How to Pray with Your Child to Help Them Accept Christ
- April Motl Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2022 2 Jun
As a kid, I was privileged to attend church. However, especially in my younger years, the attendance was irregular, and we did quite a bit of church hopping. I bounced between denominations. So on the upside of that experience, I got a rather broad introduction to the church. Despite the spiritual smorgasbord benefits, settling into a small, intimate congregation was the best thing that happened to our family.
Along the way, I attended VBS at a small baptist church and first heard the sinner's prayer. At the time, I was in first or second grade. I'd been praying to God for as long as I had memory, but I'd never heard there was a specific opening prayer that was necessary to come to God. I came home rather upset that no one had told me this. I wondered if there was a "first" prayer you are supposed to pray, had God heard any of my other prayers? And if there was some particular prayer of initiation in this relationship with God, what else had everyone kept from me. Miffed was just the beginning of my feeling on the matter. I was now growing somewhat concerned for the rest of the adults in my life. What if they hadn't prayed the "right" thing, and we were all in trouble?
This began my interrogation of all the Christian adults I knew - what do you have to do to get into heaven? I compared their answers. Most of them said, "You have to believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again." Many asked why I was asking because they knew I believed this already. If I explained my concerns, usually they told me the sinner's prayer was just a pattern to begin your relationship with Jesus but that it wasn't like THE key that opened the door to God. I was pretty unconvinced. At VBS, they were sure this was THE way to start your relationship with Jesus. So after my inquisition of all the adults in my life, I prayed the sinner's prayer one day by myself in the car on the way to Bible study, just to make sure God and I were on the right foot. I had asked God to forgive individual sins I'd made along the way, but not a prayer for blanket forgiveness or a life committing prayer, like the example of the sinner's prayer.
In the end, I don't think I "got saved" when I prayed the sinner's prayer. I can see the value in it, and I can also see its limitations. Anything that isn't straight from Scripture will have limits on its usefulness.
So, how do we as parents lead our kids to help them when they want to make Jesus their Lord and Savior? Here are three ideas to guide us:
1. Do not place more value on a single moment than Scripture does.Slide 1 of 3
Modern Western Christianity has placed quite the emphasis on a single moment in a person's spiritual experience. I'm not sure that's entirely right for us to do. While I can see testimonies of one particular turning point moment in Scripture (like Paul), there are others (like Abraham or Jacob) who we see had more developing spiritual journeys. In seminary, we had an assignment to read Abraham's story and decide when he fully became a believer. Was it when he left his homeland? Was it when he came into the Promised Land? Was it when his name was changed? When he obediently went to sacrifice Isaac? We all debated. And it left me feeling echoes of my own seven-year-old questions about the sinner's prayer.
From our limited human perspectives, a moment of turning is quite tidy and nice. But after prayerfully watching people in ministry, I can see that our spiritual journeys are most often made up of messy steps forward and back along the way. In truth, many Christians go through seasons of beautiful sweet devotion, passionate obedience, praise-filled-prayed-for victories just as much as they wrestle with sin, walk through seemingly endless spiritual desert seasons, times of disillusionment, rebellion, and even willful disobedience. And the valleys don't make us or our loved ones less saved. They are part of our unique walks with God. Just part of the journey, not the defining sum total of our faith.
So as a parent, when you pray with and for your child to make Jesus their Lord and Savior, don't lose your faith in God's saving work in their life if their faith walks through some messy seasons.
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
If we can allow a moment in time to rattle our sense of security in God's faithful work, we can also flop to the other extreme of thinking that one moment with God is all a person needs.
I've seen some people put stock in the moment they or a loved one "walked the aisle" as if that was the total of their Christianity, and it's "good to go." As if they got their ticket to heaven, and that's it. While salvation is free for you and me, it was costly to God. Living outside of that acknowledgment leads us down some spiritually empty and damaging roads. Scripture is full of comments about salvation evidencing itself in a person's life through fruit, through continuing in God's Word and ways, etc.
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:16-20
"So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine." John 8:31
So as we guide our children to make Christ their Lord, we need to think through the Bible's truths about how people come to God. He wants more than a moment; He wants our lives, so that needs to be the goal of the faith we pass on to our kids.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/leorivas
2. Make Jesus your Lord and Savior as a daily practice.Slide 2 of 3
Knowing that people's spiritual experience cannot be contained in one single moment or prayer will help you as you pray with your child to make Jesus their Lord and Savior. When you pray, don't pile excessive pressure on yourself or your child to "get it right." Praying is right. Do that. Pray every day together. Making Jesus our Lord and Savior isn't only a one-time prayer; it's a moment-by-moment journey.
On a side note, pursuing a lifestyle that invites Jesus into our daily living is not saying that our salvation is undecided or insecure, so we have to ask Him to save us over and over just in case we've "fallen from grace." Quite the contrary. Living a God-honoring life shouts of His grace and salvation in our hearts - it honors Him - it doesn't save us. We are merely responding to the salvation He brought into our lives.
Instill a heart for daily sanctifying Christ as Lord and Savior, rather than over-emphasizing a one-time decision point. This regular acknowledgment and habit of falling on God's grace set a child up to walk toward sanctification and a deeper relationship with God.
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9
The example Scripture gives us parents is to lead our kids to God daily. If we only bring up God once in a while, there's a stiffness from lack of use that exists between us and our kids on the matter. And then we are more likely to say things wrong and feel like we messed up the whole experience. God wants us to lead our kids to Him constantly, and practicing that oils the conversational gears. So make God's conversations a continual practice in your family.Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Rudi Suardi
3. Wrestle with your own faith questions.Slide 3 of 3
Sometimes we feel like we can't talk to our kids about faith or lead them in matters of faith because we haven't worked it out in our own hearts, minds, and lives. Be an example of owning your faith for your kids by searching out answers to your questions and being honest with them about your journey with God.
Timothy's mom and Grandma (1 Timothy 1:5) shared their Jewish faith with him. Later, Paul found Timothy and shared the fulfillment of that faith, Jesus Christ, with Timothy, and he because a Christian. Timothy's dad wasn't a believer. But God worked through the whole situation to bring Timothy to Him. God doesn't need our perfection to share our faith with our kids. Timothy's faith experience from his home life might have been full of questions, but the women in his family passed on to him the best they had. And the sincerity of it was powerful in his life. We can do the same for our children.
Paul gives us a key Scripture passage of the gospel in a nutshell. This is what everyone needs to know and believe. So as you seek to grow in your comfort with the sharing the gospel, let this passage help you stick to the simplicity of God's message:
"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." 1 Corinthians 15:1-5
Paul tells us the gospel that saves us contains three important truths:
- Christ died for our sins as Scripture promised
- Christ was buried (this is important because it means He had a literal body. Throughout history, heresies came into the church suggesting that Jesus was only Spirit and didn't have a body. If that were true, He wouldn't have been a literal, atoning sacrifice for you and me. So this is why that part is important.)
- Christ was raised from the dead, just as the Scriptures promised.
When we share the Good News with our kids, that is the simple foundation necessary for salvation. If your child comes to you and says, "I want to pray to make Jesus my Lord and Savior," remember these three principles:
- Don't put more pressure on this moment than Scripture does
- Honor Jesus through prayer in ways that set Him apart as Lord and Savior daily, not just a one-time thing
- Let your children see you work through making Jesus your Lord and Savior with authenticity
Praying with your child to begin a relationship with God is a precious moment. It should be celebrated! If you'd like a free set of Scripture prayers to pray over your kids, contact the ministry at info(at)motlministries.comPhoto Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Choreograph