from Jim Elliff's Comfort for Christian Parents. Commentary by Howard Eames who is guest posting over several days on parenting non-regenerate children.
1. A true burden in prayer for your child is a gift from God. A persistent burden may indicate that God intends to give your child eternal life because authentic prayer always begins with God. Though we cannot be absolutely certain that we know all that God is doing, we should be optimistic if the burden continues."
As parents, we might all do well to consider the prayer lives of those behind-the-scenes parents whose children have become heroes of the faith. Monica prayed for 32 years for Augustine, and then died the year he was converted to Christ. Now that's a burden for prayer.
I have discovered the hard way that learning how to pray rightly for our children is not always easy. I have received great help from two sources:
I agree with John Piper when he says that we need to learn how to pray "in sync" with how God works. The most authoritative prayers are the most Scripturally-oriented prayers. I have prayed about my prayers for my children, and have made sincere efforts to conform to how the Bible teaches me to pray for others.
Here are some suggestions:
The first thing your children need is an inclination to God and His Word. Without that, nothing else of any real value will occur. Where does such an inclination come from? It comes from the Lord. Our children must want to know God. They must want to read His Word and draw near to Him. These desires come from God. He is the great Incliner of hearts (cf. Proverbs 21:1). Therefore, I pray Psalm 119.36 on behalf of my children: "Lord, incline their hearts to Your testimonies and not to (worldly) gain." The "pride of life" in a culture of affluence is overwhelming. To see a young person committed to Jesus Christ and His Word, and committed to seeking first His Kingdom, is a rarity. I pray that God would do this great work in their hearts.
Furthermore, my children need to have the eyes of their hearts opened so that when God graciously changes their inclinations from loving their own peculiar pigpen to loving His Word and truth, they might see what is really there, and not be deceived by their own secular or worldly presuppositions. And so I pray Psalm 119:18 for my children: "Lord, open their eyes. Open the very eyes of their hearts that they might behold wonderful and truthful things from your most blessed Word. Lord, lead them into truth and out of error. Reveal Your glory to their heart of hearts."
But even further, my children need for their hearts to be enlightened. They need to be able to see the glory of Biblical truth, not just interesting facts and stories reminiscent of their childhood days in Sunday School. Who is the great Enlightener of the hearts of men? God is! And so I pray with the Apostle Paul from Ephesians 1:18: "Lord, enlighten the very eyes of their hearts that they might behold the blessedness of Your truth, Your perspective, Your worldview, Your most blessed Person. Lord, give them the anointing you promise in John's first epistle! (see 1 John 2:27, referring to the Holy Spirit).
Of course what we really want for our children from all this engagement with His Word and the work of His Spirit is that their hearts will ultimately be satisfied with God and not with the world. Where does that satisfaction come from? Surely it comes from the great Satisfier of the eternal souls of men, the Lord Jesus. And so I pray Psalm 90:14, "Lord, satisfy my children with Yourself, satisfy them in the morning with Your steadfast love, that they may rejoice and be glad all their days."
To be sure, prayers like this from the Psalms and portions of the New Testament could be multiplied ad infinitum. But I trust that these few might be suggestive. I have prayed these prayers many times for my own children and have recently been told that one of my sons has begun to read the Bible again (after several years hiatus, and after he had personally told me he wouldn't read the Bible for ten years for one reason or another).
C. John Miller and his wife Rose Marie were led to pray for their daughter in the "far country" in a unique fashion. I have prayed similar prayers for my own prodigals. The next three paragraphs are a paraphrase of some of Miller's thoughts in his excellent book, Come Back Barbara (see bibliography):
We should pray for the tearing down of all the works of Satan in the lives of our children (especially those we know have come under evil influences), such as false doctrine, unbelief, atheistic teaching, and hatred which the enemy may have built up in their thinking. We must pray that their very thoughts will be brought into captivity to Christ.
Further, we should pray for those bonds of sin that hold our children prisoner. We might think of several areas of concern in this regard: deceiving and lying, dishonesty as a way of life, sensualism, excuse-making and blame-shifting (parents in pain often find that a significant part of that pain is their child's chronic blame-shifting, blaming the parents for all of their current problems). Of course, this is part and parcel of the fallen human heart. But this sinful excuse-making has been dramatically enhanced by a culture cursed with the therapeutic notions of Freud and Jung. We are a culture of victims! Pray for your child given their own peculiar sins and "characteristic flesh."
Pray that God might be pleased to arouse their consciences so that they might see the specific evils for what they truly are—sin against God (Psalm 51). Pray that they would not only recognize these sins, but learn to hate them and turn to Christ for cleansing from their guilt and power. And pray with Christ's authority (in His blessed Name) and with great boldness at the throne of grace. You are coming to a Great King—large petitions with you bring!!