Christian parents have many reasons to thank to God for all the practical resources now available on parenting. We easily forget that biblically informed and cross-centered books, articles, and conferences have not been around forever.
But as I know from personal experience, this wealth of material at our fingertips can also subtly lead us to believe successful parenting is merely the accumulation of sound bite suggestions, reading the right material, and accurately putting all this into practice. Discernment and practice are critical, but even more essential to successful parenting is the active grace and power of our sovereign God. Like few other responsibilities, parenting reveals our human weaknesses and provides us with many opportunities for prayer.
In his new book A Praying Life, Paul Miller shares a number of personal stories in his growth in personal prayer including this one, which—if I’m honest—confronts my personal pattern of parenting. Miller writes,
When our kids were two, five, eight, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen, I wrote this in my prayer journal:
March 19, 1991. Amazing how when I don’t pray in the morning evil just floods into our home. I absolutely must pray! Oh, God, give me the grace to pray.
It took me seventeen years to realize I couldn’t parent on my own. It was not a great spiritual insight, just a realistic observation. If I didn’t pray deliberately and reflectively for members of my family by name every morning, they’d kill one another. I was incapable of getting inside their hearts. I was desperate. But even more, I couldn’t change my self-confident heart. My prayer journal reflects both my inability to change my kids and my inability to change my self-confidence. That’s why I need grace even to pray…
It didn’t take me long to realize that I did my best parenting by prayer, I began to speak less to the kids and more to God. It was actually quite relaxing.
—Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life (NavPress 2009) pp. 59-60.