Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Inner~View #63: Children X Prayer = Dicsipleship


Phil Miglioratti interviewed Debbie Salter Goodwin, author of The Praying Parent and Raising Kids To Extraordinary Faith.


Debbie Salter Goodwin



Phil ~ Debbie, The Praying Parent reminds me of a multi-purpose book: Clear teaching points, biblical references, practical ideas and examples, along with questions and activities a study group could discuss together. Did you write this book for a father/mother to read or for a group to study?

Debbie ~I wrote it for both. It makes a great personal study as well as a good group study. Rather than just place questions at the end of the chapter, there are opportunities to write personal responses throughout the chapters. I suggest using a journal so that you can come back to the book during different parenting stages with children, adolescents, or adults. The principles are helpful at every stage of parenting, whether your children still live at home or have their own families and prayer projects.


Phil ~ Prayer seems to be in your DNA - How did prayer develop into such a central-to-everything discipline for you as a woman and as a mother?

Debbie ~ I had a praying mother who always communicated she prayed for me. Early, I simply took that model and the information that children’s and youth leaders gave me about talking to God about everything. As a young adult I was deeply influenced by a woman who taught me to trust God implicitly. Anyone who trusts God, prays. The two are inseparable. When I became a wife and mother, I realized how world-changing the stakes were. I needed more than my best idea; I needed God’s wisdom. Searching His Word and learning to understand His confirming impressions has anchored my prayer processes. I continue to see myself as a beginner in learning about prayer. But the lessons have transformed my life more than anything else has.


Phil ~ Explain what you mean by "praying for first times."

Debbie ~ This is a concept that evolved as I looked at the different times we need to pray for our children. I have long been encouraged and convicted by the Genesis 1:1 verse, “In the beginning God created.” Unfortunately, we don’t always give our parenting issues to God at the beginning. We go to Him after we’ve tried everything we can try. If God does His best creative work at the beginning of a concern; then, I need to learn to faithfully bring those issues to Him at the beginning. Young parents seem to do this more quickly. They pray for first days at school, first babysitter, first separation, etc. In the chapter about praying for first things, I encourage all of us to take every first to God so that He can do His most creative work. Life continues to give us first time experiences. We need our children to understand how God walks with them through firsts as well as how He wants to create His good and perfect gifts in them. Prayer for first things helps us as parents to cooperate with God’s desires and outcomes.


Phil ~ You devote an entire chapter to praying for the salvation of children. Do you sense most parents have not thought about this topic; theologically and practically?

Debbie ~ I don’t think enough parents think about the salvation of their children until they sense a problem. Too many times, that’s too late. We need to be reminded that God’s Word tells us that “all have sinned” and need to personally repent to join God’s family. While there are a lot of parents who can tell you when their child made this decision, there are too many who only assume it. I tell parents to make sure they have shared their salvation story in age appropriate ways. I encourage parents to take advantage of Easter to review the meaning of personally accepting Jesus as Savior. Prayer leaders can make prayers for the salvation of our children a priority from time to time. This prayer is not just for wayward or rebellious children. This is for all of our children. If we start our parenting journey by praying for the salvation of our children; then, it becomes a prayer of expectancy instead of concern. We offer ourselves to God to raise our children’s awareness of their need for God and His answer to that need. We look forward to the time when a child acknowledges Jesus as his or her personal Savior and forever Friend. Then, we share the journey with them. Nothing is more exciting for a parent.


Phil ~ Parents pray for their child throughout the day. Do you recommend praying for your child by praying WITH your child?

Debbie ~ Absolutely. When we pray with our children, face to face, we help them understand how God, Himself, meets with us, encourages us, and helps us know what to pray. I remind young parents to make their prayers with their children fit the attention span of the youngest child. Another idea that works with young children is to light a candle during prayer time. Something about a candle helps young children focus and know that something special is happening. For children who need to move, take prayer walks. These can be inside or outside. Let children draw pictures of their prayers. When a child shares a concern, you can stop and pray a sentence prayer. When children become adolescents, it is more and more important to be authentic about your need for prayer and ask your teenager to pray for you. Also, be consistent about sharing answers to prayer. Make sure prayer times are positive times that help family members to bond with each other as well as God. Make prayer fun and completely authentic.


