Written by Micah Joy | ChattHOP Staff
Parenting has transformed my prayer life in ways I never expected. And not really in a ways that are glamourous or spiritual… but rather often pretty messy. When I was young I read stories of Susanna Wesley who had 19 children. It’s said that she would kneel throughout the day with her apron over her head to pray. When I read that story in my younger years, I had this image of a woman of piety, dignity, and devotion. I realize now, those prayers must have come from moments of desperation for Susanna which led her to her knees! And THAT desperation I have felt innumerable times. My prayer life often consists of a mere utterance under my breath: “help!”
I'm a single mom. I feel as though I have lived at a level of general parental desperation over the last six years that might be a little more intense than your average joe… but, like in the game of golf, everyone has their handicap, and parents parent from their various places of strengths and weaknesses. But we all have one thing in common: we all feel our acute need with the challenge of parenting and the ways we feel we fall short, being our own worst critic. My particular parenting handicap has driven me to feeling leveled, defeated, incredibly incapable of success, and at times, fearful of the future. But it’s in this place that I have heard an invitation from the Lord… to parent with the Holy Spirit! This is an invitation for every parent.
There was one dark night a few years ago where I found myself incredibly desperate. It was late, and my daughter would not go to sleep. Not only would she not go to sleep, but she was screaming. Not only was she screaming, but she was flailing around, so much that she could have hurt herself. I had nothing left for her, I had nothing left in myself, I was in the midst of a season that was awful. There was no reserve of sanity anywhere. And I cried out to the Lord for help. He came in to the desperate situation, I felt this gentle impression that I needed to lay on my child just enough so that she couldn’t move, but not so much that it would take her breath away. And so, she calmed down and went to sleep.
I have had so many moments like this, where He just whispers the key. He then shows me what I might need to change or incorporate into our regular day to day life. The Bible teaches us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (1 Pet 1:3), and since the word everything is used, I’m assuming that means in parenting! He has said that His grace is sufficient and that His power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor 12:19) — so since He’s said that in His word, I’m going ahead and accepting that His power must be perfected in all of the weak moments I find myself in as a mother.
Millions of times I've messed up. I've caused my daughter's little heart that fears rejection to retaliate in ugly ways because I lost my temper and brought out the worst in her. It’s in this painful place that I have the opportunity to beat myself up again and “try harder next time” or to invite the gospel into the moment. How my child sees me confess my sin and my need for Jesus when I mess up will show her that she can do the same, and we can invite the loving, healing power of the Holy Spirit to cover the both of us in that moment.
For a few months last year, my daughter kept coming home from school upset, and I felt the overwhelming weight of responsibility to figure out why. Is it a scholastic problem? Is it a mental problem? Is it an emotional problem? Is it a social problem? Is it a school problem? Is it an academic problem? Lord...have mercy....!! (See? There’s more prayer happening! Yay!) But in this journey, I was reminded by the Lord that HE is the one who has knit her together, who gave design to her and searches her heart and mind day by day and knows exactly what she needs.
I’m learning that often there’s a still small voice inside, a gut feeling, an impression about what my child needs when I’m faced with day to day decisions. When it is an emotional problem, He knows. When it is a physical problem, He knows. When her heart is hurting and she’s outworking it by throwing a really weird tantrum over something trivial, He knows there’s something deeper. It is the Holy Spirit who has the keys; whether it be how to discipline in the moment, to bring the truth, to give a loving hug, to change courses, whatever it may be. He knows what are the deep emotions of my child’s heart, what are her deepest needs and hurts, what are the words of life that need to be spoken, what are the paths for her future of skill and calling, etc.
I want to encourage you to be courageous and watch and listen for the voice of the Lord. There are times when it may go against what you think is best, or against what the culture thinks is best. There are certain movies that everyone has seen, but when I feel a check or a red light, I want to be sensitive. Because what if the Lord knows that it might not be helpful for my child’s heart, and He is helping me to shepherd her and nurture her? Every heart has different needs, different areas of vulnerability and ability to cope with different situations. God knows every heart! I sure don’t!
The Lord has shown His heart all through scripture and through all of time, with the heart of a father and the comfort of a mother. He invites us to receive that love that He gives and to parent with Him so that our children grow up in that love. My daughter doesn’t let a day go by without making sure I pray over her that she would be “rooted and grounded in God’s love.” That prayer means everything to us, because His love is everything. There’s an invitation to a rich Kingdom life, a life of prayer and dialogue with God as we enjoy the family that God has intended for the church to be.