Praying for Your ChildrenJanuary 7, 2009
Hear time-tested principles for praying for your children from international evangelist Sammy Tippit.
Hear time-tested principles for praying for your children from international evangelist Sammy Tippit.
Praying for Your Children
Sammy: One of the great mistakes that Christian parents make is that we think we own our children. They are ours, and they're going to do what we want them to do. But you know what? We don't own them. We are managers. In fact, the Bible, when it talks about leadership, Christian leadership, it talks about being a good manager of your household – not an owner of your household.
So the first principle is to get out of ownership and get into management, and part of being a good manager is giving it back to the owner.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 7th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll talk about how praying for your children can make you a better parent on today's edition of our program. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Before we introduce our guest today, it is Day 3 of our 40-day Love Dare. We are following through the book, "The Love Dare," that was a part of the movie, "Fireproof," that was out in theaters back in the fall, and we thought between now and Valentine's Day we ought to get an assignment each day and love like you mean it.
So we're handing out your Love Dare assignment for Day 3 of the Love Dare. Romans 12:10 says "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor," and that's the theme verse for today's Love Dare. Love is not selfish, so your assignment for today, whatever you put your time, energy and money into is what will become more important to you. So along with restraining your negative comments, you should buy your spouse something today that says "I was thinking of you."
It doesn't have to be expensive, but your assignment for the day is to find something nice that you can take to your spouse that just says, "I was thinking about you" – and an act of unselfishness. Okay? You got the assignment? If you want to follow along in the book, "The Love Dare," they are available from us at FamilyLifeToday.com. We post the assignments there each day as well, so if you miss the beginning of the program each day you can go online to get your assignment at FamilyLifeToday.com and follow us all the way up to Valentine's Day as we take the Love Dare together.
Now, today we're going to talk about praying for your children and for your grandchildren, and I'm just curious, Dennis, as you look back on raising your children and they are all adults now – five of six of the kids are married, they're all young adults. What kind of grade would you give to you and Barbara for how you prayed for your kids?
Dennis: [chuckles] We would probably get a 4 or 5 on a 10-point scale.
Bob: Okay, that's a pretty low score.
Dennis: Uh-huh. If I had something that I could do over again – there aren't many things – you've heard me talk about this here on our broadcast – I wish we had been a little more intentional about looking forward to the future and investing in their lives through these intercessory investments – going to the throne on behalf of them and pleading their case.
Bob: I know, for Mary Ann and me, probably more for me than for Mary Ann – I think she's been more diligent and faithful as an intercessor for our children than I have been. For me, it's been more when there are challenges or struggles or crises or issues – that will drive me to prayer. If things are going along okay, I can tend to let it slide.
Dennis: So what kind of score would you give yourself? You're not going to do that to me without – and just so our guest knows, Sammy Tippit …
Bob: You're going to ask him the same question?
Dennis: I'm going to come to you, Sammy, and find out, and there are a few people listening out in the peanut gallery out there, we're going to ask you how you're doing, too. No, we're not.
Bob: I would have to say that I'm much like you. I would look at – I don't know what score I'd give myself, but I'd look at where I've been and say I could have done a lot better.
Dennis: And Sammy?
Sammy: I give myself a minus 3, and my wife a plus 13, so we come out pretty good.
Dennis: There you go. That's a real diplomat. Well, we have been having a conversation here with Sammy Tippit. Sammy is an evangelist, has authored more than a dozen books including the bestseller, "The Prayer Factor," and he's authored a new book called "Praying For Your Family," that your book has a number of principles in it that you just encourage parents – this first one is about dedicating your children to the Lord?
Sammy: Yes, and I think this is a basic, fundamental thing that your children come from God. So many times, I think that one of the great mistakes that Christian parents make is that we think we own our children. They are ours, and they're going to do what we want them to do – and we don't own them. We are managers.
In fact, the Bible talks about leadership, Christian leadership, it talks about being a good manager of your household, not an owner of your household. So the first principle is to get out of ownership and get into management and part of being a good manager is giving it back to the owner.
And so you dedicate them to the Lord. With both of our children, before they were born, we dedicated them to the Lord, and it's given us great assurance. Now, I know there are parents out there that say, "Well, Sammy, my kids are 40 years old, and I didn't do that." Well, you can now. You know, you start off right where you're at, and God – the beautiful thing about God is God is able to take you and your situation and your circumstances right where you are. You start giving those children to God, and God will do things that you can't do. It may happen soon, it may happen later, but He will do it, and so the first thing is you've got to really turn them over to the Lord.
And to be honest with you, for me, that was hard to maintain that position when our kids went away to college.
