Friday, May 21, 2010

Praying for Your Children

"A Parent’s Prayer"

by Amy Carmichael
(Missionary to India)

Make them good soldiers of Jesus Christ;
  let them never turn back in the day of battle.
Let them be winners and helpers of souls.
Let them live not to be ministered to, but to minister.
Make them loyal; let them set loyalty high above all things.
Make them doers, not mere talkers.
Let them enjoy hard work and choose hard things rather than easy.
Make them trustworthy.
Make them wise, for it is written, He hath no pleasure in fools.
Let them pass from dependence on us to dependence on Thee.
Let them never come under the dominion of earthly things;
   keep them free.
Let them grow up healthy, happy, friendly,
   and keen to make others happy.
Give them eyes to see the beauty of the world
   and hearts to worship its Creator.
Let them be gentle to beast and bird;
   let cruelty be hateful to them.
May they walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance.
And for ourselves we ask that we might never weaken.
   "God is my strong salvation…"
We ask that we might train them to say that word and live that life,
   and pour themselves out for others unhindered by self.



That's a good prayer not just for our children's lives, but our own as well.  Here are some more things to think about...

What to Pray for Your Children

  • A heart which personally and fully understands, embraces, and shares the gospel

  • Reverence for God, and a passion to please and serve him

  • Continual filling, anointing, and equipping of the Holy Spirit

  • God-honoring family relationships filled with respect, affection, compassion and cooperation

  • Protection and strength to face moral temptation and cultural pressure

  • Repentance and humble acceptance of correction

  • Guidance for decisions about education options, as well as future college and career

  • Maturity to make the right decisions for the right reasons

  • Wise priorities for using time

  • Preparation for marriage and parenting – pray for their future spouses, too!

  • Ask your children how you can pray for them!

What to Pray for Yourselves as Parents

  • Unity in and commitment to your marriage – or if you are a single parent, basic harmony with the other parent (and any step-parent) in raising your children

  •  A warm and trusting relationship with your children, characterized by healthy and open communication

  • Forgiveness and release from bitterness, whether conscious or subconscious

  • Confidence and boldness to lead, even when a child attempts to manipulate or rebel

  • Wisdom to know which battles are worth fighting, and when to let your child make decisions (and face the consequences)

  • That you will be an example of godliness, wisdom, grace, and good humor

Praying the Scriptures

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

“…We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Colossians 1:9-12

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 11

(See also Ephesians 1:17-21 & 3:14-21 / Romans 15:5-6, 13 / 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 & 5:23-24 / 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 & 3:1-5 / 2 Peter 1:2-11) 

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On the Church: Potluck, Pedestals & Pr'arrows

Dear friends,

Last night in our Bible study group, we were discussing what church is. I wasn’t taking notes (I usually do), but three P words came to mind that I thought about and brought up in the course of our conversation.

One is that church is ideally like a potluck dinner. It’s not just the pastor serving out a meal, but everyone bringing something different to feed each other’s souls. This is especially true in a small group setting, where we are interacting with one another rather than listening to a sermon. But it is true of the church at large, too – not just the local church but the “universal church” made up of believers from every nation and generation. The Bible teaches “the priesthood of every believer” – we are all meant to minister to one another. We each have a unique perspective to offer, unique gifts that God has given us to bless one another. In my potluck analogy, this might be a main dish, a side dish, a dessert, or a beverage – spiritually speaking that would be something to edify, encourage, challenge, instruct, amuse, or quench a thirsty heart.

The second word is pedestal. In our church, we’ve gone through a bit of shaking in recent months since the resignation of one of our pastors brought many troubling issues to more public light. This shaking is a gift, even though it has brought a lot of pain and many people have left. Why is it a gift? Because in so many ways, people have put our church and pastors on a pedestal over the years. One man said last night, “We thought our church was ‘da bomb!’” (as in something really special), to which another man instantly quipped, “Yeah, and da bomb exploded!” But God doesn’t want us to place our trust in a church or in other people who will invariably fail us in some way at some point in time. The purpose of being “shaken” is to topple things off their pedestals so they are instead resting on the one true and solid foundation, which is Jesus. Humility requires us to lower ourselves and lift up the Lord. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you." Likewise, as someone else brought up, we are sometimes overgrown plants that must be pruned back to make us even more fruitful. He cuts away what will hinder us – even good things! -- to allow his energy to flow even more powerfully into the areas where he wants us to grow. Painful? Yes! Necessary? Absolutely!

