Over the past week, I've been intentionally praying through Psalm 23 for my kids, and it's changed and challenged the way I pray. This process is so simple, and so good, that it should be a mainstay in every parent's prayerful arsenal.
Praying the Bible
Don Whitney's short book, "Praying the Bible" is the genesis for this practice. Whitney shares a regular practice he commends to his students in seminary: use a Psalm or other passage of Scripture to jumpstart your prayer life. His prescription is to read a Psalm line by line, and then pray whatever comes to mind. It's not a process of Scripture interpretation, he's quick to point out, but rather an opportunity to let the Bible dictate and frame the direction of your prayer life.
I have enough confidence in the Word and the Spirit of God to believe that if people will pray in this way, in the long run their prayers will be far more biblical than if they just make up their own prayers. That’s what people usually do: make up their own prayers. What’s the result? We tend to say the same old things about the same old things. And without the Scripture to shape our prayers, we are far more likely to pray in unbiblical ways than if we pray the thoughts that occur to us as we read the Scripture. So while it’s true that people may use this method and pray about things that are not found in the text, I contend that will happen much less if people will pray while reading the text. By this means, the Spirit of God will use the Word of God to help the people of God pray increasingly according to the will of God.
Whitney, Donald S. (2015-06-15). Praying the Bible (p. 37). Crossway. .
I think one of the biggest impediments to regular, vibrant prayer for our kids is the feeling that we're simply praying the same things over and over again. So I decided to give Dr. Whitney's idea a try. The result has been wonderful.
Praying the Bible in Parenting
I'm convinced that Psalm 23 is a perfect chapter to pray through, on repeat, for your kids. It's also a perfect excuse to memorize an extended passage of Scripture if you haven't already. Psalm 23 has personally be stuck in my head since my days in AWANA, and it's easy to bring the lines to mind.
Over the past week, when I've found myself in a quiet, undisturbed place I've turned my thoughts to Psalm 23 to work through for my kids, line by line (this is particularly good if you're lying in bed helping a child fall asleep). Through the process, I've found myself making rich and diverse requests of God for each individual child.
Let me give you an example of how I might pray for a fictional 14 year old son, Ben.
The Lord is my Shepherd
"God, be the shepherd for Ben. Be before him, guiding him and leading him closer to your will. Help him to keep his eyes on you through this next week - I know this schedule is busy and it's easy to lose track. But also be alongside him, and prompt him when need be to be closer to your will. Don't let him stray. If his friend Jeff is pulling him from you, please grab him back - use whatever means you need to. I trust you, Good Shepherd!"
I shall not want.
[You think briefly about physical needs, but he doesn't have any at the moment. But that leads your mind to a need at school, and so you pray]: "Help him too, this week, in studying for his math test. I know he's hated this section, but help him to do his best and to rely on you."
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
"God, I've seen Ben so flustered recently about the choices his friends are making - particularly Jeff. He seems so distraught and confused. Give him peace and calm as he follows you. Help his heart to be focused on your heart and his mind to meditate on your thoughts."
And so on! Can you see how rich that time might be, as you reflect on each of you kids? It can be led in so many directions, and with the passage memorized, all you need is a quiet moment.
Praying through Psalm 23 has been so rewarding particularly because 23 is so rich in care language. I desperately want my children to be led by, cared for and directed toward God. The visual language has sparked plenty of different thoughts as I've prayed for my four kids. And being led through this incredible Psalm time and time again has been good for my soul, as well - these are truths we all need to internalize.
Praying for our kids is one of the most essential and important tasks we have as parents. Give praying through Psalm 23 a try, and let me know your response. Any other Psalms you think are particularly well-oriented toward praying through for your kids?