Dennis: When you talked about that, your hands were lifted upward, your hands were open, so you weren't clutching …
Sammy: That's right.
Dennis: You were letting go, like Hannah did with Samuel. She lent him to the Lord, she gave him back to God.
Sammy: That's right. And, you know, when my son graduated from high school, he and I began to clash. I mean, we were – and I knew – what's wrong here? I mean, we've had this great relationship as a father and son, and so I said, "Let's go get a Coke." We went and got a Coke, and I said, "What's wrong? What's wrong with you? Why – I mean – I can't say anything right. What's the deal here?"
He said, "Dad, let me go, let me go." And I – I walked away from that conversation, and the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "He's right. You need to let him go, and you need to let me take you down." And I had done that when he was a small child, but then when he got older and started making some decisions that I thought weren't the right decisions, I said, "It's time for me to take him back. I'll straighten this thing out," and God said, "No, you've got to let him go."
I let him go, gave him back to the Lord, and he made worse decisions. But you know what? God had a way of doing that, and I can tell you that right now, three days after this broadcast, he is getting on a plane and going to Sudan – to a war-torn country to minister to students in Sudan.
And so letting go is a hard thing, it's a risk involved, but when you dedicate them to the Lord – that's what I'm talking about, not just this little religious deal that you do at church. I'm talking – and it can happen at church, but I'm talking about something that's much broader than that, I'm talking about a heart issue where you really give your children to the Lord and say, "Lord, they belong to you, and I'm trusting you with my kids," and by faith you put them in His hands.
Dennis: Don't you think this is a repeated dedication that a parent has to do over and over and over again? It's not just a one-time dedication – at least not for this parent.
Sammy: Right, and that's why I said, I dedicated our children when they were still in their mother's womb. We laid hands on her womb and prayed and dedicated them to the Lord. But then, you know, I had a major dedication to go through when he went away to college, when our son did. So this is something you have to do over and over.
I think probably the issue here for us is control, and probably the thing that helped me the most was that my mother and my relationship – she wanted to control me, she wanted me to be this, and I knew that and recognized that, and that helped me to understand, Sammy, if you want to have a relationship in the future with your children, you can't control them. They are their own people. You've got to let go of them. But there's a difference here in just letting go and giving them to God.
Bob: There is an irony that, at age 18, your mother said, "Get out," and at age 18, your son said, "Let go."
Sammy: That's right, and I think it's something that all parents go through, and if we don't have that faith, that's where our prayer life, where we can go to God, and I went to God and said, "God, you know, I’m going to blow this thing. I'm going to mess it up, but I've got You to turn to."
Bob: That's right.
Sammy: And so he's going away to college, he's going to do some things, and I know he's going to get in trouble, but, Lord, I'm trusting You. And God was faithful, God was faithful to ultimately bring him back to that place of surrender to himself.
Bob: Let me ask you a hypothetical question, because your son is involved in ministry, you've been passionately involved in ministry since you were converted at age 18. If your son had grown up and gone to work as a CPA in some corporation and was going to church and in a Bible study and sharing his faith but was working as a CPA, would you be disappointed?
Sammy: No, and I tell you what, I can honestly say that because when he graduated from school, what I did, he graduated with a degree in international business and entrepreneurship at Baylor, and when he graduated from there, I took him to six businessmen and had breakfast with them on different days and said, "These are guys who love Jesus and have a ministry with their business, and I just want you to hear their hearts."
To me, the ministry, the kind of ministry, it didn't matter, I believe that all of us have a ministry. I believe God wanted to use him in ministry, but it didn't have to look like mine.
Sammy: And so I believe the guy out there in the business community has as much of a ministry as I have as an evangelist, and so that's my theological sort of underpinnings for that, and so I didn't have any problem – I wouldn't have a problem with that.
Bob: Well, I ask the question because one of the things that you coach parents to pray about is that God is going to do through your children what God wants to do through your children, not necessarily what you want God to do through your children.
Sammy: And this is part of the principle that I have shared in the book that I think is so important. You need to pray according to biblical principles. I find, for me, anyway, the prayers that God answers are the ones that are biblical prayers, and by biblical prayers, I'm talking about that are in accordance with the Word of God.
This is a the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, we know that He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, we know we have the petitions we've desired of Him. So the key is finding out what is God's will?
Now, whether my son is to be an evangelist or a youth minister or a CPA, I don't know. I have a hard time figuring that out for myself, but I do know some things about what God's will for him is. It is God's will that he would love the Lord God with all of his heart, all of his mind, all of his soul. So what I do is I took that principle and I said, "God, whatever it is that you want him doing in ministry is fine with me but, Lord, would you work in his heart, do that deep spiritual work to cause him to love You with all of his mind, all of his soul, and I can be confident that God is hearing that prayer. And I can be confident that God is going to answer it because God told me that that was His will for my son and for all of us. So I prayed it.
