The Secret Habit of Great Dads
A Special Father’s Day Charge from Stephen Kendrick
As young boys, my brothers and I would head out the front door of our home in Smyrna, Georgia to eagerly explore the woods across the street with our neighborhood friends.
Swinging on vines. Killing snakes. Shooting fireworks at one another. As I look back at the dangers we dove into, I can see that God was constantly sparing us of many more emergency room visits than we deserved.
As the youngest son, my personal explorations also took me deep into the uncharted territories of our suburban home. Crawling under beds and hiding in closets, I became very familiar with almost every inch of our house.
But there were a few times in my adventures when I’d wander in on my dad unexpectedly. I never found him looking at inappropriate magazines or using drugs. But multiple times, I caught him in his room or in his closet on his knees . . . praying for us and our family.
You can tell a lot about a man’s character by what you stumble upon him doing when he’s alone. And in my home, I was impacted deeply by how I saw my father willingly bowing before God.
Over the years, I remembered seeing our family’s needs being miraculously met when the exact amount of money dad was praying for would show up out of the blue. I saw how God carried us during hard times, clearly guided major decisions, and strategically provided key people and resources to help my father start a Christian ministry in the late 1980s.
Dad prayed and God worked. It was undeniable.
There was clearly a powerful and loving God whose ears were attentive to our gray-headed father’s desperate pleas. And my brothers and I had a front row seat to this reality.
Now with four children of my own, I can honestly say that my dad’s example and the Word of God have taught me that prayer is one of the most important responsibilities I have as a father.
As men who will one day give an account to God for how we have led our families (Hebrews 13:17), all fathers have been given the ultimate responsibility as the heads of their homes for the physical and spiritual welfare of their children (1 Timothy 3:4, Proverbs 17:6).
But God knows that we are sorely inadequate on our own and that we will not be successful or found faithful without His ever-present help. We must learn to constantly rely on Him in prayer.
No matter how smart or sufficient you may think you are, your children will always be subject to circumstances beyond your reach. You cannot always protect them, provide for their every need, or control the constant influences around their lives. You won’t always know their hearts, and you definitely don’t know their future.
But we can all rest in the fact that there is a loving God Who understands and loves our children more than we do. He can go with them and guide them when we can’t. He can protect them and influence them in every situation. And He invites us to place each of them and our every concern into His loving arms.
Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11). This is an invitation to prayer.
Imagine it. The Sovereign God of the universe has chosen to allow you to know Him, talk to Him, and make requests of Him like a beloved son may ask and receive things from his compassionate father. Prayer is a daily opportunity for us to talk to God about every facet and detail of our children’s lives.
You can bank on it that the devil has already been trying to discourage and distract you from praying for your children by telling you that you are too busy to pray or that your prayers are ineffective. But Jesus has promised us: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
Now granted, the Bible makes it clear that there are keys to praying effectively. For our prayers to be unhindered, the Scriptures say that we must know God (John 14:6), be right with Him (Psalm 66:18), be right with others (Mark 11:22-26; 1 Peter 3:7), and also have our hearts right (James 1:5-8; 4:6). And anytime this is true in your life, then you can get busy praying knowing that “the effective prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
We are all unqualified on our own. But through the mercy and access to God that Jesus attained for us through His death on the cross, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
It is by uniting our hearts with Christ and keeping aligned with His will that we place ourselves in a position to prayerfully bring about more good for our children than almost anything else we could do on earth (John 15:7).
So, on this Father’s Day weekend, I would like to exhort all dads to take a step of courageous faith into the practice of praying four different types of prayers for your children.
PRAYERS OF DEDICATION (1 Samuel 1:11, Proverbs 16:3): Even as Joseph and Mary dedicated Jesus as a newborn in the temple, we too should willingly commit all of our children’s lives to the glory of God. Our Lord has faithfully demonstrated that He blesses and takes good care of that which has been entrusted to Him.
Anytime you as a father start something new, your fatherly prayers of dedication should follow. New children, new jobs, new houses, new years, and new days are all new opportunities to stop and thank God for His goodness and re-purpose the new beginning for His glory and place it under His watchful care.
PRAYERS OF ASSOCIATION (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18): It is the will of God for fathers to pray for, with, and around their children. Regular prayer in our homes can draw our kids closer to God while redirecting their attention away from their daily problems and onto the One who holds every solution. If a father is unwilling to trust God with his temporary needs, why should he expect his children to want to trust God with their eternal souls?
If you don’t know what to pray about, then consider what you are currently worried about. Your worries are merely burdens you are currently carrying in your own strength that you haven’t yet cast fully upon the Lord’s strength (Philippians 4:6-7). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
PRAYERS OF BLESSING (Ephesians 1:3, Luke 3:22): Thirdly, fathers should learn to pray prayers of blessing over their families. You can do this by speaking encouraging and loving words over their lives while asking God to bring about their maximum physical and spiritual success (Psalm 20). So pray often for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done in their blooming lives.
In my family growing up, my parents would let Scripture teach them how to pray for us. They often prayed Isaiah 54:13-17 and Psalm 91 over us in the car as we drove down the road.
When your children overhear you thanking God for them, and telling God how much you love them and want His very best for them, it can change them forever.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION (Exodus 17:12): Lastly, fathers must learn to confront evil, problems, and any crisis in their families with the weapon of prayer.
Ephesians 6 tells us that we are to put on our spiritual armor and get busy praying so that we will be ready to stand firm in the day of evil. In prayer, we wage war (Ephesians 6:10-19) against the spiritual forces that want “to steal and to kill and to destroy” our children’s purity and faith (John 10:10). If you fight your family’s battles in prayer first, you will see much more fruitfulness and effectiveness in resolving problems when you get up off your knees.
In conclusion, if a man desires great things for his children, then he should request great things from God. But do not let things lack and fail simply because you lacked to pray and failed to ask (James 4:2). As the Lord responds to your requests in His perfect timing, your children will get to see His power and handiwork firsthand.
Then one day they can share with their own children about the way they were forever changed by seeing their earthly father prayerfully introduce them to the powerful and loving care of their Heavenly Father.