For years, like any responsible Christian parent, I prayed daily for my two children, Aubrey and Aaron. I prayed for God’s blessing and protection throughout their days. I prayed for them to be happy. I asked God to help them through difficult times and to help them make wise choices. My prayers were regular, heartfelt, and—for the most part—pedestrian and repetitive.
I wanted more than that, however. I wanted so much for my children, but when I knelt in prayer, I invariably found the same tired words rolling from my lips, like an adult who never progressed beyond “God is great, God is good, now we thank him for this food.”
Then one day, Nancy, our pastor’s wife, shared a testimony during a morning worship service that changed my prayer life. She told how her concern that her children develop strong Christian morals and the fruit of the Spirit had prompted her to develop a unique prayer list, one that included reminders to pray for her children’s salvation and growth in grace, as well as other concerns (such as that they would “be leaders, not followers”).
That day I decided to follow Nancy’s example and develop a “parent’s prayer program” of my own, a simple practice that has revolutionized the way I pray for my children.
Each day of the month, in addition to praying for their safety and for the concerns of that day, I also ask God to plant and nurture in them a specific character trait, virtue, or fruit of the Spirit, through my and my wife’s efforts, through the influence of others, and through Aubrey’s and Aaron’s own actions and decisions. At the end of each month, I begin praying through the list again, combining traits when the month is shorter than 31 days.
Here is the list I have developed, complete with brief suggestions for prayers from Scripture. Feel free to duplicate it—or improve upon it—to help you pray specifically and purposefully for the children in your life, that they may experience and evidence the following:
- Salvation. “Lord, let salvation spring up within them, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (Isa. 45:8, 2 Tim. 2:10).
- Growth in grace. “I pray that they may ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’” (2 Pet. 3:18).
- Love. “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to ‘live a life of love,’ through the Spirit who dwells in them” (Eph. 5:2, Gal. 5:22).
- Honesty and integrity. “May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection” (Ps. 25:21, NLT).
- Self-control. “Father, help them to be ‘alert and self-controlled’ in all they do” (1 Thess. 5:6).
- A love for God’s Word. “May they grow to find your Word ‘more precious than gold, than much pure gold; [and] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb’” (Ps. 19:10).
- Justice. “God, help them to love justice as you do and to ‘act justly’ in all they do” (Ps. 11:7, Micah 6:8).
- Mercy. “May they always ‘be merciful, as [their] Father is merciful’” (Luke 6:36).
- Respect (for self, others, authority). “Father, grant that they may ‘show proper respect to everyone,’ as your Word commands” (1 Pet. 2:17a).
- Strong, biblical self-esteem. “Help them to develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are ‘God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus’” (Eph. 2:10).
- Faithfulness. “‘Let love and faithfulness never leave [them],’ but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts” (Prov. 3:3).
- Courage. “May they always ‘be strong and courageous’ in their character and in their actions” (Deut. 31:6).
- Purity. “‘Create in [them] a pure heart, O God,’ and let their purity of heart be shown in their actions” (Ps. 51:10).
- Kindness. “Lord, may they ‘always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else’”(1 Thess. 5:15).
- Generosity. “Grant that they may ‘be generous and willing to share [and so] lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age’” (1 Tim. 6:18-19).
- Peace, peaceability. “Father, may they ‘make every effort to do what leads to peace’” (Rom. 14:19).
- Joy. “May they be filled ‘with the joy given by the Holy Spirit’”(1 Thess. 1:6).
- Perseverance. “Lord, teach them perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for [them]’” (Heb. 12:1).
- Humility. “God, please cultivate in my children the ability to ‘show true humility toward all’” (Titus 3:2).
- Compassion. “Lord, please clothe them with the virtue of compassion” (Col. 3:12).
- Responsibility. “Grant that they may learn responsibility, ‘for each of you should carry your own load’” (Gal. 6:5, TNIV).
- Contentment. “Father, teach them ‘the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . through him who gives [them] strength’” (Phil. 4:12-13).
- Faith. “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them” (Luke 17:5-6, Heb. 11:1-40).
- A servant heart. “God, please help them develop servant hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, ‘as if [they] were serving the Lord, not people’” (Eph. 6:7, TNIV).
- Hope. “May the God of hope grant that they may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
- The willingness and ability to work hard. “Teach them, Lord, to value work and to work hard at everything they do, ‘as working for the Lord, not for human masters’” (Col. 3:23, TNIV).
- A passion for God. “Instill in them, Lord, a soul that ‘followeth hard after thee,’ a heart that clings passionately to you (Ps. 63:8, KJV).
- Self-discipline. “Father, may they develop self-discipline, that they may acquire ‘a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair’” (Prov. 1:3).
- Prayerfulness. “Grant, Lord, that their lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’” (Eph. 6:18).
- Gratitude. “Help them to live lives ‘overflowing with thankfulness’; that they may be ‘always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’” (Col. 2:7, Eph. 5:20).
- A heart for missions. “Lord, please develop in them a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Ps. 96:3).
After several weeks of praying through the above list, I discovered an additional benefit: as I prayed with my children each night, the Lord brought to mind the quality I’d prayed for that morning, and I would repeat my request in Aubrey and Aaron’s hearing. Before long, they began to echo my praying and pour out their own hearts in prayer for the very virtues I desired to see in them. Thus, my simple prayer program changed not only how I pray, but also how my children pray . . . and, by God’s grace, how they live as well.