God has called parents to a difficult task. We are called to prevent the giant pile of children’s laundry from overtaking the house, cook meals for picky eaters and clean up never-ending messes. But most importantly, we are given the eternally significant duty to “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
It can be a tiresome undertaking. Some days you plunge headlong into another challenging day of childrearing, praying God will help you make it to bedtime alive. After the bath and toothbrushing, and fetching a glass of water, and the search for the lost stuffed animal, and the barrage of excuses trying to delay lights out, you’re tempted to skip prayer time, say a quick goodnight, shut the door and crumb into the nearest sofa.
I want to suggest two modest prayers to help you slow down during those moments when you tuck the kids into bed. This isn’t a list of theoretical principles or a 15-item list of prayer requests for your kids. Weary parents need simple and memorable prayers. When your mind is still spinning from the day’s labors, may these three-word prayers enable you to take the few extra moments to linger with your children in the quietness of bedtime.
“Father, forgive me.”
The best way to avoid putting your children to bed in frustration or anger is to remind yourself and your kids that you, too, are a sinner in need of forgiveness. Confess your parenting failures to God before your children. Plead with him to protect your children from your anger, lack of patience and failure to display the gospel in all its glory. Ask the Father for forgiveness in front of your children.
In doing so, you set an example for your children. They see what it looks like to be a child of God. Our Father does not want us to hide our sins from him or one another. He wants us to confess them so that he can “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In the still moments before they fall asleep, they will get to listen as you experience reconciliation with the Father anew. They get to watch as the grace of the gospel washes over your spirit, reviving your weary soul.
“Father, forgive them.”
I often look into the eyes of my little boys after they have hit their brother or yelled in disobedient anger, searching with the question: “Why did you do this?” The most common response I receive is: “I don’t know.” In those sad moments, I’m reminded of Christ’s prayer as he hung on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is the state of our children’s hearts. When they sin, they don’t always fully comprehend what they’ve done or why they’ve done it. As parents, we must imitate Jesus by pleading for God’s mercy and forgiveness for our kids with the simple prayer, “Father, forgive them.”