Practicing Parents

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You: Praying for My Children

~by Jill Clingan

amelie jack easter

A couple of months ago I was talking to my mom about an essay I had written for my blog over at Grit magazine where I admitted that I prayed for my chickens. Here is an excerpt from that essay:

I know this is really silly—and I’m embarrassed to admit it—but each night when I lock the chickens in their coop, and every morning when I open the door and let them run, hop, and fly into our yard, I pray my own version of Numbers 6:24-26 to them:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
And may He give you peace
And keep you safe
And keep you healthy. 

I like to think that they enjoy listening to me whisper that prayer to them as they settle onto their roosts for the night.

I like to think that they feel a little more assured when I pronounce that blessing over them in the morning over the flutter of their anxious wings as they scurry out the coop door.

I like to think that God smiles a little bit when he hears this peculiar girl in Peculiar, Missouri praying for her chickens.

white polish chicken 1

When my mom was talking to me about what I wrote, she mentioned something about praying for my children, Amélie and Jack, like I prayed for my chickens. Later, I was thinking about our conversation, and I realized something rather horrifying:

I think I might pray for my chickens more than I pray for my children.

(I am super embarrassed to admit that just now.)

But I fear it’s true.

On the surface, my chickens seem to be in the most imminent danger. They are pretty low on the food chain and are prone to sudden and tragic death via bobcat or coyote or hawk.

My children are healthy and happy and are not in danger of falling prey to a bobcat or coyote or hawk. And truthfully, when I think about the dangers lurking out there that might snag them, I am more prone to panic then to pray.

But my children are my children. Sure, I love my chickens (some might argue that I love them a wee bit too much), but my children are my heart. When I look at my daughter and my son, my heart squeezes with a love that is both soft and fierce.

And these children that I love?

amelie and jack kiss

They need a mom who prays for them fervently.

I recently read Mark Batterson’s book Praying Circles around Your Children. I just wanted a little direction. I know how to pray, of course. And really, I do know how to pray for my kids. But praying for them seems like such an overwhelming undertaking somehow.

What if I mess up? What if I pray for the wrong thing? What if I miss praying for something really, really important?

And there is just so much that I feel responsible to pray for: that they would love and follow God, that they would have good friends, that they would live a life of love and meaning and purpose.

And then here’s the part of the prayer where I get stuck: that they would be protected from tragedy and sickness and fill-in-the-blank-with-all-of-the-gazillion-things-I-start-to-worry-about-when-I-start-praying-that-prayer.

I think that my problem with praying for my children is rooted in that crazy sentence above. When I start to pray, I start to worry. I start to worry that I’m going to forget to pray for something really, really important in their lives, and then that what I forgot to pray for will result in dire consequences.

I know God doesn’t work this way. Or my head knows that, anyway. My heart isn’t so sure. I know He’s not a genie in a bottle, for one thing. But I also know that he doesn’t sit up in heaven looking over His checklist to find the one thing I didn’t pray for that he can strike my child with: “Aha, Jill never prayed that I would protect her children while riding llamas on a random trip they took to Peru. Therefore, both of her children are going to fall off their llamas in the middle of a llama stampede and die.”

There are a lot of things wrong with that above image, I know. I seriously doubt we will be in Peru anytime soon—or ever. I am pretty sure only small children can ride on llamas. And I am almost definitely sure that llamas don’t stampede. But the real error in that imagined God monologue is that God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t need my Obsessive Compulsive heart to cover all of the bases, and He doesn’t have a sadistic wish to strike where I miss.

Batterson reframes my worry and puts it this way: “Prayer is the way we take our hands off and place our children in the hands of God” (20).

I just took a deep breath right there.

Because yes, it’s important to pray for my children—so important—but I don’t have to wrap my fingers tightly around all of my worries and imagine every single little scenario in their lives and pray through each one of those imagined (and always tragic) scenarios. Instead, I can un-pry my fingers from those worries and release my children in the hands of God.

What a responsibility, yes.

But also, what a relief.

So I’ve been praying more lately.

I’ve been spending more time turning off NPR and talking to God.

I’ve been finding a rhythm in prayer as I stand in the kitchen chopping and suatéing and simmering.

I’ve been sneaking into their bedroom at night, laying my hands on their precious heads, and blessing them with the same prayer I use to bless my chickens:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
And may He give you peace
And keep you safe
And keep you healthy.
Amen. 

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