Parental Prayer is Power!

Miss Johanna Timmer, editor of REFORMED WOMEN SPEAK, has solicited this article from Mrs. Laurie Vanden Heuvel, wife of Rev. Thomas C. Vanden Heuvel, pastor of the Central Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan.

If we were to select two dominant themes of discussion in the world and the church today, no doubt the current breakdown of the home and the work of the Holy Spirit would rank high. At first glance these two topics seem to be picked at random but actually there is a very close relationship between the two. The Bible reminds us that “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1a). This verse unites the two themes of Holy Spirit (the Lord) and home. How does the Lord build homes? He does it through His Holy Spirit who works in the lives of husbands and wives, father, mothers, and children, transforming “houses” into homes where love dwells.

Thousands of parents are struggling with their parental task in the home today. Many ignore or resist the power which is not only available to them, but indispensable as well, the power of the Spirit.

Other parents seek spiritual help not in God’s Word, but in emotional experiences which eventually produce only exhaustion and a spiritual vacuum. They neglect God’s prescribed way of seeking His presence—the way of prevailing prayer by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26).

Then there are still others who because of their background of Christian training, acknowledge the efficacy of prayer intellectually, but have never felt its power, and that for one or more of several reasons:

1. Many pray with anemic faith—not really claiming the promises of God which say:

– “Seek and you SHALL find.”

– “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I WILL answer.”

– “Knock and it SHALL be opened unto you.”

2. Many begin to neglect the gift of prayer—praying only at customary times of prayer out of habit, or not praying at all-wondering all the while why God’s presence seems so remote, why His blessings are so sparse, why their lives are so joyless and void of abiding peace. The verse “Ye have not because ye ask not” becomes a stark reality in their lives. Without a doubt, it is this kind of habitual prayer without power, which is turning many young people away from the “faith of their fathers.” They do not see that faith “live” in the lives of their parents. They do not observe the hearts of their parents “beat high with joy whenever they hear that glorious Word” as the beloved old hymn states it. Even a child understands that, although there is an electric socket in the wall, one cannot receive the benefit of its power unless he “plugs in” a lamp, a fry pan, a washer, dryer. And yet, many adults wonder why their lives are so devoid of spiritual power, when they never really “plug in,” never really pursue the avenue of intense, prevailing prayer.

3. Then too, many people confess they feel no real communion and fellowship with God in prayer, and the reason is not hard to find, Prayer for them has become a mere repetition of the same words, the same petitions, they have heard and repeated for years. There is no freshness, no spontaneity about it—no intimate talking with God as friend with Friend, Can you imagine two people in love charming each other day after day with the same old cliches, the same old expressions of adoration, the same abstract discussions of worn-out topics, the same confessions of weaknesses followed by no attempts to change? Any relationship of love, whether it be between marriage partners, close friends, or parents and children, thrives on warmth, variety spontaneity, and mutual sharing of the noblest ambitions and deepest recesses of the joy or sorrow of one’s heart. Should it be any less with God? Should we withhold from the infinite what we reveal to the finite? Should we come to Him each day with the monotony of worn-out phrases? When we “behold the heavens, the works of His hands, the moon and the stars which He has made,” can we restrain our lips from shouting His praise? Do we have any happiness which He has not given and for which we should not thank Him? Have we any burden so oppressive that He cannot bear? Have we any sin so grievous that He cannot forgive? Have any of us sunk so low that He cannot restore? Have we any family problem too knotty that He cannot unravel it? Is there any secret we can hide from Him? No . . . “before Him no creature is hidden but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:13–16).

The promise which the Lord gives to the homes, to the country, to the schools which thus return to Him in prayer is this: “If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chron. 7:14). “And it shall come to pass that before they call I will answer and while they are speaking, I will hear” (Jer. 33:3). What a God! What a heavenly Father!

Homes are breaking up and countless numbers of young people are forsaking the ways of God. The nation and the world is in crisis, crippled and powerless to help itself, either by elaborate promotional programs or liberalized legislation.

There is only one way out of this maze and that is through the power of tire Holy Spirit available to those who seek Him in prayer.

1. Our prayer as parents should begin where the Word instructs us to begin: “Seek ye first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Our very first concern in life and in prayer must be to pray for the victory of God’s cause in this world in every sphere of life. Christ teaches this very plainly in the very structure of the Lord’s Prayer which begins with the interests of God—His hallowed name, His coming Kingdom, His will. It ends with the needs of man bread, forgiveness, help in temptation, and deliverance from evil, all necessary and vital petitions, but secondary to the glory of God.

2. We move on in our prayer and pray for ourselves and our role in the promotion of God’s Kingdom here on earth. And in our specific task as parents we plead with God to equip us for that tremendous responsibility—to impart wisdom, enlarge our understanding, mold our will, extend our patience, sharpen our discipline, loosen our tongues to witness audibly for Him—all in order to be radiant examples of the indwelling Christ, for our children and others to see, “living epistles” written by the finger of God so that others will observe and be impelled to ask the reason “for the hope which [obviously] dwells in us.”

3. Having received assurance from God that He will actually mold us into “fit vessels,” we way for our children, each one individually. We pray for their specific, personal physical, spiritual needs, for their future—their vocation, their life’s partner, for the preservation from evil. We pray for “open doors” of opportunity to minister to them spiritually and we pray for “open hearts” to receive such ministry.

4. Having been strengthened in our “inner closet” and assured of God’s help, we venture forth to pray with 0ur children daily, no age excluded. When discipline problems arise, we carefully point out to the children from the Scriptures where they err and pray together to God for His forgiveness for their sin. Together we bring our praise to God. Together we lay before Him our needs, the needs of the Church, the needs of the school, the needs of others. Together we confess our sins and together we bring our thanks to God in words which spring from our hearts, not only our habits.

The old adage, “The family that prays together stays together,” is still true and in it is contained the secret of a strong home and a powerful country. May God equip us for our noble and solemn task!