HOW AND WHY TO PRAY THE SCRIPTURES FOR YOUR CHILDREN:

Jonathan Petersen

AN INTERVIEW WITH JODIE BERNDT

Jonathan PetersenContent manager for Bible Gateway

Jodie Berndt

How can using the Bible to shape your desires and requests open the door to God’s provision to free us from worry and fear in our parenting? How can you pray the Bible for developing your children’s faith, character, safety, relationships, and their future?

Bible Gateway interviewed Jodie Berndt (@jodieberndt), author of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children 20th Anniversary Edition: Discover How to Pray God’s Purpose for Their Lives (Zondervan, 2020).

Why is praying for children important?

Buy your copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children in the FaithGateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Jodie Berndt: Every parent wants to give good gifts to their kids. Robbie and I certainly tried to equip our four children with everything we thought they might need.

The trouble is, our children don’t always want the gifts that we give (like that one Christmas, when I got everyone their own posture brace), and sometimes even the best gifts are not in our power to give. We cannot, for example, give “salvation” to our children, nor can we bless them with things like wisdom, kindness, and joy.

But God can. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” God wants us to come to him with our needs; our prayers, he says, are “powerful and effective” (James 5:16). He likes it when we ask him for stuff!

After 30 years of parenting—30 years of trying to give good gifts to our kids—I’m convinced that prayer is what opens the door to God’s abundant provision. It’s our best, most powerful, parenting tool. And as our children see us depending on God for our family’s needs, they learn to look past our weaknesses or our failures and trust his promises as they grow.

What is the purpose of prayer?

Jodie Berndt: R.A. Torrey wrote that the true purpose of prayer “is that God may be glorified in the answer.” I believe that—but I also know how easy it can be for contemporary parents (well, this parent at least) to glorify or idolize our children. Not overtly, of course, but when we center our thoughts on our kids—either because they’ve made us so proud or because they’ve made us so anxious—we inadvertently elbow God out of the picture.

The answer, I think, is to release our children to the Lord and pray with thanksgiving—no matter what the present circumstances are or what the future looks like—knowing that God has everything under control, that he has good plans for our kids, and that prayer is his invitation to us to partner with him in accomplishing his purposes in their lives.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Four Things to Remember When Praying for Your Prodigal]

How does a person pray the Scriptures?

Jodie Berndt: I like what author Mark Batterson says: “The Bible isn’t meant to be read through. It’s meant to be prayed through.” And when we approach Scripture that way—as though it’s God’s end of a conversation with us—we discover that there’s no need we’ll face in parenting (or any of life) that God has not already thought of, and provided for, in his Word.

Jesus invites us to pray the Scriptures in John 15:7. “If you remain in me,” he says, “and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” And when we pray the Scriptures—using the Bible to shape our thoughts and desires—our prayers bear fruit and we bring glory to God (John 15:8).

Here are a few of my favorite Scripture-based prayers:

I like to pray Ephesians 3:17-19 for a child’s faith, personalizing the prayer by inserting their name in the verses: “May _____ be rooted and established in love and have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, to know this love that surpasses understanding, and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Colossians 3:12 is a beautiful prayer for a child’s character: “Clothe ______ with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

And when it comes to praying about everyday concerns like a child’s use of technology or what movies and music they like, I rely on Philippians 4:8 and ask God to let them be drawn to “that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.”

What are “prayer bank verses”?

Jodie Berndt: You won’t find the term “prayer bank verses” in the Bible, but I see Scripture memory as every bit as valuable as financial savings. The more verses we can stash in our memory banks, the more prepared we’ll be to respond—to know how to think and pray—as needs arise. We might not always have ready access to a Bible, but if we have God’s Word in our hearts, we’ll be able to “spend” it freely, in any situation, on behalf of the people we love.

How can a parent introduce their children to people in the Bible through prayer?

Jodie Berndt: Scripture is full of stories about real-life people who dealt with real-life problems, made some real-life mistakes, and knew how to have a real-life relationship with the Lord. As we read the Bible (on our own or with our children), we can be alert to the things that marked these people’s faith and use these examples to help shape our prayers.

For instance, I love Noah’s story in Genesis 6-8. People might not have understood what he was doing (and maybe they even laughed at him for building an ark on dry land!) but—and this is how The Jesus Storybook Bible puts it—“Noah didn’t mind so much what other people thought, he minded what God thought. So he just did what God told him to do.”

What a great prayer prompt for our children: “May they not mind what other people think, but pay attention to you and do what you tell them to do, Lord!”

Sign up for our Verse of the Day to receive a daily Bible verse in four well-known translations.

By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from Bible Gateway, a division of The Zondervan Corporation, 3900 Sparks Drive SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 USA, including commercial communications and messages from partners of Bible Gateway. You may unsubscribe from Bible Gateway’s emails at any time. If you have any questions, please review our Privacy Policy or email us at privacy@biblegateway.com.

What do you say to parents who have fervently prayed for their son or daughter through childhood, but who agonize that their prayers have gone unanswered as evidenced by their children’s chosen behavior as adults?

Jodie Berndt: This is such a hard question—and one I hear all the time. Why doesn’t God bring our wayward children home? Why doesn’t he answer our prayers for their salvation, their protection, or the choices they make?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know at least three things that are true:

First, Jesus himself knows the pain of unanswered prayer. In John 17:20-23, for example, he asked God to make us one, to bring all believers into “complete unity.” Like us, he is still waiting for that particular prayer to be answered.

Second, God is a parent. He gets it. He knows what it’s like to have children who walk away, who reject him, who do hurtful and even dangerous things. Hosea 11:1-7 gives us an intimate glimpse into his Father-heart—and how he must have felt when the children he loved—the ones he’d taught to walk and bent down to feed—turned away. God understands.

