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What’s the Best Christmas Gift for Your Kids?

What’s the Best Christmas Gift for Your Kids?

Good question.

I’ve tried everything, from ridiculously expensive “must-have” toys like My Size Barbie (a gift that was abandoned as soon as our four-year-old stole all her clothes) to a posture brace for our teenagers that was not, as the advertisement optimistically proclaimed, “virtually invisible” under your clothing.

picture of Berndt kids with posture braces

Looking back on our family’s growing up years, I can’t help but think that a lot of my Christmas mistakes could have been avoided had I stuck with my grandmother's gift-giving strategy. Gammy never gave us anything, at least nothing you could wrap. Instead, she asked her grandkids to memorize a Bible verse for her every year and, in return, she promised to pray for us.

I will admit that, as a teenager, I was less-than-enthused by my grandmother’s scheme. I don't know how I ever memorized any verses, given that my eyes were rolled so far back into my head. Today, though, many of these nuggets are still locked in, and in terms of things like wisdom, joy, and peace I can promise you this: The Bible verses have been a far better — and infinitely more comfortable — support system than even the most discreet posture brace.

I will never know the full impact of Gammy’s prayers, but I am confident that her gift to her grandchildren protected us from all manner of evil we likely deserved — and opened the door to immeasurable blessings we didn’t. And now that I’ve got grandkids of my own, I can’t think of anything I’d rather give them than prayer — the same gift I (finally) learned to give to my children.

So what does it look like, in practical terms, to “give the gift of prayer”?

Every December, I spend some time thinking about each of our kids and grandkids. I consider where they are (spiritually, as well as socially, physically, emotionally, and in other ways), and I ask God to clue me in as to what He might want to do in their lives. And then, because I love the power that comes with praying the scriptures, I go poking around in the Bible. When I find a verse that seems to speak to a child’s particular situation or need, I pick that as an “annual prayer,” personalizing it with his or her name.

Here are a handful of the prayers I’ve relied on over the years:

  • For a child’s academic or career success: May _______ show aptitude for every kind of learning, be well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve. (Daniel 1:4)
  • For a child who needs wisdom and guidance: Instruct and teach _______ in the way they should go. (Psalm 32:8)
  • For a child who wants friends: Surround _______ with good friends who are kind and compassionate, and quick to forgive. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • For a child to live out their faith in a winsome way: May _______ be wise, shining like the brightness of the heavens and leading many to righteousness. (Daniel 12:3)

When our children were little, I’d trace their hands on a piece of colored cardstock and write out the verse, along with the date. I’d cut out the hand, laminate it, and stick it on the refrigerator, where they’d serve as a visible reminder to me (and to my kids) that God was at work.

picture of Bible verse written on a paper hand

After a while, when the kids’ hands got so big that they were more creepy than cute on the fridge, I began making bookmarks with the verses instead. And after doing this now for more than twenty years, here is what I’ve discovered.

I’ve discovered that when you commit to spending a whole year praying about one particular thing, you learn to wait well, trusting God even when you can’t see what He is doing. You give Him time to work. And you get out of the way so that He can weave in answers and blessings that you had not even thought to pray for, or that your children needed.

For instance, one year I chose Isaiah 62:2-4 as a prayer verse for our daughter, Hillary. “You will be called by a new name,” this passage says. “No longer will they call you Deserted or name your land Desolate… the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married.” Hillary was facing some uncertainty in her job at the time, and I wanted her to know that God delighted in her. I wanted God to give her a new name — a new “sense of identity” — and let her know how much she was loved.

God did that, all right. He filled my girl with purpose and joy. He gave her favor at work. And he introduced a young man into the picture — one who became her fiancé that year and then literally gave her his name. Marriage was not even on my radar when I picked that prayer verse — but it was on God’s!

Truth be told, I love gifts you can wrap and tuck under the tree (and if nothing else, the posture brace made every other gift shine by comparison). But as I think about the varied ways we can shower our children with love, I’m increasingly convinced that prayer is the best gift of all. It’s a gift that lasts. It’s one that comes with the power to influence and shape lives. And it brings peace and joy to the giver, knowing that when we come before our heavenly Father on behalf of our children, He can be trusted to accomplish good things in their lives.

picture of Jodie Berndt with granddaughter and Bible verse hand

Written for Devotionals Daily by Jodie Berndt, author of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children (20th Anniversary Edition), Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens, and Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children.

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Your Turn

Our prayers when placed in the hands of our loving God move mountains… even when we don’t see it right away. Let’s pray for our children and grandchildren this Christmas and upcoming year! Who are you praying for? Come share with us! ~ Devotionals Daily