Phil ~Raising Kids to Extraordinary Faith is a book on discipleship. The subtitle is: Helping Parents & Teachers Disciple the Next Generation. I was impressed to see an entire chapter on prayer because so few books on discipling believers includes or gives much space to prayer and praying ...

Debbie ~ That surprises me that few books address prayer as a part of discipleship. I can’t imagine learning to follow Jesus as a disciple without learning about prayer. As I have studied prayer and children, both through resources and my own experiences, I have come to believe that the most important thing we can help young disciples know is that God wants to communicate with them personally. Maybe our information based culture gets in the way here. Discipleship is not about pushing information into children. It is about introducing them to a relationship where Jesus, Himself, takes over the instruction. Our goal in raising disciples is that they become independent spiritual learners. That doesn’t mean they don’t need anybody else. It simply means that they know how to talk to God for themselves and understand how He communicates with them. I believe that prayer is what makes discipleship an adventure!

Phil ~ What do parents and teachers/leaders need to know and do to make prayer a life skill for children and teenagers?

Debbie ~ Modeling a personal belief in the power and relational nature of prayer is irreplaceable. We need to talk about when we pray, what we pray for, and how we understand that God answers. We need to incorporate prayer into the natural rhythms of our days. Mealtime, bedtime, and other family prayer times are important to anchor this rhythm. However, we need our children to understand that anytime is a good time to pray. We do that by stopping to pray for a concern instead of promising to pray about it. We invite our children to pray with us about family matters and expect them to share how God is directing them about a family concern. Other influencers must make sure to connect prayer to real life, too. We start simple and keep it authentic.


Phil ~ Adults must take responsibility to model and train the children in their family or sphere of ministry. Where does someone start, especially if their own prayer life is less than red hot?

Debbie ~ You might be surprised at the way I answer this. The starting place to a rich prayer life is believing in the trustworthy character of God. When I believe that God is who He says He is, I will wait, ask, or obey because I realize that no one else can share truth or help me like God can. This is what we share with children. They have less problems believing that God is who He says He is than most adults. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with admitting to our children that we want to learn how prayer accomplishes a deeper and more securing relationship. We take the journey together, not to teach them how to pray, but to learn with them.


Phil ~ What additional insight or encouragement would you like to share?

Debbie ~ I wrote Raising Kids to Extraordinary Faith to establish the partnership between parents and the larger community of faith. God makes it clear that He wants children to learn about Him at home first. However, He has also given a supportive role to the family of faith. I call them our second family. We all have a role in supporting, praying for, and discipling children. To cooperate with God’s plan, we need to be on first name basis with some children, teenagers, and young adults we aren’t otherwise related to. We need to build conversation bridges that allow us to have spiritual conversations with these young believers. We need to help them understand that following Jesus is an adventure like no other. But we can only share what we have experienced. The most convicting question I live with is this: If I reproduce my prayer life, my obedience record, my trust in God in the children God allows me to influence, is it enough to send them into the next generation with world-changing faith?


Phil ~ Debbie, please write a prayer you hope every reader prays as they read it here; a prayer that transforms the adult who then can be used to transform the prayer life of a future Christian servant leader . . .

Debbie ~ God, you have called us to follow you but you never intended that we come alone. As we enjoy following you, help us to share the joy with our families in authentic and magnetic ways. May we never substitute knowledge for relationship. May we never treat as private what you need us to share. Lead us to widen the circle we call our Jerusalem so that when someone knows us, they are one step away from knowing You. The stakes are high, but You already know that. Take us deeper and farther into our world with the news that life is never better than when we follow You and bring others with us. In the name of the One who wants to take us all the way Home! Amen.

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