tended to them. What if they have become believers already? Of course, we hope that they will be followed up by the church. That however shouldn’t stop us from doing our part in their discipleship process since they are our loved ones, and for some of them, they live under the same roof as us! Can spouses disciple each other? Can children disciple their elderly parents who have come to faith? Can they pray with them, teach them how to pray, read God’s Word with them, fellowship with them, worship with them? Or have close ties become a hindrance to discipling efforts?
Parents are responsible in raising their children up in the fear of the Lord, and that surely is part and parcel of disciple-making. We make disciples of our own children. When they are young, it is good to read the bible with them and pray with them every day, for example, before the children retire to bed. Many devotional materials are available if we need help. When the children become older, schedules might not permit us to come together every night but it will be good to set aside at least once a week where we can have family devotion. People may call it by different names but fundamentally, it is a time for the family to gather together for worship, Word and prayer. I have found these times very beneficial for family bonding too because I get to hear what is going on in my children’s lives and how the bible can shed light on their circumstances. Discipline is definitely needed to protect this kind of family time because we are all busy people. I must confess that there were times when I was more interested in completing my sermon or catching my favourite TV programme than to gather the family together for devotion, but after each session, I was very glad that I persevered because those were really precious teaching and bonding moments. I envisage that as my children become even older, there will be a time when getting the family together may not be possible, for example, when they are overseas or they have already set up their own families, but I hope that the spiritual discipline of reading God’s Word and prayer would have already been deeply ingrained in them so that they would desire those times of communion with God without having papa around to nudge or cajole them.
‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ (Proverbs 22.6) This is what I hope for my children but there is no guarantee that they will not stray from the narrow path even when I have done my part in training them up. If they do stray, it is not that God has not kept His promise. We need to understand the genre of Proverbs. The book consists of general principles stated by the wise man based on his observation of the world around him. There are always exceptions to every generalisation. Therefore parents, if you have done your part in discipling your children but they have strayed away from the faith, do not blame yourself for not doing a job. Continue to pray for them. Augustine of Hippo lived a hedonistic lifestyle while he was a youth but his mother diligently prayed for his salvation and by God’s grace, he not only repented but eventually went on to become an important Church Father. We pray that the seeds of the Gospel that have been sown in the earlier years of our children’s lives will be used by the Spirit to awaken them from their spiritual stupor. Ai Tin’s sister and brother in law love the Lord but my nephew lost interest in the Christian faith as he grew up. His mother has been praying for him all this while and telling him that she will be so sad if she cannot find him in heaven. My nephew has just gone to Durham for his tertiary education and his mother almost fell off the bed when she received a text message from him very early one morning, telling her that he is attending a cell group and requesting her to send him a bible!
How should we be praying for our children? Sure, go ahead and pray for blessings but what sort of blessings should we be seeking for our children? It is always good to return to the Gospel. What does the Gospel have to say? Paul said: ‘He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?’ (Romans 8.32) What does ‘all things’ mean? Those who preach prosperity will think of health and wealth and all things bright and beautiful. But read the verse in the context of the whole passage and we will find that Paul spoke of God who works all things together for good for those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose, and that should refer to us, His children. Then Paul went on to define what ‘good’ is – that we may be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8.28-29) So if God has given His Son to save us, will he not also give us everything that we need in order for us to grow into the likeness of His Son? God seems to be more interested in our holiness than in our happiness. So in this light, I will pray for blessings for my children, knowing that they are truly blessed when they are being transformed into Christlikeness.
Can I still pray for my children to be successful in their studies and careers? Of course I can, but I need to understand what really matters to the Lord. I pray for my children that they will do well in their studies but I also pray that God will do the necessary to keep them humble and to grow their faith, which usually happens when things are not all bright and beautiful. I can pray for my children that they become godly doctors and lawyers but I should be equally contented if they eventually become godly mechanics and janitors for the blessings lie not in their vocation but their godliness, not in their careers but their holiness. If we want to make disciples of all nations, which should include disciples of all trades, then surely there is a place for godly mechanics and janitors in society. If we have this understanding, then praying for our children to be successful in the eyes of the world becomes secondary.
Pastor Kien Seng
November 10, 2013