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A Praying Parent

A Praying Parent

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. – Deuteronomy 4:9

Compared to parenting, every other challenge is child’s play. Being a mom or dad is our single greatest privilege. And while I’ve never met a mom or dad who disagrees with me on that point, it’s easy to end up with inverted priorities.

But at the end of the day, I want those who know me best to respect me most. That’s my family. And that’s my definition of success.

Of course, it’s much easier said than done.

During a recent parenting slump, I facetiously said to my wife, Lora, “I think we’ll finally figure out this parenting thing the same day our kids leave home!” The truth is, we’ll never figure it out because children are moving targets. Just when you think you have them pegged, they become toddlers or teenagers or twenty-somethings, and you’re right back to square one. I’ve come to the conclusion that parenting is not a puzzle to be solved. Parenting is more like a roller coaster you ride for eighteen years with no exit. The relational corkscrews and emotional inversions result in exhilarating highs and nauseating lows. So my advice is simple: buckle up, learn a few lessons along the way, and enjoy the ride.

You will make more mistakes than you care to remember, especially with the guinea pigs we call firstborns. But no matter how many things you get wrong, there is one thing you must get right — and that one thing makes all the difference in the world: Make sure the heavenly Father hears about your kids every day!

Bad News, Good News, and Great News

Right at the outset, let me give you some bad news, some good news, and some great news about parenting and praying for your children.

The bad news first: you’ll feel like a failure at the end of many, if not most, days.

There are days you need to take a mulligan. Go to bed, get up the next morning, and start over. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to help you hit the reset button. I realize that isn’t a luxury you have if you have a newborn baby, but the same baby you have a tough time getting to sleep will one day be difficult to wake up because they missed curfew the night before. My advice? Take a short nap as often as you can.

I’ve already revealed my definition of success: I want those who know me best to respect me most. That’s the dream.

But the reality is that I often feel like a complete failure as a father.

Some days I even feel like a fraud. It’s usually those moments when one of our mini-mes begins to mimic something I don’t like about myself. It’s a sobering thing when you say, “Don’t take that tone with me” and then realize it’s the same exact tone you take with them.

Having children is like looking in the mirror on a really bad hair day or looking at old pictures from a fashion season you’d like to forget. Kids keep us humble! Just when you think they’ve mastered the art of Emily Post etiquette, they’ll mortify you by making a passing comment or passing gas at the most inopportune time. Of course, they learned this from you as well. In the infamous words of John Wilmot, “Before I got married, I had six theories about raising children; now I have six children and no theories.”

Nothing keeps you on your knees or on your toes like parenting.

My parenting ineptitude is epitomized by one shining moment when our oldest son, Parker, was a toddler. He had a fitful night full of tears, and I couldn’t understand why. Then he crawled into our room in the middle of the night. I was too tired to take him back to his bed, so I reached down to pull him into ours. That’s when I realized why he had been crying — his bare butt was the tip-off that I had forgotten to put a diaper on him when I put him to bed.

It’s amazing that our kids even survive our parenting, isn’t it?

While we’re on the subject, the word diaper spelled backward is repaid. So apropos!

Just as our children won’t fully appreciate the sacrifices we’ve made for them until they have kids of their own, I think it’s impossible to fully appreciate the heavenly Father until you have kids of your own. I have three graduate degrees in theology, but nothing has taught me about the heart of our heavenly Father like being a dad. I love my kids like crazy, but they can also drive me crazy. And when they do, I’m reminded of God’s infinite patience with our incessant whining, occasional temper tantrums, and blatant disobedience. Astounding, isn’t it?

You’ll lose your patience. You’ll lose your temper. You might even lose your mind a time or two. You will make a million mistakes as a parent, but now for the good news: your worst mistakes double as your greatest opportunities.

How will your kids learn to apologize unless you model it for them by apologizing to them? Your mistakes give you the opportunity to model one of the most important lessons they’ll ever learn — how to say “I’m sorry.”

I have a very simple parenting philosophy that boils down to just three words: please, sorry, and thanks. If all else fails, I want to teach my kids to be really good at saying those three words — and then doing them! If they master please, sorry, and thanks, they are well on their way to a great marriages, great friendships, and a great relationship with God.

Finally, here’s the great news: prayer covers a multitude of sins.

You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent.

Prayer is your highest privilege as a parent. Don’t just leverage it as a last resort when all else fails. Make it your first priority. Nothing you can do will give you a higher return on your investment, and the dividends are both generational and eternal.

God will answer your prayers for your children long after you are gone. Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children, grandchildren, and every generation that follows.

Watch the Video

Excerpted with permission from Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children by Mark Batterson, copyright Thomas Nelson 2014.

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