sunlight dappling their little blond heads, that I couldn’t resist creeping closer to listen. Picking up my trowel and a clay pot, I inched forward and made a pretense of planting a few geraniums.
As I fiddled with the flowers, five-year-old Virginia plucked a handful of long green acuba leaves from a nearby bush and handed several to her three-year-old brother. “Now wave them,” she commanded.
Robbie complied, and Virginia continued to talk. “ . . . they saw him coming on his donkey,” she said, “and they waved their branches, saying ‘Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
Watching the two of them wave their leaves to dramatize the story of Jesus’ last days on earth, I wanted to laugh out loud — more from delight than from amusement. Virginia told the story with such passion (“They put nails into his hands, Robbie! NAILS!”) that I found myself drawn into their little circle, overwhelmed by the power in her simple words. Speaking in the language of a five-year-old, she managed to communicate the anguish of the cross, the fear and confusion of Christ’s followers, and the incredible triumph of the resurrection — all in the space of about two minutes.
“Now,” Virginia concluded suddenly, breaking the spell, “you tell the story, Robbie. Start with the part where the disciples found the donkey.”
As this story illustrates, a love of Scripture can begin at an early age. How well we “read-aloud” moms know the tender joy of snuggling a small one on our lap or tucking him into bed with an adventure-come-to-life from the pages of a colorfully illustrated children’s Bible.
But these bedtime rituals are only the beginning. Psalm 119:105 likens God’s word — his laws, his commandments, his promises — to a lamp that sheds light on our path. Perhaps nowhere is this guiding light more necessary (or more welcome!) than when our children have outgrown our laps, when peer relationships, academic challenges, and other pressure points can generate a cloud of darkness or confusion in their lives.
Our prayers are undoubtedly the first line of defense against these clouds — and against the satanic schemes and assaults they often mask. Make no mistake: Satan wants to destroy our families, and he is always on the lookout for ways to sow seeds of tension, rebellion, and destruction. As 1 Peter 5:8 warns, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
But important as it is for us to pray, it is equally vital for our kids to be equipped to withstand Satan’s attacks when they come. And their number one defense against the devil’s pressures and temptations is the knowledge and prayerful application of Scripture.
Here’s an example of how this defense can work. In Luke 4, the devil finds Jesus in the desert, hungry and alone. “Tell this stone to become bread,” Satan suggests. Jesus replies, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ ”
Next, Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. “If you worship me,” he says, “it will all be yours.” Here again, Jesus doesn’t argue; instead, he simply says, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ ”
Finally, Satan takes Jesus to the top of the temple and says (my paraphrase), “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. The angels will lift you up in their hands — you won’t get hurt!” Once again, Jesus refuses to take the bait, choosing to quote another Scripture verse: “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
Jesus withstands the devil’s schemes — not through intellectual prowess, physical strength, or willpower, but simply by knowing and using God’s word.
And like Jesus, the child or teenager who has moved beyond bedtime stories to the place where he knows and loves the Bible will be well-equipped to withstand the attacks and temptations that come his way. The pressures themselves do not disappear; rather, they become easier to address, given the lessons learned from Scripture.
God’s commands are not meant to limit our freedom. Rather, they are meant to protect us and show us how to live life to the fullest.
Let’s pray that our children will see God’s word for what it is: a guiding light that illuminates the pathway to God’s blessings. Let’s pray, according to Psalm 119:11, that our kids will love God’s word, hiding it in their hearts to keep them from sinning against God and interfering with the blessings he wants to provide.
Praying for your child to know, love, and use God’s word is one of the most effective ways to pray for their spiritual protection.When you ask God to hide His Word in your child’s heart, you are asking him for the blessings of wisdom, protection, and freedom. What ways have you found helpful in praying for your child to know God’s Word?