I can pray that it's God's will for my children to come to Christ. It is God's will that none should perish but all should come to repentance. Now, this is not what I call a "name it and claim it" theology. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about claiming what God has said He will do.
Bob: Well, let me ask you about that, because there are a lot of parents praying for their children to come to faith. They haven't seen it happen, and in some cases it doesn't happen. So if God's Word says that He wants all to come to repentance, we claim that, we pray that promise, and it doesn't happen, what do we think?
Sammy: Well, I think my grandmother would have been in that position because she prayed for my dad, and when she died, my dad went away to war, and she didn't see the answer to a prayer. Twenty-five years later, God saved my dad. Did God not answer her prayers? No, God was going to do what He was going to do in a way in which was totally different, probably, from what she expected or anticipated, but she, I believe, had this great confidence in her heart that God was going to do what He wanted to do; that He was sovereign, and I think that's where the sovereignty of God and the will of man come together. The will of man is our part, the faith part.
Sammy: The sovereignty of God is I don't see it, I don't understand it, I don't know what's happening but, Lord, I'm trusting that you are in control. And I think those two things have to come together, and I think there is something about prayer that we have to keep before us all the time, and that is that prayer is a great mystery. We can have confidence in the Word, stand on the Word, claim the promise of His Word, but don't try to put God in a box where it looks just like we think it has to look.
I tell you, I saw, with my son, this was more of a trial-and-error principle for us than anything, because when our son went away to college and walked away from the Lord, you know, we were out there, and we said, "How do we pray? What do we do?" And the one thing God kept bringing to my heart was "Pray for circumstances, pray for people," and after he got right with the Lord and came back to the Lord, he told me a lot of things that happened that he never told me back then, and he probably hasn't told me all of them yet.
But, anyway, he told me a lot of things that took place, but one of the things that happened was he and his buddies went out to play basketball. And after they played basketball, they went to a coffee shop and sat down to drink coffee and, you know, having a good time, and this little waitress comes up to them, and these four big strapping guys, and says – she takes the order, and she says, "I want to ask you guys a question." And they said, "What?" And she says, "If you were to die right now, do you have the assurance you'd go to heaven?"
You know, the guys were all "Whoa, whoa, wait a minute, what are you talking about?"
Bob: "What coffee shop did we walk into here?"
Sammy: Right – and, of course, my son knew exactly what was happening, because he'd grown up in a home that's very evangelistic, and the Lord began to speak to his heart. And every time he would turn around, something like that would take place. He would go away, and the Lord would have someone come and knock on his door, and he just couldn't get away from it. And what the circumstances that just really ultimately brought it together was my wife and I went to Cuba to minister. We were ministering in Cuba. There's not a whole bunch you can do for your kids when you're in Cuba.
So we were there ministering, we came back. Our son was supposed to be starting a business in Romania; he was supposed to be in Romania when we got back. When we arrived, he was at the airport. I said, "What are you doing here?" And he said, "Well, the financing fell through." I said, "Oh, man, I'm sorry to hear that." He said, "No, it's okay." He said, "My high school sweetheart" that he had, who broke up with him whenever he got away from the Lord, wouldn't have anything to do with him, called him the day that the financing fell through, and it was like his whole world just collapsed – she called him and said, "Hey, Dave, I was praying this morning, and you were on my heart, and I want you to come and visit this discipleship school I'm going to."
And so he got in his car, went up there, and he looked at us and said, "I believe God wants me to go to that school." And my wife at first said, "Wait, you've got – I mean – you've been out of college. You've got to make some money."
And I said, "Whoa, whoa, let's hang on here. Maybe this is the circumstance we've been praying for" – and it was. He went up there, and God just did a housecleaning on him. I mean, there was a lot of junk he picked up in college that needed to come out, and God just – and I had nothing to do with it, you know, and that was the beautiful thing is that God orchestrated – the circumstances that God brought up, the work that was done was a whole lot better than what Daddy could do. And, I mean, God just did this deep, deep work of revival, of cleaning, of purifying, of getting his focus on Jesus during those days, and it has lasted until this day.
Bob: Did he marry the girl?
Sammy: He married the girl. Oh, and, by the way, that is another principle that we talk about – one of the first things that we – my wife and I started praying, even when they were still in their mother's womb, we prayed that God would bring across their path the person that He had for them to marry. And I can report to you, God has answered that prayer. I like to say that my children have most of their mother's characteristics – all the good characteristics are from their mother. They did get one good characteristic from me, and that is that they married over their head.
