On any given Sunday at Cities Church, before the call to worship has been offered and after its people have been commissioned, between collecting empty communion cups and instruments being packed away, you will find the children of Cities Church piling into the seats for worship, wiggling down the halls, playing during the children’s time, and consuming treats in the foyer. Children fill this place of worship week in and week out and we thank God that it is this way.
We have been richly blessed at Cities Church with an ever-increasing number of children—gifts from the Lord as the Bible calls them, not distractions. Sharp arrows in the hands of faithful parents, not burdens. They are an indispensible part of our church body and Jesus himself tells us to look at them, to welcome them, and more than that, to be like them (1 Cor. 12:22, Matt.18:3, 19:4).
As members of this church family, we have been given an incredible honor to know and intercede for the little ones God has entrusted to our care. We weren’t just given a front row seat to watch the lives of our children; we were given a jersey and told to get in the game with them. Their burdens become ours to bear, their sin becomes ours to discipline, their hearts become ours to encourage, their faith becomes ours to strengthen, and their triumphs become ours to rejoice in.
So how should we pray for these little ones? How should we steward this tremendous opportunity given to us at Cities Church?
For a long time, the prayer of Jesus in John 17 has been my guide in shaping and directing my prayers for my children. I remember some time after bringing my first child home from the hospital (and before the postpartum fog had fully lifted) the feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the work ahead of me to raise my son in the Lord. Who is sufficient for these things? Surely not the exhausted mom who just realized she has been wearing her clothes inside out all day?!
Jesus’s prayer for his disciples has given me words to express my desire for my children. Three prayers in particular have stood out to me over the years, and now I have the joy of extending these same prayers to the children at Cities Church:
1. That They Would Know the Only True God.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
The most important prayer we can pray for our children is that they would know the one, true living God. This prayer puts all other needs and requests in perspective. If given the choice of what we want most for the children at Cities Church, this is it. Over health, over wealth, over security, over education, over success- we desire that they would have eternal life.
2. That He Would Keep Them From the Evil One
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
We want our children to be brave sons and daughters in the kingdom of God, dangerous arrows in the battle against darkness and evil. We want the children at Cities Church to have fat souls, contagious joy, and bellies full of laughter at the days to come. We want our children to not fear anything that is frightening because the one who keeps them from all evil is faithful and will not turn from doing good to them (Ps. 127:4, Eph. 6:12, Prov. 31:25, 1 Peter 3:6, Jude 1:24, Jer. 32:40).
3. That He Would Set Them Apart
”Sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth.” *John 17:17)
And finally, we want our children to be set apart for God’s purposes, made holy to do his will. This is what the truth does: it takes our little ones and consecrates them for the advance of the gospel. We pray this in the hope that our sons and daughters prove to be our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
So Father, together with your Son, I pray for our children that you have given to us at Cities Church. I pray that they would know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I pray that You would not take them out of the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. And I ask that you would sanctify them in the truth, all so that the love with which you have loved your Son Jesus would also be in them. Amen.