Mark 4:26 This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know why.

Paul Miller in his book, A Praying Life, argues that the greatest thing a parent can do for their children is to pray for them.  I used to think that was a cop out.  I’ll resign myself to prayer because nothing else seems to be working.  I refuse to believe that I am that powerless.  But what if we are?

My greatest fear as a parent is that my children will not believe the gospel and not follow Christ.  What happens if my son and daughter comes to the end of their life without surrendering to Christ?  Then what? That question leads to these kinds of fears.  What if I am failing my kids?  Are there things I should be doing that will “make them” believe the gospel? If only I set a better example for them and wasn’t so short tempered.  Will it be my fault if they grow up to be unbelievers?

I believe these types of fears and self-doubt mask our deepest fear that we as parents are unable to control our children’s decision to believe the gospel.  Here is what Paul Miller writes about coming to that realization:

[Emily – Paul’s daughter] walked a little ahead of me, so I slowed down and prayed, ‘God you have got to give Emily faith this year.  You have no choice.’  I was keenly aware of my inability to grow faith in her heart.  God just had to do it … Was this a name-it-and-claim-it-prayer? No, I wasn’t trying to control God.  I certainly wasn’t in control of Emily.  I was simply praying God’s own heart back to him.

At the heart of prayer is a surrendering to our powerlessness, not to give up, but to tap into a power source that is greater than ourselves.  I am convinced that we can not parent our kids effectively until we allow God to bring us to this place.  It is only in the place of powerlessness and desperation where true prayer can emerge.

Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a garden and gardener..  A gardener tills the soil, plants the seeds, pulls weeds, puts down fertilizer, and does pest control.  While he works hard to create the conditions  for life to flourish, the power to create life is beyond his control.  We as parents provide a stable home, model the Christian faith, correct our kids, bring them to church, teach the faith in our homes and pray with them. We do our best to create an environment to foster faith.  But the ability to create faith is no more within our grasp, than a gardener is able to coax life out of a dead seed.  We put in the effort, we pour in the love, but it is God who supplies the power.

The farmer plants the seed and tills the ground but at the end of the day he must pray to the LORD of the harvest to cause the seed to germinate and  to send the rains and the sun.  And so it is with us.  Through prayer we surrender to our powerlessness, so that by faith we might believe that God can and will channel his power through imperfect people likes us so that in our weakness we might be the gospel for our children.

It was Paul who came face to face with his powerlessness when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  After a lifetime of effort, Jesus asks him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me.”  (see Acts 9) In that moment self-reliant Saul died only to be resurrected as weak Paul who lived by a new and greater power.   Paul writes this of his experience.

2 Corinthians 12:19 But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Could it be that parenting is our own Damascus road experience where God confronts us with our powerlessness, forces us to our knees, and moves into a new joy where we discover God’s power shining through our weakness?  Maybe that’s the point.