How can we teach our children about God's character and not just his commandments?
I don't think the kids will ever hear the commandments for what they really are—namely, a loving doctor's prescription for what will bring life and joy—if they don't know the God behind the commandments. We simply must help them see and feel the wonder that they've been created, that they are sustained, and that they are redeemed by a personal, loving, glorious, omnipotent, all-wise, all-sovereign God. And then the do's and don'ts will fall into a more proper place.
But if you only have do's and don'ts with children, that will become law; and the Bible says very plainly that nobody is justified by the law. And if we only relate to God like, "He gives me do's. I try to do them! I hope he likes me today because I did more of them," then we will never know the true God of the Bible. So somehow, even from the beginning, we must model for them and teach to them the greatness of God.
I want to acknowledge how hard this is, because when you're training a little child everything is mainly do's and don'ts: "Don't touch that! Eat that! Don't do that! Eat that!" You have to do do's and don'ts all the time. Therefore what you have to supplement that with is a personality and a verbal expressiveness that God is great and God is good, so that they see thankfulness and joy and exultation in mom and dad, and then they begin to hear that it is related to God. God is why mom and dad are happy. God is why mom and dad hug me. God is why mom and dad feed me. God is why mom and dad sing in the kitchen. And then the do's and don'ts begin to take their proper place.
Could you pray for us parents who feel that we have failed to model and teach these things appropriately to our children?
Father in heaven, I'm still a parent and always will be a parent, and I feel a camaraderie with the parents who are out there. I've felt so inadequate. I've had to walk in with tears in my eyes to my fifteen-year-old son and apologize for some awful thing that I said. I've had to ask Talitha for forgiveness even at eight years old because I raised my voice in a way that was totally out of proportion to what she had done, and she broke out into tears.
So Lord I know what it is to need forgiveness. And I pray first of all for forgiveness for parents, where we've failed. Then that we would have the humility to both go to you with our confession and go to our children, whether teenagers or little ones, and say, "Mommy and daddy are not perfect. We have failed. We're sorry. Would you forgive us?" So Lord, forgive parents for their failures.
Then Lord I pray that you would give great grace and wisdom. Grant to every parent longsuffering patience with their children. And give them wisdom, biblical insight, love, and firmness. My father used to always say to my mother, "Be firm and sweet, be firm and sweet." May that right combination of firmness and sweetness grip the parents and enable them, Lord.
And I pray that parents would have the discipline to turn off the television, get up, and go meet the child's needs. Lord help us to do the necessary disciplining of our children by having the necessary discipline for ourselves to bless them and to discipline them.
Lord, give help. We're a needy group, we parents, and we ask for forgiveness for our failures, help for our needs, and that our children would come to know you, love you, and lead productive lives that exalt Jesus Christ.
In his name I pray, Amen.