e were sitting around the kitchen table after lunch. My daughter, Lydia, was a sweet 5-year-old. Her little brother, still in a highchair, was just 3.
I had been reading them a devotional book after lunch every day. Each chapter told a continuing story based on a Scripture verse which also correlated with a letter of the alphabet. We were on the letter V: “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”
Speaking of “very truly, I tell you,” I have to tell you I wasn’t overly impressed with this chapter and the selected scripture. It was a hard one for Lydia and Asa to understand, and the story was nominally interesting. However, in the story, the little boy─who had previously been shown to try to obey God and listen to his parents─decided to ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins.
I looked at my 5-year-old and said, “See how he stopped and asked Jesus into his heart?”
She said, “Yeah! I want to do that!”
I almost jumped out of my skin. “What? You do? Now?”
She skipped over to Asa’s highchair and grabbed his hand, saying, “Yes!”
I ran over to her and explained how she had to pray. I said I would lead her in a prayer if she wanted─even though we were really talking to God, and the exact words weren’t super important. I rambled for four or five sentences until we began to pray.
When the prayer was over, I asked her, “Did you really pray that with all your heart? Did you mean it?”
She said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve prayed that prayer lots of times.”
I looked at her incredulously for the second time that day. “You have? When? Where?”
She shrugged nonchalantly, “In my bed. I’ve been born again lots of times.”
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
Don’t shy away from calling sin what it is. Let kids see their brokenness.
Here I was trying to make this big event happen through this big prayer, and my little girl had already done it “lots of times.” I realized Lydia had her own relationship with the Lord, and He speaks to her in His own way.
How do we cultivate this personal relationship between our children and the Lord? How do we help lead our own children to Christ?
When God gave the Israelites the Law, He instructed them to pass His commands onto their children. He said, “Impress them on your children” (Deut. 6:7 NIV). This phrase always makes me think of playdough. You press the banana-shaped mold onto yellow playdough, and you have an image of a perfectly formed banana.
If I can press God’s Word into my kids’ hearts, His Word will shape their lives.
Impress has a double-meaning for me. I want my kids to be impressed─moved and stirred─by God’s Word. It’s my job as a parent to help my kids to be fascinated by and attracted to God and His Word.
How can a parent who is also carting kids off to ballet and baseball, and making dinner and washing clothes and going to work and paying bills, also make God’s Word engaging to children?
It’s actually pretty simple. Do you know how to talk? To walk? To lie down? To get up? That’s basically God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 6:7-9: “Talk about them [God’s commandments] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (NIV).
The idea is that God’s Word is part of your everyday life. In our house, we have a devotional book that we read every day. We also have lots of Bible-centered music playing in our home. We watch TV shows featuring Bible verses and stories. I want God’s Word to be part of everything we do.
The apostle Paul wrote, Jesus “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17 NIV). This is what I want my kids to know and be awed by─that everything is because of Jesus. It’s my job─my privilege─to show them and lead them, to impress them and stir them to that understanding.
Long before I prayed with my daughter around our kitchen table, I taught her about sin. One day I was sitting on the couch with my laptop while she played with some craft supplies at my feet, still in her pajamas. She suddenly jumped up and said, “I want to change clothes! I want to change clothes!”
I told her she could change clothes when I was finished. She got more agitated and wouldn’t stop demanding a change of clothes.
Finally, I looked down and saw a small hole in her pajama pants. I also saw the scissors lying next to her. I said, “Did you cut your pants? Is that why you want to change clothes, so Mommy doesn’t see it?”
She started sobbing.
She was little, but she knew we didn’t use scissors on our clothes. And she certainly knew not to hide things from me. But I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I berate her and tell her how wrong she was? She was already so contrite . . . and she was so little.
I pulled her into my arms and talked to her about lying and sin. She sobbed even harder. Then, I told her she would have to wear those pajamas the rest of the day as punishment. She could not bear the idea.
So, I quickly changed my mind and told her we would do what Jesus does with our sin. We took her pink pajamas and threw them in the trashcan.
I told her again that sin keeps us far away from God, but when we ask Him to forgive us, He immediately throws our sins away to be forgotten.
Don’t shy away from calling sin what it is. Let kids see their brokenness. Without it, they can easily fall into the belief that salvation comes from their parents, their good deeds, or their ability to quote Bible verses.
As Christian parents, we want to rush our kids to a decision about Jesus. We want to make sure our kids have said the prayer and are on their way to heaven.
It’s important to remember we are simply the banner wavers and the trailblazers. Jesus is the One wooing our children to Himself. He’s the One who died for them; He’s the One calling to them. He’s the One standing at the door of their hearts, waiting to be let in.
When your children hear that call, how can you help them open the door? Take them in your arms and talk to Jesus together. Confess sin in simple terms: “God, I’m so sorry I’ve disobeyed You. Will You forgive me?”
Shout out belief in a resurrected Lord in words they understand: “Jesus, thank You for dying for me. Thank You for coming back to life to be my Friend.”
Help your children praise God for His great love: “Thank You for loving me and speaking to me, God. I want to spend my life with You.”
Saying such a prayer with your own kids is an amazing, holy moment. But it might not happen with you. Your kid might utter the prayer at church, at camp, or under their covers in their own bed. However, you do get to be the one to lead them daily to Jesus through His Word. Dazzle them with His goodness and love so they can’t wait to give their hearts and lives to Him.