From the moment I first learned I was expecting, I started praying for my child. And I haven't stopped since.
When my boys were young, to be honest, many prayers centered on me—my strength and endurance to make it through the day in once piece. Motherhood was especially hard then; the cloud of depression darkened my days. I always felt insufficient, weak, and helpless as a mom. More often than not, my prayer set on repeat was, "Help me, Lord!"
Through the years, I've prayed about many things for my children. They were chronically sick for a long time and I prayed repeatedly for healing. I've also prayed for their behavior, their friendships with other children, their education, for our relationship as a family, and even for their future jobs, spouses, and children.
But above all, the prayer I keep coming back to time and time again is a prayer for their heart. The status of their heart before God, their salvation, what they believe about Christ, and the work God is doing in them is the prayer that supersedes all other prayers I may have for them.
The Heart of the Matter
Why the heart? Because the heart is the core of who we are. When the Bible talks about the human heart, it doesn’t mean our real heart— the one that beats in our chest and keeps our body alive. It also isn’t referring to the heart shaped candies or chocolates we give those we love on Valentine’s Day. The Bible uses the term ‘heart’ to mean our inner self, who we are as a person, our identity. The real us. This inner self includes our thoughts, our desires, our feelings, our personality, our motives and intentions, and the choices we make. “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19). “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Because we are sinners, our hearts are prone to sin. What we need is a new heart. God promised this in the book of Ezekiel: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). This is what the Spirit does in us when He awakens our dead heart to life. He gives us a new heart, a heart capable of responding to God in faith and living to love and obey God. Theologians call this awakening ‘regeneration.’ “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
The truth is, the heart of the matter is the heart. What our children need most is a new heart. They need the Spirit to bring them from death to life. They need the Spirit to work in them, sanctifying and transforming them into the likeness of Christ. So even as I pray about other things for my children—friendships, education, behavior, etc.—those things are ultimately about the heart as well. For as God transforms and changes their hearts through the work of the Spirit, it changes how they choose friendships, their attitude toward school, and their outward behavior.
From the Prayers of Paul
I've learned this lesson about praying for heart matters from the Apostle Paul. He wrote letters to various churches. Some were struggling with real trials, hardships, even persecution. In those letters, he mentions the prayers he is praying for them. He doesn't mention praying for their physical and temporal needs—though he may have done so. (Jesus taught us to pray for our daily needs in Matthew 6:11). The prayers he prayed for them were not focused on the temporary but on the eternal. He prayed for their hearts, for God's work in them, for their growth in faith. He prayed for the work of the Kingdom and the spread of the gospel through them. He prayed for their spiritual strength and endurance and encouraged them with the hope they had in Christ.
When I consider praying for the hearts of my children, Paul's prayers are an excellent model for doing so. If you desire for God to work in the heart of your child, consider praying the prayers of Paul.
Here are a few of them:
From Ephesians 1:16-20:
"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places."
From Ephesians 3:13-19:
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
From Philippians 1:9-11:
"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."
From Colossians 1:9-12:
"We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."
From 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:
"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
All that our children are flows from their heart, so whatever it is we pray for them, may we never fail to pray for their hearts.