Praying for My Kids
And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” Genesis 17:18
When my kids were little, my wife and I would lie by them at bedtime, praying with them. Back then, they were completely dependent on us, and we directed the course of their lives. They didn’t decide where to go to kindergarten. We did. As they grew, things changed. Somewhere in their early teens, we stopped the bedtime ritual. They began making more choices for themselves. Eventually, they chose where to go to college and then, they left. My wife and I had to learn to let go. But our concern for them hasn’t lessened. It’s always hard to watch your kids struggle and though my kids haven’t encountered any huge life disasters yet, I know they will. I did. When they do struggle, what is my response? I want to swoop in and fix everything, but I can’t. Even if I could, Dad fixing things may not be what’s best for them. So, often, I must sit back and watch their lives unfold from a distance. If I can’t fix everything, what outlet do I have for my concern?
In today’s passage, Abraham found himself worrying about his only son – Ishmael. Ishmael, you may recall, was not the son of Abraham and his wife, but rather of Abraham and his wife’s servant. In today’s passage though, God revealed to Abraham that he and his wife were finally going to have their own son. This was the long-promised heir to God’s blessing of Abraham, and it should have been the happiest day of Abraham’s life. He didn’t know his yet-to-be-born son though. He knew and loved his 13-year-old son, Ishmael. Ishmael however, wasn’t even supposed to exist, but rather was the product of Abraham’s impatience. When God took too long to provide a son with his wife, Abraham tried to speed things up by impregnating his wife’s servant. When God promised another son in today’s passage, this presented a problem – Ishmael was going to be displaced as Abraham’s true heir.
So, Abraham went to God. What about Ishmael? Isn’t he my son and the heir to your blessing? God said no. Ishmael would have his own legacy – I will make him into a great nation (Genesis 17:20) – but Ishmael was not the primary heir to God’s blessing of Abraham.
What’s the application for me? First, I must learn to submit to God’s will. Like Abraham, I have my own plans for my grown children, but when I try to enforce them, I often deviate from God’s plan, creating conflict. Second, when I’m concerned about my children, I shouldn’t just sit and worry. Like Abraham, I must go to God, expressing my concern in prayer. Finally, I must submit to God’s answer. Abraham told God what he wanted, and God said no. Abraham may have been disappointed for Ishmael, but still, he followed God’s plan.
I’m always going to be concerned for my children. What do I do with that concern? Worrying does me no good. In prayer though, I learn to submit to God’s will, giving my children up to his care. I’m not God. I can’t fix everything. So, I must do what I can for them and then I must pray, leaving the rest up to their heavenly father. This is the best thing I can do for their spiritual health – and my own.