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Parenting and Prayer

18 Oct Posted by in Parenting & Prayer | Comments
Parenting and Prayer

By Paul Miller

It is surprising how seldom books on parenting talk about prayer. We instinctively believe that if we have the right biblical principles and apply them consistently, our kids will turn out right. But that didn’t work for God in the Garden of Eden. Perfect environment. Perfect relationships. And still God’s two children went bad.

Many parents, including myself, are initially confident we can change our child. We don’t surrender to our child’s will (which is good), but we try to dominate the child with our own (which is bad). Without realizing it, we become demanding. We are driven by the hope of real change, but the change occurs because we make the right moves.

Until we become convinced we can’t change our child’s heart, we will not take prayer seriously. Consequently, repentance is often missing. When we see, for example, our son’s self-will, we usually don’t ask, How am I self willed? or How am I angry? We want God’s help so we can dominate our son. We forget that God is not a genie but a person who wants to shape us in the image of his Son as much as he wants to answer our prayers.

Increasingly, parents in our culture are moving to the opposite extreme and becoming passive. Parents say things like, “My son has always been angry” or “Even when he was a kid, he was throwing temper tantrums.” This passivity is reinforced by pop psychology’s tendency to make descriptions of childhood stages into rules. For instance, if a two-year-old is bad, the mom may shrug her shoulders and say, “She’s going through the terrible twos.” This mom is trapped by psychological descriptions. Her passivity is further reinforced because she’s talked to her little girl and even disciplined her, but nothing worked. This mom pushed against reality, but it didn’t budge. She tried praying, but nothing much happened. She ran into the power of another person’s self-will and surrendered. She has passively accepted the world as it is. Like the ancient Greeks, she is trapped by the Fates. When we do this, life takes on a fixed, given quality. Prayer becomes pointless.

The following chart summarizes the two attitudes that keep us from entering into the story that God is weaving in the lives of our children (or any person). Often we begin by being demanding, and then as we encounter human self-will, we drift into despair.

If you are on the road of Good Asking, you have also given up—but in a good way. You’ve given up on your ability to change other people. Instead, you cling to God and watch him weave his story. Frankly, Jill and I do our best parenting by prayer.

Excerpted from A PRAYING LIFE by Paul E. Miller copyright 2009.  Used by permission of NavPress.  All rights reserved.  Copies of the book can be purchased by calling 800-366-7788 or online at


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