Today’s guest post is written by Jen Costanzo. Jen lives in small-town Pennsylvania with her husband and 3 kids. Jen enjoys reading, writing & dabbling in graphic design. She loves supporting the body of Christ in her work as a church secretary and leads a local weekly Moms in Prayer group in her community.
As a parent, I have often been caught off-guard by the book of Proverbs. The wise writer’s words “My son,” stir a longing to speak into my own sons’ lives with such frankness. And of course, being a former schoolteacher, my first inclination is to develop some sort of curriculum that churns the instructions of Proverbs into a parade of crafts, memory verses and themed activity sheets.
Or you could pray
But then, quietly but persistently, comes the instinct to pray. More specifically, to pray the words of Proverbs for my children. And so I have. For the past year and a half, one verse each day has informed my prayers. Yes, starting with Proverbs chapter 1 verse 1, I am systematically praying through those same instructions I was longing to speak to my children. I am praying that they would “…treasure up [his] commandments,” “…not despise the Lord’s discipline,” etc. Like a detailed map, God’s Word is shaping and guiding my prayers for my children. I am praying that God would accomplish in their hearts what no clever lesson plans will ever guarantee.
Let God work
What kind of fruit am I seeing in the lives of my children? Certainly, much of it is yet to come. But one particular season, my husband and I were grieved at our boys’ lack of love for God’s Word, and their disinterest in family Bible reading. Our prayers began to center around God working in their hearts in this way, some of them specifically drawn from what I was currently praying through in Proverbs 6:20-23.
My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. (Proverbs 6:20-23)
We have persevered in praying, and kept up those nightly Bible-reading times with our boys, even when they weren’t in the mood (not easy!). Over time, we have been blessed to see these children grow in their interest and even love for our Bible times. Now, if there is ever a night we threaten to skip Bible reading, due to time constraints, the boys will beg, “Don’t! Can we at least read something, even if it’s short, please!”
It starts small
The same thing that applies in the private prayer closet has broader implications for the church at large. Can you imagine what that can look like? God calls us to pray for others, those in our home, church, community, and world.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Are we mobilizing our church to pray for our world by establishing regular prayer meetings? Are we modeling prayer from Scripture with our church members?
As simple as it sounds, prayerfully reading the words of Scripture, while mentioning specific people and circumstances is a perfect place to start. From Proverbs 6:23 (“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light”), we might pray for a friend: “Dear Father, please help your commandments to be a lamp for ___, and we pray that your teaching would be a light for her.” Beyond that, we may also be led to pray the same concept in different words, applying it to specific circumstances: “As ___ faces temptations today, would you cause the commands and instructions from your Word to echo in her heart and show her the right way.”
And you need the right tools
Are we facilitating prayer from Scripture with our church members? Are we equipping them with the tools needed? Preparing a list of suggested Bible verses to inform our prayers might take little extra time when planning a prayer meeting, but it can bear tremendous fruit. With God’s Word in hand, our “Bless so-and-so” prayers begin to sound trite, and we are stretched to pray things from Scripture we might not otherwise have thought to ask.
One of the most powerful examples I have experienced was in a prayer meeting, praying for a young woman struggling with self-harm and cutting. I settled on a verse from Isaiah 53 on our prayer sheet, and found myself asking God that this woman would come to know the dear Savior who was himself pierced for her transgressions; that by his wounds, she would be healed.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
I suspect that, had I not held the written Word of God before me, I would not have found such a rich and powerful way to pray for this young woman.
Coming full circle
By the time I reach Proverbs 31 in my prayers for my sons, some of them will already be in middle school. And the same book that I’ve been praying through as they learn to read & write, make their first real friends and struggle with obedience, will also apply to the emotions, temptations and crushes of middle school. God’s Word is always equal to the task of guiding our prayers through the varied circumstances of life. Maybe, the dark clouds have rolled in and we can’t fathom how to even begin praying. Or maybe we’re riding a wave of adrenalin and, we’re confident we know exactly what to pray. Whether alone or with others, opening God’s Word directs, enriches & enlivens our prayers like nothing else.