Dennis: You know, Sammy, you have exhorted us this week to persevere in prayer and to just keep on lifting our children, our grandchildren, even the grandchildren yet to be born, three, four, five, six generations in the future, and pray for the legacy that we are going to leave to future generations. And I just appreciate you doing it, because in my own Christian life experience, really, there has nothing been more challenging than this subject right here. And some of it around prayer, the very thing you've talked about repeatedly, prayer that has gone seemingly unanswered. I know that has bothered you from time to time. You have had to work through it where you have prayed over and over and over again. How have you worked through that?
Sammy: I think the two biggest things for me have been to pray with a sense of intimacy with God. When I pray, I'm not coming to pray for my kids or my grandkids because I know that's right, I need to do it, it's an obligation, it's a duty, and if it doesn't happen the way I think it's going to happen, then I'm not successful. That's not what prayer is. In other words, that's a works-oriented type of praying.
I think we need to see prayer as intimacy with God – coming into having fellowship with Him. Then out of that intimacy with Him, I began to pray for my children. Out of that love relationship with Him, I pray for my children, my grandchildren, and then what happens is there is a sense of His grace, of His peace, that covers me when it doesn't all add up; when it doesn't fit, and the pieces don't seem to be coming together.
Beyond all of that is a peace that, as the Bible describes, "passes all understanding." I can't understand this, this doesn't look like what I prayed for, but because I've had intimacy with Him, there is a peace that God envelopes me with that enables me to keep on and to persevere and to not lose heart and to not give up.
Dennis: Yeah, I think that's a great answer, because many times when I've prayed in the past, I know I think what would be best in the circumstance that my children are facing or somebody that I care about is going through, and I've got that outcome all figured out.
Dennis: And, as you've said many times here, prayer is a mystery and certainly the work of God, what He does on this planet. He is God, and we are not. We do not know what He is up to in the midst of circumstances that don't make any human sense, and yet we go back to the Scriptures, and we cling. You've used a term this week in terms of leaning and pressing into, walking with God, being intimate with Him and developing His heart, His mind, so you're not second-guessing God and second-guessing what He is up to, and I just – I want to thank you for your life and your ministry of writing about prayer and for exhorting us to pray for our families, because I think, Sammy, I'm with you that families today, more than ever, need to pray for their loved ones, for their future legacy.
Sammy: And, you know, I would say that God is so good, and He's given us so many wonderful principles to show us how to live with our families, and we need – none of this excludes those principles. We need to live according to those principles as He's laid down His Word with our families. Yet underneath all of those principles is a spiritual battle, and I think we need to realize there is a spiritual battle taking place for our children and for our grandchildren, and we need to stand in the gap for them. That's why I have this heart to issue this call in this country because I believe we can take this generation back and the next generation and the future generations back for Jesus Christ.
Bob: Well, and you have equipped us, as parents, to play that strategic important role – to pray more effectively for this generation and the next generation in the book that you've written called "Praying for Your Family – An Eternal Legacy," and it's one of the books on prayer that we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Let me encourage our listeners to go to FamilyLifeToday.com and right there you'll see a listing of a number of resources designed to help you, as a mom, as a dad, as a couple, to pray more effectively for your children and your children's children and the generations to come.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call for more information about the resources that are available – 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-3580-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and there will be someone on our team who can let you know about all of the resources that are available and let you know how you can have the ones you need sent to you.
And I want to say a quick word, if I can, Dennis, to the listeners who, during the last several weeks contacted us and made year-end contributions to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We want you to know that we appreciate your financial support, and we know that, for some of you, those contributions were really sacrificial, and we don't take that lightly. We so much appreciate your partnership with us. Your support is critical for the ongoing work of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Let me say to those of you who may be able to help us with a donation this month – we have a special thank you gift we'd like to send you. It's a 365-day devotional, a hardback book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey called "Moments With You," designed to help couples come together, reflect on the Scriptures, talk about your marriage and your family and to pray together each day.
If you'd like to receive a copy of this book, all you have to do is make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and if you do that online, you will find a keycode box on the donation form. Just type the word "moments" into that keycode box, and we'll be sure to send the book out to you. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation by telephone and request a copy of the devotional for couples, the book, "Moments With You," by Dennis and Barbara Rainey and, again, let me say thanks for your financial support of this ministry.
Well, tomorrow we're going to take some time to consider God's original plan for marriage. We'll go back to Genesis, chapter 2, and Dr. Crawford Loritts is going to help us see what God had in mind for husbands and wives all the way back at the beginning. We'll hear a message from a recent FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference on tomorrow's edition of FamilyLife Today, and I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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