Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer – a Vaccination against Fear

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Praying for and with our children is the only sure formula for raising fear-resistant kids — kids with real faith. There’s a Biblical precedent for this in the New Testament story that played out in the life of a young man named Timothy. Tracking Timothy’s remarkable life we find profound answers for our roles as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and mentors in the development of child’s faith. You can read I Tim 1:1-7 to catch the drift of the story.

 

Paul the apostle met Timothy on his second missionary journey, while passing through the city of Lystra in Asia Minor (today, Turkey).  Acts 16 fills in the details.  We learn that Timothy came from a mixed marriage – his mother was a Jewish Christian, his father was a Greek, and probably not a believer.  Through his mother and grandmother Timothy came to believe in Jesus and then went on to join Paul and Silas on their mission trip. 

 

It is interesting to note: this partnership developed right after a disastrous falling out between Paul and Barnabas over John-Mark — another young man who disserted them on their first journey.  Paul takes a risk and invites Timothy.  Throughout Paul’s ministry, in his letters, and in the rest of Acts, the name “Timothy” appears time and again.  Paul even wrote him two pastoral essays — I and II Timothy.  Paul calls him “my son.”  He’s becomes a pillar in the Church.   

 

But when we probe beneath the surface of Paul’s letters we sense something distinct in Timothy’s temperament.  A little Biblical detective work uncovers…  First, Timothy was sickly – I Tim 5:23.  Second, he was somewhat emotionally vulnerable.  Paul recalls his “tears” when they parted. Paul repeatedly exhorts him with phrases like “Be strong,” “Be a soldier, an athlete, a farmer,” “endure hardship” and “keep your head in all situations.”  “Guard what has been entrusted to you.” “Stir up the gift in you.” Paul repeatedly bolsters Timothy’s courage. 

 

There were external reasons for this. Times are very difficult.  Persecution was hot.  But Timothy seems to need special strength.  He was naturally a timid soul. In the end Tim stands firm, but he does so against pressures from within his own personality and opposition from a hostile outside world. This is why Paul begins one letter to him, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” We could paraphrase this…”Tim, buck up your faith!”

 

Two powerful influences forged Timothy’s life and countered the natural timidity of his personality: 1) Timothy inherited the faith heritage of his family.  2) Timothy was bolstered by the faith of leaders in his Church community.  Here is beginning of faith. It was wrapped around him — his genetics and his environment!  Today we’ll look at this first influence: a Godly family

 

Timothy had the faith of his mother and grandmother before him. It carried on through him! Timothy had a heritage. Faith was an heirloom. His family prayed with and for him! We can’t expect our children to stand in faith against fear if we can’t stand in faith against fear on their behalf! Unless we pray for them, they will fall back into the natural inclinations of their own fallen personalities!  

 

We rightly say that God has no grandkids. No one can “inherit” a relationship with God. But God transfers the blessings of one generation to another, through prayer and faith.  My father, grandfather, great-grandfather were all preachers.  That lineage, imperfect as it is makes a difference in me and my children. Your faith matters to your kids. They watch how we react when the dog chews up the carpet. They’ll watch how we pray!  We can’t expect to have bold, believing kids when we aren’t bold and believing in prayer ourselves.

 

I hear to objections! How can we get rid of fear and replace it with faith in our own lives when our own fears are so deeply embedded?  Well, faith doesn’t drop out of the sky. Faith isn’t magic. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes from the Word of God.  Faith comes from exposure to the things God says. As a parent, unless you find your own faith, your own natural fears about life will infect your kids.  The only answer is to build your personal faith – something comes by hearing the promises of scripture and then praying those promises back to God on behalf of our kids.

 

Today’s challenge: Find a promise from God in the Bible and pray that promise to God on behalf of your children. Give that faith as an heirloom by praying on their behalf against the fears in your life and their’s. As you do you’ll be echoing the legacy of Timothy and his mother and grandmother, and proving again in your family the power of prayer!

