Ohhh Daddy look at the big monkey!
With that, my son pointed at the gorilla at the Bronx Zoo. He said those words in early September 2007, nearly 10 years ago! Shortly after that, the gorilla got up and raced towards my two children, startling them. My son, then nearly 2 ½, shrieked in horror, and my daughter ducked behind me for cover.
But between them and the gorilla stood a wide, tall, thick pane of glass. That clear and unseen barrier protected them from the threat that the gorilla might have posed to them. Of course, they looked to me at that point to keep them safe, to protect them. In truth, all I could do was comfort them and calm their fears, which of course, I did. During the trip to the zoo, there were many things I could do to keep them safe, things like, hold their hand, watch over them, follow them, give them directions or instruction, and carry them if needed.
Today, my children are 10 and 16 respectively. They are older and far more independent. As much as they have grown and changed, as mature as they are, they still need me to help keep them safe. But today, they venture out on their own, and I am no longer able to do all the things I used to do to protect them.
Recent events in my town have really brought that point to the fore. As I have been thinking about those events, my eyes landed on the picture from the zoo. The invisible barrier captured my imagination. What is it that I can do, that is unseen yet real? What is it that I can do that lets the light shine through yet is strong? The answer isn’t glass…it’s prayer. And with prayer, all I really need to know is that God answers every single prayer.
For what should we pray?
So, what should I pray for my children? What should you pray for yours? So here are some ideas – some more obvious than others, I’m sure.
Health: My children are constantly exposed to a lot of different kinds of things at school, in sports and in other areas. I pray that they learn and keep healthy eating, sleeping, and hygiene habits. Children also may suffer from mental health issues, so we can pray for clarity, calm, and resolution of those issues as well as finding adequate and appropriate resources to support them.
Safety: Especially during the school year, my children are apart from me for most of the day. I pray that during travel, recreation periods sports, and play that God’s protective hand (and their guardian angels) keep them from injury.
Healing: Sometimes our children are hurt, especially their emotions, and we may not know it. At other times, they may be sick or injured. Our God is a healer. He may not always heal in ways that we expect, but he always heals.
Respect: If there’s one thing I hope for my children it is that those who meet them, teach them, or coach them treat them with respect…that is with the dignity they deserve because they are created in the image and likeness of God. At the same time, I pray that my children will also treat others with that very same respect.
Self-Esteem: How my children fare during the day/week/year also revolves around how they feel about themselves. While self-esteem has had a lot of play in recent years (some good, some not), it has merit here, if we understand it right. I pray that my children have an accurate sense of their abilities and can celebrate their successes while giving credit to those who helped them and succeeded along with them.
Learning: For me learning means two things: growth and change. My children should grow and learn every day. Where self-esteem can be built from success it can also be damaged in failure. So I pray that my children will learn from their mistakes and in that find success that will build their self-esteem ultimately.
Morality: I have worked hard to teach my children right from wrong. I pray that they will take and use what I have taught them to make good decisions.
Integrity: I pray that not only will my children say the right things, but I also pray that their actions will reflect what they have said. That carries over into academics where I pray they will maintain academic honesty and onto the athletic fields and courts where I pray they will adhere to a sense of fair play.
Courage: I pray that my children will have the courage to stand for what is right and what is just. I pray that they will have the courage of their convictions to speak up for those they see as voiceless.
Relationships/Friendships: I pray that my children will be discerning who they choose to call friends and in who they will date. I pray that my children will understand that their bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit and that as such they are sacred and should treat themselves and others that way.
Temptation: All people get tempted. I pray that in times of temptation towards alcohol, drugs, sexual activity, desiring to belong that they will not be conquered by their desires as strong as those temptations may be. I pray that God will show them or give them a way out of that sticky situation.
Technology: Communications technology has grown by leaps and bounds. I pray that my children will see these technologies for the tools that they are and not lose the sense or need for human connection. I also pray that they learn and observe standards for safe and appropriate use of these tools every time they use them.
Mentors/Role Models: I pray that my children will be blessed with responsible, moral adults and older members of the school communities, teams, and even workplaces (as my children get older) after whom they can fashion actions and decision making – especially in areas that I have no knowledge or guidance to provide.
Moderation/Balance: It was once said that “all work and no play” makes Johnny a dull boy. At the same, all play and no work keeps children from being productive. I pray that my children will learn to find and maintain a solid middle ground where they accomplish the work the need to get done and are still able to enjoy their free time. I also pray that their free-time activities give them needed rest and relaxation that will allow them to return to their work with renewed energy, optimism and fresh ideas.
Thank you for the gift of my child/children. While they don’t come with an instruction manual, I sometimes forget that I have a direct line to You, Who are also Father. It is such a comfort to know that you had a Son, and even in His perfection, he struggled in his humanity. I thank you for the example of your Son and for the assurance that you understand what I feel and think, even when words may fail me. Please watch over my child/children. Hold them in Your loving and protecting hands. I entrust them now and always to your care.
I would love to develop an entire series about praying for our children based on these themes and others. If there is something you fell I have missed, or if something rings true with you about one of these themes, please, leave a comment for me to think, pray, and write about!