“Suffer little children to come unto me” (detail) by Juan Urruchi

The Power of a Praying Parent series

“The Best Gift for Our Children is Praying for Them” by T. Thomas

Most of us would do anything for our kids, right? We give birth after hours of labor, sometimes without pain medication just so those kids will have “the best” start. We struggle through those early, sleepless weeks, tending to our babies’ every need, checking on the them five times a night putting our fingers by their noses or our hands on their little chests just so see if they are breathing.

We try to find the safest car seat, the most nutritious food, the best crib, blankets, clothes.  We sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure for these, our offspring.  As our children grow older, we research to find the best school (or maybe even decide to educate them ourselves). We schlep the children here and there, research best opportunities for their personal development and growth: soccer, baseball, piano lessons. Or maybe we deliberately decide to clear the plate of activities and bubble their childhood for the kind of experience we feel is best for them. Over time we don’t think twice despite inconvenience or hardship to meet with teachers, administrators, coaches, to team up and bring about the best experiences for our children. We read the parenting books to discipline with purpose, love, and with the kids’ best interests in mind. We try not to be too hands-on…or too hands-off. Finally, we discuss the goals and dreams, and colleges and eventually careers with them.

But are we doing the most important thing for our children?

How much are we praying for them?

If the spiritual life is as much if not more a reality than the physical life, the former lasting eternity after all, are we putting at least as much effort into our children’s spiritual development and welfare as we are for their physical? It’s something to think about.

When I ask if we are praying for our children, I don’t mean a quick end-of-day or first-thing-in-the-morning recitation of an Our Father, or a hasty Dear God please help them. We need to really intensely daily pray for each child. Pray without ceasing, as St. Paul implores. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Our catechism tells us that prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God to do four things:

  1. To adore God
  2. To thank Him
  3. To ask God’s forgiveness
  4. And to beg of God all the graces we and our loved ones need whether for soul or body.

When we pray for our children we are primarily doing the last thing, although we can also do the first three on our children’s behalf.

There are two kinds of prayer, mental prayer and vocal prayer.  Mental prayer is just that, thinking or meditating on God, the truths He has revealed, our specific needs, or “speaking” to Him through thoughts. Vocal prayers are often learned prayers such as the Hail Mary, Our Father, the St. Michael prayer, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or recitation of the Rosary. The Mass has components of both types of prayer and is the best prayer of all. We should develop and become conversant with God through both mental and vocal prayer.

We should pray:

  • With attention
  • With a sense of our own helplessness and dependence upon God
  • With a great desire for the graces we beg of God
  • With trust in God’s goodness
  • With perseverance. [1]

Prayer is not an exercise in vain repetition so we should not rush, vocally or mentally. If say more Our Fathers it does not mean we have a better chance of getting what we are asking of God. God is not a vending machine—put one coin in get one prize out. Put five coins in we get five prizes out. There is our and our child’s free will, our right disposition during prayer, and the mystery of God Himself which all comes into play.

We should focus on the quality of our prayers rather than the number of them. We should concentrate on each word and its meaning. One Our Father said deliberately, intentionally, intently can have more ‘meaning’ than many said of a distracted nature.

Also, we must realize God is omnipotent, able to do anything without us at all. He is a loving Father and we are his children. When we ask for help on behalf of another, it is like a little child asking his daddy for a favor for his friend. Surely the Father’s heart is softened by the request. We must come to Him like a child.

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Up Next in “The Power of a Praying Parent” series: How we should pray for our children…


[1] The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, No. 1, explained by Father Bennet, C.P.

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