Praying for our Back-to-School Children
As most of you will be aware, Loving Children is the third of Bishop Charlie Masters’ Five Priorities for ministry in our ANiC churches. If you have ever seen our bishop with his dear grandchildren or ministering to children in an ANiC parish setting, you will know that this priority is very close to his heart; indeed, as it was to Jesus’ heart. It’s not just a good idea – it’s absolutely essential. To quote him, “A childhood spent without Jesus is frightening, tragic”.
Our children returning to school this month face pressures and temptations that would have been unheard of in previous generations, and education systems seem bent on social engineering rather than providing foundational education. They so need our prayer; not just for the first week of school, but throughout the school year.
Recently, I came across an article on the “Church Leaders” website that I found helpful. It is written by Jenny Funderburke Smith who describes herself as “a wife and mama of three sweet and crazy girls. I serve as Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. I am passionate about equipping the church to disciple children to follow Jesus.” In her article, Jenny provided the following five important ways to pray for our children at this crucial time of year:
1. Pray for kids to know their worth and identity in Christ.
My friend shared with me about his middle school son on the phone with a friend on the way to the first day of school. These really cool guys were comparing notes on what they were wearing to school. I laughed, but also it served as a reminder that new beginnings bring great insecurities. What if other kids don’t like me? What if my friends change? What if I’m not wearing what others think is cool? What if I’m not good enough? And more.
Pray for the kids in your world to know that they are precious and valuable because God created them exactly like they are. Their worth is not found in what they can do, how they look, or even who they are. Their worth is found in Jesus. Pray that their confidence will be in Christ and what He has done for them. (Romans 5:8, Psalm 139:13-14)
2. Pray for quick repentance when kids mess up.
As much optimism as there is that goes into the first day of school, new beginnings and all that, the reality is inevitably perfection will end. A name will be written on a board, something will move down on a discipline chart, an assignment will be left at home, a detention will be earned… and those are just the things the teachers catch! Let’s pray for our kids to own their mistakes, repent and seek forgiveness, and then press forward to what God has called them to do. (Luke 5:32)
3. Pray for kids to love those who are hard to love.
There will be kids who are mean. There will be kids who look, act, or smell different. There will be kids who are far from God and act like it. There will be kids who should know God and don’t act like it. There will be kids no one wants to sit by on the bus or play with on the playground. Pray for your kids to love the “least of these” even when it is hard. (Matthew 25:40)
4. Pray for kids to grow in dependence on Christ.
Five years ago I was wrestling to carry a little baby across the parking lot while I dropped her sisters off for school. Today that same baby walked herself into her big girl kindergarten class. Her dependence on me has lessened, which is exactly what is supposed to happen. Let’s pray that as kids become more independent socially, academically, and physically that they will not try to be independent spiritually. Pray that we as adults will model a dependence on Christ for every step of our lives. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
5. Pray for boldness for kids to truly let God rule in their lives.
Living a gospel-centered life as a kid doesn’t always fit the “norm”. Sometimes kids will feel left out or different. Let’s pray for kids to be bold to trust God anyway. Let’s pray for kids who are bold enough to make right choices, to love others well, and to shine God’s love brightly to everyone they meet. Let’s pray for them to be confident in being different. Let’s pray for God to pour His blessings on them as they truly follow His lead and His ways and they live out the gospel each and every day. (2 Corinthians 3:12)
Social media has been full the last few days with the story of a 9 year-old boy in Denver who committed suicide because he had sustained four days of bullying after claiming to his 4th grade class that he was gay. There is so much behind this story that we do not know and cannot explore, but in the context of our theme, I can’t help crying out, “Lord, If only there had been someone fervently praying for this lad’s salvation!” May we not neglect in prayer the children that the Lord puts within our sphere of influence. May none be lost; no, not one. Amen.