The third word is pr'arrows. I’ll be you’ve never heard of that one since I just made it up this morning. It's a contraction for the words “prayer arrow.” Last night at our meeting, I realized that part of being “church” is to take the time to encourage and pray for our brothers and sisters who have ventured to far places on this globe to spread the Good News about Jesus to those who have not yet heard. They are engaged in “spiritual warfare” for the hearts of those for whom Christ died. Do we send them out there by themselves to the front-line? Maybe geographically we can’t be with them, laboring alongside them, but we can certainly cover them with fervent intercessory prayer – shooting out pr'arrows to assist them in the battle. I am trying to become more faithful in this, so I divided my prayer list into six days, with different things for each day. One of my daily categories is world missions, with one continent per day. I pray for three or four missionaries/ministries (most of whom we know personally) each day. To add practicality to my prayers, I also try to send encouraging e-mails, ideas for ministry, and occasional care packages. Why is this so important? Because in many cases, these dear men and women have had to leave their beloved home churches and minister in places where there is no established local church.  They still need "church" though, or they will be even more vulnerable to discouragement and burnout.  We are called to care for them!

  • Potluck: We are each a vital part of the body of Christ, bringing our offerings to bless one another. Read 1 Corinthians 12.
  • Pruning & Pedestal: We must be willing to let go of anything in our own lives that hinders us or others in our walks with Jesus. We must lift HIM up, and not place our trust in imperfect humans and organizations. Read John 15:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 3.
  • Pr'arrows: We can cover our brothers and sisters in intercessory prayer even when we cannot fellowship with them face to face. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-13.
What is the church to you? Think about it, even if you are not currently a part of one!


Virginia Knowles

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Disillusioned and Disappointed? Take It to Jesus!

Dear friends,

For the past several months, I've been reading (and meditating) my way slowly through four gospels, simultaneously studying each event in the life of Christ from the different perspectives each writer brings.  This morning I landed on the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy in Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-29, and Luke 9:37-43.  I would like to share my notes with you and then end with a poem called "Psalm to Sweet Jesus" that I wrote many years ago.

Here is Matthew's account of what happened when Jesus came off the mountain after his transfiguration:

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

One of the things which struck me is that Jesus' disciples had utterly failed this man, and he was disappointed.  Yet even his disillusionment with Christians did not deter him from seeking out the Master himself.   He needed help for his boy, and he went to the Source.  This is relevant to me because I am often discouraged by what I see in Christians around me, specifically a lack of awareness of the power of God to change lives through grace.  They suck the vibrant faith right out of other people by their insistence on following man-made rules and trying to defeat the powers of evil by human effort and systems.  But I am equally discouraged seeing those on the other end of the spectrum who have been so burned by legalism that they totally give up trying to follow Jesus at all, and end up trading the true liberty (to do what is right and good and honoring to God) for license to do whatever they want.  When they see hypocrisy, they react by not only bolting from the church, but abandoning Jesus and common decency, too.  Instead, we can confidently go to him and say, "I think you have been poorly represented and I am hurting.  Please teach me what you really want me to know in this situation, and heal my heart."

We need the holy boldness that faith in Jesus brings.  He is capable of handling our darkest problems.  I can't imagine anything worse than seeing my child controlled by a demon.  It's bad enough dealing with garden-variety bad moods.  Yet no matter how big or small the problem, I can bring it to Jesus and beg for his help.  Other Christians can help, yes, but there is nothing like going straight to the Master.

Reading in Mark's version, I find the following conversation:

The boy's father: "But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 
Jesus: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”
The boy's father: "I believe; help my unbelief!”

So the man didn't even need to have perfect faith.  He realized that he was struggling with doubt, and he lays that out for Jesus, asking for help with that in addition to help for his son.   When we are facing problems as wives and moms, we can go to Jesus and be honest about our doubts.  He will take us where we are, and fill us with faith as we open our hearts to him.  Just a mustard seed of faith is all it takes to move a mountain!

And finally, Luke concludes his story with: "And all were astonished at the majesty of God."

I still haven't fully processed that statement.  Take a few moments and meditate on it for yourself.  Don't be complacent with spiritual stagnancy, doubt, and disillusionment.   Take your troubles to Jesus, and be astonished at his majesty!

After I wrote all this, I remembered a poem I wrote about a decade ago that fits here:

Psalm to Sweet Jesus
by Virginia Knowles

Sweet Jesus, you bring to me all that is good:
Comfort and hope when I am discouraged,
Peace and reconciliation when I am in conflict,
Strength and enthusiasm when I am weary,
Wisdom and guidance when I am confused,
Courage and confidence when I am afraid,
Forgiveness and mercy when I have done wrong.

You bore the fatal punishment that I deserved,
Yet rose up again in power,
Promising that if I would turn from my awful sin,
And believe in your awesome grace,
I could become your own precious child,
And enter into your everlasting Gloryland.

Such a rich salvation that I could never earn!
As a simple gift of gratitude,
With help from your Word and your Spirit,
I will trust and obey your loving commands,
I will worship you with my prayers and songs,
I will serve others joyfully,
I will share your Good News,
So that each one who hears and believes
May receive the matchless treasure
Found only in you.

Virginia Knowles