The First Thing I Want You To Do


My girl clambered into the minivan after school, heavy backpack on her shoulders, heavy thoughts in her heart.

She waited for my daily question, “How was your day?”

And then she spilled the news about “this boy in my class.”

“This boy” was loud and disruptive and didn’t follow the rules.  He cost them rewards in art class and never obeyed the teacher.  He did inappropriate things and wouldn’t stay in line.

She finished her story, pronounced a loud “harumph” and slammed her arms criss-cross around her chest in a sign of definitive anger.

So many of our conversations take place this way, me angling the rear-view mirror to see faces, shouting back Mom-ly words of wisdom from the driver’s seat.

The minivan is prime time for deep conversations.

“You know what we need to do,” I hollered to the back seat.  “We need to pray for him and for your teacher.”

I expected her to shrug off my advice as impractical and unhelpful, no immediate solution and no personal satisfaction guaranteed.

But she didn’t.

I watched as her eyes brightened and as she lifted her face so her eyes met mine in the mirror.  She nodded in wholehearted agreement.

Later, snuggled together on our overstuffed blue couch, I prayed for “this boy” and for their teacher and when I was through, this child of mine–who finds kisses too embarrassing and declines to even hug much of the time–tossed her arms without reservation.

We parents, grandparents, teachers and leaders show our children how to pray.  We begin with bowed heads over scraped knees and boo-boos on fingers.

We seek forgiveness for wrongs and take difficult situations to God.

And then we begin to pray for others, turning their hearts outward in ministry and compassion.

But it all begins with us, modeling the habit and discipline of “take it to the Lord in prayer.”  It’s bringing Jesus right there into the center of our everyday.

As Paul wrote,

“The first thing I want you to do is pray.  Pray every way you know how for everyone you know” (1 Timothy 2:1 MSG).

The first thing we do is drop to our knees, not after consultations, Google-searches, strategies, all-night worrying sessions, and Facebook posts.  Pray first.

Perhaps God had been preparing me for that moment in the car because I’d been on my knees consistently for weeks over my girl.

Please God show me how to be the Mom she needs me to be, how to encourage her, love her, shepherd her heart, discipline her, and protect her.

In life and in parenting, we can read books, seek counsel, collect advice, listen to sermons, and Google search to our hearts content.

All that might be helpful and good, but what we need to do first and what we need to do most is pray.


Maybe God draws us to pray for our kids so that they’ll see us and learn how to bring His presence into the midst of all situations.  They’ll see our faith practiced in the everyday situations and learn to talk about life and God—-not life or God and never the twain shall meet.

Yes, this is more than Sunday morning belief or pew-sitting faith.  This is down and dirty life with God at our side, available to help us in every situation, to give us wisdom, strengthen our hearts, teach us to obey and discipline our desires.

We pray for our children because we love them and want the best for them.

But we also pray for them so that they learn to pray…so that when they encounter “this boy,” they know they can carry his case to God.

And when their friend is hurt by teasing, they’ll give a hug, say a kind word, and petition God on her behalf.

When they don’t know what to do, they whisper to God a request for help and follow His lead.

When life is hard, when situations are uncertain, when they feel afraid, when a friend loses a mom or they see someone with cancer, our kids need to know exactly what to do.  They need to pray.

We pray first, pray about everything, pray every way we can, and pray for everyone we meet.