Our church’s ladies group has been studying the life of Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2). One thing we noted is that she prayed for little Samuel before he was even conceived. When God answered her request for a son, she kept her part of the bargain by saying, “So now I give him to the LORD.”
Each of us as moms desires to give our children back to the LORD, but the reality is that only 4% of children raised in Christian homes will stay faithful to God once they leave high school (Barna). With such a dismal statistic, many mothers simply throw up their hands and say, “Well, I just need to pray more” or “Sometimes God answers our prayers with ‘no’ or ‘wait a while.'”
Is this true? Does God not care if our children grow up to serve Him? Or does the Bible rather teach that raising Godly children is His will for us, and that this is a prayer request He loves to answer with a “yes”?
The book of Malachi talks about God’s purposes for godly marriage, and one of the reasons listed is for godly offspring:
“Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring” (Malachi 3:15, NIV).
An often-debated verse on parenting is found in Proverbs:
“Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Is this one of those verses that you can “take to the bank,” or does your experience tell you that God’s Word cannot always be depended upon?
I firmly believe that, yes, God’s Word is always true. I believe that if a child grows up to walk away from God, I as a mother (and my husband as the father) must share some of the blame. These are hard words, especially when my own children are not yet grown and I may have to eat them, but this is what God’s Word says, not Anne Elliott.
God’s Word also says that God answers our prayers. When so many mothers are praying for their children, why doesn’t God always answer?
“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3, NIV).
This verse points to our hearts and tells us that sometimes our lips don’t match our actions. We may pray for our children, but are we willing to back our prayers with the action required to “train up a child in the way he should go”?
What are some of the actions that we know are God’s will for parents; therefore, we know that these actions are required if we are going to produce a godly offspring?
- We must make God’s law known to our children. God’s commands are in the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and God says to “make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9, ESV). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Passing on a complete and thorough knowledge of the Bible (all of it!) to our children is a huge task, but it is of highest priority. The following verses are good ones to study for “how” and “why”:
Deuteronomy 30:1-3 (note the promise!)
- Training is both positive (“teach”) and negative.
“Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14, NIV).
The standard (God’s commands) never change. We train our children first in God’s standard, then we must hold them to it. Yes, children all have unique personalities, but God’s Word never changes, no matter the personality. Hold your children to the standard, rather than moving the standard down to the child.
- Show loving welcome to your children. Training and rebuke aren’t everything. Do you show your children how much you welcome them into your life? Notice how Jesus showed welcome to children:
“He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me'”(Mark 9:36-37, NIV).
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16, NIV).
Welcoming our children, not just as babies (“what a blessing from God!”) but as toddlers, elementary-aged children, and teenagers, is not natural for a mom! Is it natural for you to want to welcome a child when you’re finishing another task, wanting to rest for just a moment, fighting a headache, talking with a friend or surfing the Internet? No…. but we can train ourselves to take them “in our arms, put our hands on them and bless them.”
“…train the younger women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4, NIV).
So yes, prayer is super important! Like Hannah, we need to pray for our children. But also like Hannah, we need to take steps to train our children specifically in God’s Law (see 1 Samuel 1:11 for Hannah’s own familiarity with God’s law). We need to hold them up to God’s standard of righteousness, and we need to show our love to them, even when they “impose on our lifestyle.”
God never intended for His Church to be filled with disobedient children (see Romans 1:30 and 2 Timothy 3:2). We know that it is His will for us to raise up godly offspring. If we are willing to take responsibility for obeying God ourselves, we know that this is a prayer God always answers!
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14, NIV).