Peace for Paranoid Parents ii

posted by Mark Herringshaw

In 1998 Newsweek ran a cover story titled “DO PARENTS MATTER?” prompted by the release of a controversial book by Judith Harris called The Nurture Assumption. Harris attempted to show that parents’ behavior toward children – for better or worse – has very little influence in the development of a child’s wellbeing. In the age old debate of nature vs. nurture, she landed solidly on the side of nature: people become whatever their genetic code determines. Smiles or slaps from parents matter little – so said Harris.

 

Her book sold well. Baby Boomers, so quick to blame our parents for our dysfunction, feared that we too would be blamed by our kids, and so eagerly devouring theories like the one espoused by Harris. If a kid’s character is all predetermined, we’re off the hook.

 

Wishful thinking… That was eleven years ago. Today the debate still rages, with new evidence coming to light countering Harris’ contentions. The most recent research now reveals just how “plastic” our brains are, and how much love, words of affirmation, and smiles from loving adults serve to form the minds and bodies of young children. Evidently, parents and parents’ behavior really DO MATTER!

 

This, it seems to me is both good news and bad news for those of us with children. We are needed and we are necessary. But then again, we are never good enough to live up to this responsibility! If our love matters, then our mistakes matter as well. This reminds me of the kid, about to be disciplined by his father. His father asked, “Son, what got into you?  How could you do such a thing?”  The boy replied: “I don’t know dad, is it heredity or environment?”  And that’s the problem, isn’t it. It’s both, and as parents, we’re responsible for both!

 

Prayer is the only hope for us and for our children. As parents we’re doomed to failure at some time on some level. Our reach is limited. Our influence falls short. But where we are imperfect, there God can and will compensate with a miracle. He’s actually stacked the deck to make our job impossible, so impossible that if we don’t rely on him, we’re bound to fail. Praying for our children isn’t just an option, it’s life and death. Without God covering our mistakes, our children are destined, by heredity and environment to repeat the same cycles of failure that have doomed us!

 

This month we’re focusing on prayers for our children, particularly our school-aged children. It’s not an elective course! We have to pass this test! We have to learn to pray.

 

I invite you to visit here daily and join our prayer journey. Pass the word to others you know who have children and dive in with the conversation, offer your wisdom, your experience, as well as your requests for help and perspective. We’re all rookies at the business of raising children. My wife Jill and I have four kids ranging for 22 down to 12, and we still feel like amateurs. We need God’s strength, wisdom and power to cover our mishaps. That’s why prayer really is the first and last parental skill required for our children’s healthy development. Without God they are left with only earthly parents. And we all know too well just how inadequate that formula really is!

A Prayer for Those who Teach our Children

posted by Mark Herringshaw

While we were doing research for our books, Six Prayers God Always Answers, and Nine Ways God Always Speaks, Jennifer Schuchmann and I developed a project to help parents pray for their school-aged children. Here’s the third of 30 simple prayers we crafted. This one offers a special blessing for the teachers who dedicate their lives to bring knowledge and wisdom to our children.  I challenge you to take 30 seconds now and join with thousands of others who are reading this post to ask God for a special “dose” of favor for these teachers!

 

“God of wisdom help each teacher at our school to see the gifts and talents of the students you have placed in their care.”

Prayer for Victims of the Indonesian Earthquake

posted by Mark Herringshaw

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-2 NIV).

A powerful, 7.0 earthquake shook Southern Indonesia on Wednesday. Several people have been killed and hundreds, perhaps thousands have lost their homes. Let’s pray now for the victims and for the aid workers bringing assistance to the region…

“Lord, God of all creation, we ask that you would come to the aid of those who have suffered through this violent earthquake in Indonesia today. Bring help to those who have been injured. Bring comfort to those who have lost friends and family. Bring support to those who have lost their homes. Bring wisdom and courage to those who are providing leadership and relief at this time. Bring faith to those who are afraid. Especially bless the children who are suffering under this trauma. Guard their hearts and through this tragedy let them somehow see your heart of love and your hand of mercy.”

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