Years ago John and I began an end-of-summer tradition of praying together for our children that helped us move into the fall with vision, unity, and clarity in how to parent our five kids. We designated a block of time alone (an overnight was the best!) to discuss each of our kids in five areas of growth: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, and social.
We asked ourselves questions like:
- How is this child doing spiritually? Can we begin to encourage personal Bible reading or teach him how to keep a personal prayer list? (spiritual)
- Does a child need more discipline in study habits? How can we ensure this happens? (mental)
- Does one child need a close friend? (social)
- How about better eating habits? (physical)
- Is there a particular child that we feel isn’t getting enough attention from us or is struggling with his self-image? (emotional)
As we talked about each child, we wrote down what we perceived to be their needs for the coming year and any goals that we might have. These lists became our individual prayer lists for each child.
The children did not know what we were praying.
One of the surprising blessings of this tradition was its impact on our marriage.
Simply taking time to discuss each child together enabled us to be on the same page with regard to that child. One of us often articulated something about a child the other had not noticed. Because we did this at the end of each summer, we had usually had some family vacation time together so that we both felt more in touch with each child.
As the mom, I found this drew me closer to John because it was easy to feel like “I do the kids and he does work.” I know that’s not true, but sometimes it sure did feel like it! This exercise always made me feel more like we were partners in parenting. After we discussed each child, we spent time praying together for that specific child’s needs.
The year our son Chris was 11, I felt that an emotional need for him was to “feel special.” He was caught in the middle of four siblings, and I was concerned that he needed to be assured of how special he was. And so we began to pray that he would feel special.
Halfway through the year he had an accident and fractured his skull. His brain was swelling and the neurosurgeon really did not know how things would turn out. We were in the hospital for two weeks.
On the first day John and I began to pray that God would use this for good in our lives and particularly in Chris’s life. Once he regained consciousness, we shared Romans 8:28 with him and prayed together. During the hospital stay, many people sent cards, came and visited, and prayed for him. We covered the walls of his hospital room with these love notes.
Just before he was released I asked, “Chris, can you think of any way God has used this for good in your life yet?”
As he looked at the walls of his room covered with cards, he responded, “Wow, Mom, I didn’t know how special I was.”
Yes, God answers our prayers!
(Chris had no idea what was on our prayer list.)
We continued this “needs and goals” tradition every August throughout the years of raising our kids. When they reached college age, we shared the idea with them. We asked each child to e-mail us and their siblings their own needs and goals—using these five areas of growth as a guideline—for the coming year so that we could pray for each other. John and I sent each of ours to them as well. Of course, they groaned, but they did it!
Today those old e-mails are still a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness. Now that the kids are grown, we take turns sharing needs and goals at adult dinners during our family week together in the summer. This gives us specific insights into each other’s lives, and as we pray for one another in the following months we are drawn closer together as a family.