Parenting Tip: Pray First (Open Mouth Second)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. (Phil. 4:6)

It’s been said that the family that prays together, stays together—but do you know just how true that really is? Seriously! A Gallup poll revealed that among married couples who attend church together regularly, the divorce rate is one out of two. That’s the same statistic as for marriages anywhere. But get this: among couples who pray together daily, the divorce rate is one out of 1,153. [i] What a difference!

One of the best gifts a couple can give their children (and each other) is the gift of a strong marriage and family life knit together through prayer. Prayer builds unity and intimacy. We become intimate to whom we pray, for whom we pray, and with whom we pray. Prayer is the key to unlocking extraordinary blessings for children and families the way a key unlocks a gate.

Years ago, my husband Doug came up with a slogan for our family that, in our house, prayer should always be “the first response, not a last resort.” I’d go so far to say that prayer has not only been our lifeline to heaven (and sometimes to sanity!), but it’s also been our greatest and most valued parenting tool.

What that’s meant for this mom, specifically, has been to make every effort to pray first, open my mouth second. I’ve had to work on it even harder as my kids have grown and become adults.  More often than not, my role is not to fix, not to quickly correct, not to express my own opinion . . . but to pray.  And then step back and trust God. Yes, it’s hard to do, I know. But He always comes through and I’ve learned to trust Him. He is faithful! And He often accomplishes His purposes in my kids’ lives in wonderful ways that surprise me and that I never would have thought of!

Proverbs 31: 27 says, “She watches over the affairs of her household.” I skipped merrily over that verse for years until one day I just happened to read it at the same time as I was reading elsewhere in the Bible that day. Isaiah 62:6-7 says, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest.”

That jumped out at me. I’m a word person. Both roots of those words—watches and watchman—have similar meanings, “to peer into the distance, observe, watch; to hedge about (as with thorns), guard, protect, attend to”[ii] They can also be translated “lookout” or “doorkeeper.”[iii]

How very cool.  I realized way back then that prayer is one of the most powerful roles a mother can play in her children’s lives. So much more can be accomplished for my kids from my knees than from my mouth! Correction, instruction, suggestions, and advice are all very well and good—and necessary.  But years of experience tell me (and I know many other praying moms who will agree with me) that some of the most powerful breakthroughs I’ve seen with my children have been when I prayed instead of only trying to fix a situation with natural means.

Have you prayed purposefully for your kids today, and the worries that are on your heart for them? The opening verse to this blog post is a great parenting tip: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-8). With that in mind, try this experiment: when you have a concern for one or more of your children, instead of expressing it out loud, try writing it in your prayer journal – date, name, need. Commit to praying every day for this particular need.  Find Scriptures that speak to God’s will for your child’s life in this area and pray them aloud, declaring their truth and impact over your child’s life.  Express your thanksgiving to the Lord that He is already at work in your child’s life in this area, even if you can’t see it. Pray that if the Lord wants YOU to address it directly, a natural and Spirit-led opportunity will arise for discussion. Release control. Wait on His timing. Trust Him with the outcome.

Then see what God does!

This post adapted from my book Prayer-Saturated Kids, by Arlyn Lawrence and Cheryl Sacks, NavPress 2007.

[i] Gallup Poll, 1993

[ii] James Strong, “Strong’s New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN:1995), tsaphah, Strongs #6822, p. 122; shamar, Strongs #8104, p 145.

[iii] The NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI:1990), p. 1598 and 1643.

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