My head was swimming. "Pray for your son's wife." God repeated. He sounded more insistent. I knew then and I know now that this was the voice was God. Something new was happening...
The organist at our church is awesome. In addition to being a great organist, he also has the delightful habit of coming in each Sunday morning and telling me what can only be described as Dad Jokes.
Every Sunday, since we are both on staff at our church, we arrive on campus an hour or so before the worshipers. This gives him ample time to share the best worst jokes ever. He clearly has a never-ending supply of Dad Jokes and I laugh at them even as I groan and say how terrible they are. I love them!
The thing about Dad Jokes is that they usually don't seem like actual jokes. Especially to the kids of the dad that is telling them. Dad jokes are, by design, unsophisticated; simplistic; artless. They are also completely free of guile and totally unpretentious. In other words, they are not trying to be anything extra. Dad jokes are just designed for one moment of laughter in the middle of an ordinary day.
Mom prayers are like that. They often don't seem like actual prayers. They are usually not sophisticated or knowledgeable or deep. But, just as Dad Jokes accomplish their task of making us laugh, Mom Prayers accomplish the task of keeping our children in our unceasing cycle of prayers. Think of the countless times that moms pray "Oh Lord, just let me get through this store without a stinky diaper" or "Dear Lord, please don't let his arm be broken!" or "Please, God! Just get her through this EOG testing cycle without a nervous breakdown." There's no deep theology in them, just a mother crying out to God. These Mom Prayers, like Dad Jokes, accomplish what they are designed to do.
I've prayed all those and more, but there was an evening thirty five years ago during which God sent me the most powerful message of praying for my children I have ever received. It was a rare moment of real clarity. I knew without a doubt that God was speaking to me, and I can see the whole scene in my mind's eye as clearly as though it happened yesterday.
Courtney, my oldest child, was nearly four on the December evening of 1985 when she and I were alone in our tiny living room decorating our tree. Christian, my son, had been put to bed before we were quite finished because he was just two. Courtney was typically in bed as well by this time, but she was enjoying herself and I was enjoying the mother-daughter time.
Finally, the tree was decorated to our satisfaction, and I plugged it in then turned out the overhead light. The tree simply glowed in the dark room. "Oh! Mama! This is so pretty! It makes me want to pray!" my little daughter said. My heart melted into a puddle, and I responded, "Well then, let's pray!" We knelt side by side in front of the tree and Courtney began to pray as only little children can. I was listening to her sweet voice and the precious childish prayer when God interrupted. When you are interrupted by God, there is no doubt in your mind, and there was no doubt at all in mine.
So clearly that it was nearly audible, God said, "Pray for your son's wife." I was stunned. "Wait...What? My son is a baby! He's in his bed asleep! He doesn't have a wife! Who are you talking to? You can't mean me!" My daughter's sweet voice continued on beside me, but I could no longer understand what she was saying. My head was swimming. "Pray for your son's wife." God repeated. Somehow He sounded more insistent. Almost stern. I knew then and I know now that this was the voice was God.
I had never heard of such a thing as praying for children in this way. I was confused and wanted an adult Christian to talk to about it, but there was no time for that. "Pray now." God was still speaking and clearly would not be satisfied until I did as instructed. So I did. And as I began to pray for the person my son would marry I had several revelations.
First, I realized that at that very moment in time that girl was a baby. "Keep her healthy, dear Lord." Oh! What if she is being born right now? "Dearest Father give her mother the strength to deliver her safely. Bring them both to the end of labor with as little pain as possible." Could she be sick? "God, please put your healing hand on this precious little girl." Her parents! "Lord, be with her parents. May they be well and happy!"
Something new was happening now. I was falling in love with my daughter in law. My prayer continued and Courtney slipped into silent prayer, sitting now, just looking up at the tree. From my knees I asked God to give the little girl I didn't know a strong, loving family and a tender conscience; a life filled with joy and rich experiences; the ability to try new things and for her to face the world with courage. After several minutes of deep and focused prayer I felt released, and I gathered up my own little girl and tucked her into bed. I went back to the living room and sat there thinking about what had happened.
From that day forward, I began a new prayer custom with my children. Gone were the childish recited rhyming prayers. They were replaced by ordinary words of petition and praise to the God who comes to us in our living rooms. Each and every night I knelt by their beds with my hand on their heads and they would pray, then I would pray. And every night, along with all the other prayers I asked God to be in a real and special way with the people that would be married to my children. My prayer life was completely renewed. It became more important to me than I ever dreamed. It united our little family.
Do you pray aloud with your children? If not, I urge you to begin the habit tonight. As we enter a new year cover your children with your prayers. Let them hear you pray for them. Go beyond the "make him behave better tomorrow than he did today", and let them hear you praise God for the gift that their lives are to you. If you treasure your children make sure that they hear you thanking God for the gift of being able to parent them. Touch their hands or their heads and pray a Mom Prayer. Nothing high flown or sophisticated. Just a cry from your heart. God knows and understands. So do your children.
So what about my daughter in law? First of all, I call her daughter in love. And her parents are my friends in love. She is everything I prayed for and more. She has been married to my son for fifteen years and they have eight year old twins. I couldn't love her more. I also have a son in love! He is new to the family, and he truly completes us. It seems that there has been someone missing for all our lives, but now we have that space filled with a fine, handsome, man of God. I am so grateful that God came to me that night so many years ago and taught me to pray Mom Prayers when I was young.
Mom Prayers: they may not sound great and, like Dad Jokes, they may be a little awkward but they reach the heart of God like nothing else does. Be a prayer warrior. Pray like a mom.