Above All Else, Teach This
As parents, we too are children. Sometimes we need a reminder. Our callings, strength, and abilities do not come from ourselves. No, we require help in every need.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand,
I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad,
and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
(Psalm 16: 8-9)
Good parents teach many good things every day: Share toys, tie shoes, eat good food, and speak kindly. Good parents help their children learn to read, write, and master arithmetic. Good parents teach children to love what is true and good and beautiful. Yet we, too, must be taught. If we forget this we become discouraged, overwhelmed, or resentful, even as we plow ahead. We rightly look for help in every need.
The Small Catechism with Explanation teaches us as parents to pray, “Heavenly Father, Your words give us boldness and confidence to acknowledge You as our true Father and ourselves as Your true children. May Your Holy Spirit lead us to trust in Your fatherly goodness, call upon Your name in every need, and glorify You as the author and giver of every good and perfect gift; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
At Home in Prayer
The other night my 24-year-old son asked how I was feeling. I had been resting With a sore throat and cough. I appreciated his thoughtfulness in asking. Then from his 6’2″ frame I heard this, “I have been praying for you every night.” The words caught me by surprise. I felt my throat tighten, but from gratitude, not illness. I swallowed hard and looked into his face. “Thank you, Michael.”
He had been worried about me. I knew this. Michael had offered to wear a mask on his work van to avoid bringing home new germs, as I seem susceptible to viruses and infections. I did not want him to worry. (What mother does?) I never told him to pray. I never asked him to pray. He knew, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, where help could be found.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
This was my grandmother’s favorite passage. She taught my mother to pray. My mother taught me to pray. So we can teach our children to pray.
Fathers, too, are urged, “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” My father prayed. His father prayed. When I am worried or ill, my father prays for me. I give thanks for this.
For All People and For All Times
Many of us think of praying at mealtimes. We give thanks before our meals. Some of us return thanks after our meals. Many of us think of praying for people who are sick or preparing for surgery. We pray for those whose loved ones are ill or dying. We pray for those who grieve.
Yet prayer is for all Christians at all times. We are encouraged to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:18), “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)
How, then, shall we pray? We pray through Jesus Christ, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2:5) When we do not know how to pray, we can take comfort. This has been anticipated: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)*
What shall we pray? When we are looking for just the right words for our own prayers or for prayers to share with others, a new resource can assist us. This beautiful new prayer companion contains over 475 prayerful petitions covering many, many topics. (Scroll to pages xiii-xxiv to view the vast topical index.) A sampling:
– prayer for the blessing of children in a marriage
– prayer when the blessing of children in a marriage is detected
– prayer when the hour of birth draws near
– thanksgiving for a successful birth
And the hard prayers:
– prayer when a child is born with a disability
– prayer when a child is stillborn
– prayer when a newborn dies before being baptized
– prayer for wayward children
And the unexpected prayers:
– prayer when a woman has a gloomy and unfriendly husband
– prayer when one spouse has abandoned the other
– prayer of a juror who is to decide a criminal case
– prayer of a soldier for his family at home
With prayers organized by seasons of the Church Year, personal needs, and chief parts of the catechism, and with over 100 hymn texts for edification and meditation, this truly is a lifelong companion for any Christian.
For Us He Prays
Lest we focus back to ourselves, as we are so quick to do even in discussions about how and when and what to pray, let us remember that we have One who “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) The Lord Jesus Christ prayed through temptation, trial, and the ultimate agony on our behalf. If we pray with thanksgiving for nothing else, we can pray with thanksgiving for this.
For us He prayed; for us He taught;
For us His daily works He wrought,
By words and signs and actions thus
Still seeking not Himself but us.
For us He rose from death again;
For us He went on high to reign;
For us He sent His Spirit here
To guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.
All glory to our Lord and God
For love so deep, so high, so broad;
The Trinity whom we adore
Forever and forevermore.
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final hymn stanzas from O Love, How Deep
Thomas a Kempis, (1380-1471)
*Scripture passages are provided within the 2017 edition of the Small Catechism with Explanation and, unlike some previous editions, are abundant! Not only are references provided, but also the words, on every page. See more new features of the new catechism in the bullet points here. This new edition now comes in spiral (to lie flat for ease of instruction), e-book (for portability), and hardcover (for durability).
Child Praying at Mother’s Knee
Pierre-Édouard Frère, 1864