Our kids never seem to be at a loss for words. Even with tiny vocabularies, it is astounding how well they are able to fill any silence with a thousand little syllables. We parents are a different story. In homes full of questions and needs, it can be hard for our fried brains to put together even broken phrases. Sometimes I find myself stuttering as I try to talk to my kids — like I need a hard reset.
Especially with small kids, prayers can be difficult to lace together. We have a thousand requests for our children: that they would be saved, that they would learn obedience, that they would finally learn to eat broccoli, that they would quit hitting other kids in their class, and on and on. Where do we start?
I believe one of the ways the Spirit graciously intercedes for us as parents is by giving us prayers to pray from the Scriptures (Romans 8:26).
As I struggled recently to express my heart’s desire for my kids, one succinct little sentence from Luke’s Gospel kept coming out of my mouth: “Like you, Jesus, may my kids increase ‘in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man’” (Luke 2:52). Consider with me this Spirit-inspired verse, a perfect, four-part summary of our prayers for our kids to become like Christ in every way. Let’s examine each of these in turn.
1. Increase in Wisdom
Our children are little sponges. My son knows the names of every dinosaur that ever walked the face of planet earth. However, our prayer for our kids is not merely that they would grow in knowledge but in wisdom. Wisdom is a disposition toward God and a way of walking life’s path. In Proverbs, Solomon explains: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:6–7).
Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Our desire is for our children to realize that their lives are being lived under the watchful eye of the righteous and holy Creator of the universe. As we pray that they would increase in wisdom, we are asking that the Lord would change the disposition of their hearts so that they no longer believe they know best, but trust the Lord’s commands to lead them along the right path.
2. Increase in Stature
We all have worries. Is my kid going to be too short? Is my kid eating enough? Is my kid going to excel on his soccer team? We don’t know much about Jesus’s childhood, but it is interesting that in Luke’s brief summary, he does specifically mention growth in stature as a part of God’s good plan for boys and girls.
Many parents distort this desire, subconsciously willing their children to succeed in athletics and surpass their peers in physical ability. I coach a soccer team of five year olds. You wouldn’t believe the amount of pressure some parents put on their kids from the sidelines to perform at a young age.
The point is not to pray that our children are the fastest, strongest, and tallest. Rather, the idea is maturity. Godly parents pray for their children to increase in their ability to use their bodies to glorify God. This is true Christian stature: children growing into the fullness of what it means to be made body and soul in the image of God. The Lord is developing each of our children in a special way — some tall, some short, some slow, some fast, some walking, some in wheelchairs. May they increase in understanding how their unique bodies are given to be used to bring him glory.
3. Increase in God’s Favor
The Lord tells us, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). However, the Gospels establish a clear pattern of grace poured out in response to the desperate pleas of parents. As we implore God to show favor to our children, we fall into company with parents like Jairus: “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live” (Mark 5:23).
Nothing brings me more pleasure than to see evidences of the grace of God in my children’s lives. Have you begun to hear your kids express a desire for a new heart? Have you heard elements of the gospel in their speech? Have you been surprised by moments of conviction and clarity even in your young children? Plead with the Lord for more.
This is a relational prayer — that our children would come to know God as their gracious heavenly Father. As fathers and mothers, we throw ourselves completely on his mercy, praying that his favor would increase in our children’s lives. The Father has demonstrated repeatedly in Scripture through his Son Jesus that he delights to answer this prayer.
4. Increase in Man’s Favor
This too is a relational prayer. Lord willing, as our children grow in their vertical relationship with their heavenly Father, our hope is that they would then grow in their horizontal relationships with others. This fourth request rounds out what is in essence a prayer that our children would “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). As Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God, it bore fruit in love for his brothers and sisters.
Certainly, this means praying that our children would learn how to lay down their lives for the brothers and sisters in their churches. Favor with man means bestowing and receiving grace in the body of Christ. Our heart’s desire is to see our children flourishing in expressing Christlike sacrificial love as members in the local church.
The example of Christ also demonstrates how favor with man means becoming a good neighbor. We pray that our children would be those who stand up for the oppressed and cry out for justice on behalf of the needy. We desire that as they walk in wisdom they would make choices that benefit others in their community — considering their needs to be more important than their own (Romans 15:1; Philippians 2:4). Whether on the playground or in their neighborhoods or in their schools, we want to see our children caring for the needs of others like Jesus.
May each of our children increase “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” The Holy Spirit has been gracious enough to put these words in our Bibles. God told us how Jesus grew and matured as a child to show us how to pray for our children. As we speak them from our mouths, may God also shape our hearts to want what he wants for our children.