I often get asked why I’m so passionate about prayer.
I mean, yes, prayer is important. Anyone who was raised in the church, like me, or who has been a Christian for more than a hot minute has heard of prayer and knows it’s something believers do for each other…but why do I seem to have more than just a passing fancy for the topic of prayer? I would love the opportunity to tell you.
I was raised to be successful, goal-oriented, and self-sufficient. I can remember sitting with my dad at a local restaurant writing down my hopes, dreams, and goals on a napkin, and then discussing what I was going to do to reach them. Stepping stones, my dad called them. It was all good to have a goal, but if I didn’t know how I was going to get there, a goal was all it would ever be. So much was this frame of mind ingrained in me that by the time I became pregnant with our first son, I had checked off every single item on my life goal list except one. The very fact that I was having a boy was another checkmark, because I had prayed years before asking God to give me boys. I wrote about it in my first book, Praying for Boys:
“I knew I wanted to raise men who would be different—respecters of women, lovers of God. Men who would work with their hands, take commitments seriously, and protect the least of these. Men who were warriors, protectors, worshipers, peacemakers, and friends…”
The only goal I had not been able to achieve, and still haven’t been able to achieve, was to earn a PhD. I took two classes toward that goal before getting pregnant with our firstborn, and then was so sick during the first trimester that I had to stop. I still hope to be able to check that last goal off someday!
So, with all of those goals fulfilled, you can imagine how easily I thought motherhood would come for me…how easily I thought I would be able to produce those men I dreamed of. Wrong. I like to say that motherhood kicked my feet out from under me in all the best ways. God literally used the season of early motherhood to strip me of me—my pride, my selfishness, my self-righteousness—and teach me to be filled with Him. And the way He did that was by teaching me to pray.
Here’s an excerpt from my latest book, Praying Mom:
When my two children were very young, the common challenges of motherhood often left me completely overwhelmed and sometimes even hopeless. It didn’t take long to realize that I did not possess the skills needed to be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I’m not talking about skills like changing a diaper or getting a child to sleep through the night (although there can be a learning curve there too). I lacked the spiritual skill set to combat the lies the enemy threw at me on a regular basis.
I didn’t know how to see the world through the lens of God’s Word instead of through the sticky lenses of my failures. I knew letting my emotions control my response to my kids wasn’t the answer, but I didn’t have the tools I needed to get them in line. Running away from the chaos—something I had a habit of doing—wasn’t the answer either, but I didn’t know how to get the strength I needed to press in.
But there was one thing I did know.
Many years prior to becoming a mom, I chose to follow Jesus, and I believed and had settled in my mind and heart that God’s Word—the Bible—was completely and absolutely true. I had decided to stake my life on it, so when the challenges of motherhood kicked my feet out from under me and left me desperate for help, I turned to the one person I knew I could count on: God. It seems simple, and it is. I just turned to the God I knew could help me. Honestly, I’m not sure why I didn’t invite Him into my mess sooner.
And so I began doing the only thing I could think of—praying and begging God to do something in my home. I didn’t really know how to pray that well. I had prayed throughout my life as a Christian, but mostly the “Lord, help me remember the answers to the questions on this exam,” or “Lord, keep them safe,” kind of prayers. Don’t get me wrong, those prayers are great. Learning to pray like that, to pray at all, was a fantastic training ground for the vibrant prayer life God would develop in me years later. But those prayers weren’t enough for the mothering season of my life—a season that stripped me of my pride and caused me to ask for help more often than anything else I’d ever done.
I needed something more.
So I began a practice that would change literally everything about my life—praying God’s Word back to Him.
The first time I prayed Scripture I was studying Ezekiel 36:26. I can’t remember why I was studying that section of Scripture, but I do remember that when I read those words, it was as if a bomb went off in my heart. I’ve described it in other books, but it helped me for the first time to have a biblically correct understanding of my role as a mother: God is the one who changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. I get to partner with Him in that process, but He’s the one who makes it happen. Period.
Before I even realized what was happening, I was praying “Lord, change their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh” on a regular basis. I wrote that verse on a sticky note and placed it outside the doors to my children’s rooms so I could remember to pray it every night before bed. I even began to ask the Lord to change my heart. Even though I’d been a believer for a long time, I was realizing that there were still lots of stony places that needed His softening touch.
The next verse or passage I remember having this effect on me was Numbers 6:24–26, which says, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (esv). I prayed this special prayer over my boys every night before bed, and even now, as young teenagers, they still ask for the Numbers 6 prayer before they go to sleep. I have prayed this prayer over them for more than thirteen years; it’s become a beautiful staple, creating a habit of prayer in our home, and I love it.
Over time, as I searched the Scriptures for more prayers to pray over my children, several noteworthy things began to happen.
Maybe the most important of those is the fact that I became more knowledgeable about the Bible itself. I grew up in church, I knew all the Bible stories from Sunday school, and I even had wonderful times with Jesus in His Word before the boys were born. But apart from a mandatory reading of the entire New Testament for a class in college, I had never really studied it in depth. Slowly, as I begged God to show me what to pray for my boys, He began to open my eyes so I could not only pray His Word but understand it for myself. I took the time to pause and reflect on things I didn’t quite understand, and I became invested in trying to see things God’s way. As I surrendered more and more to the truth I found there, that’s exactly what happened. Instead of focusing on the chaos and craziness of my circumstances, I began to see the world around me through the lens of the Bible, allowing it to interpret my life instead of my emotions.
I know now that what I experienced was the process of sanctification. That’s a big, churchy word that essentially means my life became more and more like Christ’s. Not perfect. Never perfect. Just better. As I began to apply the Scriptures to everyday things, I formed a theology for life built on God’s Word. My worldview became more biblical and less personal, and in the end, I looked much more like the mom I wanted to be in the beginning.
You can too.
Maybe now my passion for prayer is just a little bit more clear. Please believe me when I tell you that turning to God, and learning to pray His Word, is what kept me sane in one of the hardest seasons of my life. What I meant to be something that changed them, changed me. I don’t want to think about where we’d be if God hadn’t led me to that place. I am not the same person I was back then.
Prayer is my entire game plan for parenting…for life. As George Muller said, “The living God is my partner. I have not sufficient wisdom to meet these difficulties so as to be able to know what steps to take, but He is able to direct me.”
Here’s where the freedom comes. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING. You don’t have to hold it all together…don’t have to be wise enough, strong enough, smart enough, or have all the answers. God does. And when you partner with Him in prayer, He gives you everything you need.
Join me on this adventure of the prayerful life (because living this way IS an adventure).