I have the habit of asking women I admire how they handle various situations. For a long time, I’d ask different moms of older children how they spent time in the Bible when they had little kids. I got suggestions from keeping Bible verses on index cards throughout the house, to getting up early, to the old story of throwing an apron over your head and just praying while the kids are being kids.
A couple of years ago, I started asking a different question. How do you deal with adolescence? Maybe not just the age, but how do you deal with disrespect in your home? How do you reach the heart of your child? How do you handle eye rolls and attitudes? Am I overreacting? Am I underreacting? Does this really matter? I’m trying. I’m exhausted. I don’t know if anything I’m doing is working.
One of the moms I was interrogating was a lovely woman who was from out of town. Debra came to a church function, and we hit it off right away, and I was very sad to find out she wasn’t going to be my neighbor, and let me walk into her kitchen for a cup of tea on a daily basis and glean as much wisdom as I could. I started asking her about heart issues, and how she handled them.
She shared with me her prayer journal system. I loved the idea so much I immediately tried it. It has worked wonders, not only in my kids’ hearts, but surprisingly, a ton in my own heart.
Here’s what you need:
You get a notebook for each kid. This notebook can be a cheap spiral school notebook, or an elegant journal. It doesn’t matter. (I use these.) You don’t want to keep all your kids in the same notebook, for a reason that will become apparent in a minute.
You want a Scripture index of some sort, but the one she used, and I used was Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. (Since then, I’ve also gotten “Praying the Scriptures for Your Teenagers” by the same author and Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore but the first one is my most used. Actually, I’m on my 3rd copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children because I keep giving mine away.
I’ll admit, all 3 of those books have devotionals and chapters in them, and I haven’t used those aspects of the book much at all yet. I simply use their Scripture references.
Here’s what you do:
Start slow, and just pick one verse the first day for each child. Page through the reference. Think back to areas where you are struggling in getting through to that child, and look it up. Write that verse down in that child’s journal, with their name inserted, like this:
“Let ___________ know that she belongs to you and that her heart can be at rest in your presence. When her heart tries to condemn her, remind her of this truth: you are greater than our hearts, and you know everything. (1 John 3:19-20)
These books are filled with verses with blanks, and references, which I fill in when I write out in the notebooks. For awhile when I was starting, I tried to write out a verse a day for each child. Pretty soon I started just reading through the prayers, and praying them aloud or silently, on a daily basis. Now some of my kids have many pages of prayers, and so I will just pick a page and pray that page. If I’m really going through a rough spot with that child, I’ll dedicate some more time to really read through their whole journal.
One of the things that my friend, Debra, said was that if her child was really going through a season of hardness, or she was really struggling to get through to that child, she would set up her kid in her prayer space. Not as a punishment, but just as a reset. She leaves them in the spot in the house where she prays through the journals, and she hands the child their journal to sit and read through. (This is why you keep the kids separate, so that they aren’t getting into each other’s journals.)
She said that every single time, she would come back and check on her kids, and there would be tears in their eyes, and repentance on their lips. They were just smacked over with grace, knowing that their mother and God want all of these good things for them, and talk about them daily in these terms. I have had to do this a few times with one of my kids, and I’ve had the exact same response. Tears, hugs, I’m sorry. There’s something about reading your mom’s prayer journal for you…not full of emotion and anger and frustration, but Scripture prayed over them like an anointing.
The other benefit I have found has been very personal. It has opened up my eyes to God working in my kids’ lives. While I am the one speaking the words to God, the words I am speaking are from God’s Word to me, and it’s almost like he is ministering to me by sharing with me what he’s actually doing in their hearts behind the scenes, and out of my view. He’s letting me in on his plan. It has changed my anxiety and stress over parenting. It fills me with hope, and helps me settle down. Somehow, the Holy Spirit has taken this time with the Word and turned it into a conversation. I was praying all of this for them, and God flipped it around and blessed me.
I love this system so much that I extended my notebook collection and I have a prayer book for the couple of women that I mentor. It’s a great way to pray for those God has placed on your heart, in a way that points you back to the work that God is doing.