And finally, God will never stop loving our children. He’ll never stop pursuing them. And as we partner with him through our prayers, we can be confident that, no matter how far they may wander, they’re never out of God’s reach. I love how that Hosea passage concludes—and it’s an image I hold onto as I pray: God’s children return, they follow him, and he settles them in their homes.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Jodie Berndt: As a parent, I love Philippians 2:13, “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” That lets me know that how my kids think and behave is not, at the end of the day, up to me. It’s up to God. My job (as Watchman Nee so vividly put it) is to “lay the track down” with our prayers so that the locomotive of God’s power can come!

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?

Jodie Berndt: My husband will tell you that I’m not the best “listener,” so the Bible Audio App is not something I often use. But the phone app and the website? I’ve read where BibleGateway.com gets more than a quarter of a million views every day—and I’m pretty sure that about 100-thousand of those are me. Like, if I had to be a contestant on a reality show where they let you bring only one website to get you through an entire season, Bible Gateway would be the one that I’d want. (Seriously. As a writer and a Bible teacher, I don’t know how I could survive without it!)


Praying the Scriptures for Your Children is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.


Bio: Jodie Berndt has written nine books, including the bestselling Praying the Scriptures series for children, teens, and adult children. A nationally known speaker and Bible teacher, Jodie has been featured on programs like Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and a host of popular podcasts, and she has written for media outlets such as Fox News, Club31Women, and the Proverbs 31 Daily Devotional. Find Jodie’s blogs, videos, and printable prayer resources at jodieberndt.com or follow her on Instagram at @jodie_berndt. She and her husband, Robbie, have four adult children. They live in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Only His Heart Can Heal Yours

Article by Greg Morse

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

We all walk through this fallen world on streets of shattered promises. Believer or unbeliever, wealthy or poor, young or old, few, if any, remain exempt. For some, a father vowed much but was present little. For others, a trusted friend finally retreated from you in the hour of need. For still others, an unfaithful wife deserted, leaving the serrated memory of her empty vow, “’til death do us part.” We know what it is to expose our hearts and feel them bleed.

If our enemies dealt roughly with us, we could bear it (Psalm 55:12). But when the culprit is our familiar friend, the knife goes deeper. In response, some choose to mummify their hearts rather than risk further injury. They know exactly what C.S. Lewis meant when he wrote,

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. (The Four Loves, 155–56)

You may have loved and lost and vowed never to love again. You keep outside of rifle range — both of love and of anguish. You will not, cannot, go through that again.

Hearts of Stone

And you have changed. Scales have grown. You forget the sound of your own laugh. You’ve set your affections on small things and sealed your heart in the motionless, airless, safe, dark coffin until only a stone remains. A victim to great loves now dead, what can be said to convince you to live again?

“God’s love does not dismiss but rather overcomes the real pain we feel, the real scars we bear.”TweetShare on Facebook

What can be said is that there exists a love so momentous, so steadfast, so piercing that it threatens — even now — to flood your lungs with air, shine light into your hiding place, and invade that selfish vault with a warmth long forgotten: hope. This love threatens to break through the deadbolt to overwhelm with life and to replace the stony heart with a beating one — as it has done for so many before. It threatens to enthrone itself — himself — to capture our being entirely and send us out to live (and be hurt) again with newfound delight.

This love does not dismiss but rather overcomes the real pain we feel, the real scars we bear, the real sins we’ve endured — as well as the real sins we have committed. We needed a Savior, a Redeemer, a Husband to save us and covenant himself to never forsake us because of our sin against him.

And hope against hope, he came. In a world of human loves that fall short, it was written of a man fully God: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

He Loves to the End

Through painful discovery, many of our loves have been weighed and found wanting. Behold something different.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Jesus knew his hour had come. He knew what lay before him. He knew the horror ahead of time. He knew Isaiah 53 well. To date, he had escaped stones flying at him and crowds wanting to throw him off the cliff. But now nails, whips, mockery, shame — and his Father’s wrath — lay before him. His would not prove to be a spontaneous act of love, casting him into an unknown darkness he hadn’t fully considered. The cost of this love was premeditated, foreseen, foretold — even by himself.

And what a description John gives of Jesus’s brutal death — his departing “out of this world to the Father.” As John recalls that night, his pen moves in summary: “Having loved his own . . . he loved them to the end.” He loved them in teaching, revealing, healing, caring, and correcting. He loved them perfectly every second he was with them. And having begun loving them (before the foundation of the world), he would love them to the end — even to such an end.

His Unscarred Heart

He did not love them ninety percent of the way. He did not forsake; he did not falter. His promise of faithfulness to his spouse — then and now — was not to death but through it. His love for his people — a love likened to his Father’s love for him (John 15:9) — did not stop short but propelled him through the darkest day in history. The whips did not touch this love. The nails did not pierce it. His heart toward his people remained the only part of him unscarred.

And this love meets stony, unbreakable, impenetrable hearts today and replaces them. It meets rebellious, wounded, bleeding hearts and remakes them. It takes motionless hearts and makes them pulse with heavenly life.

“Our big God possesses an unimaginably big heart toward sinners.”TweetShare on Facebook

Do you know the love of God? Have you repented and believed the good news that Christ died and rose so that the guilty might live forever with him as his beloved? Come thirsty. Come poor. Come in your mess. If we were him, we would not bear the wrath of God for us, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7–8).

Easily Moved to Love

Do we tell others of this love of Christ that has so beautifully captured us (2 Corinthians 2:14) and now controls us (2 Corinthians 5:14), gripping us with bonds that neither tribulation nor distress nor nakedness nor famine nor danger nor sword can break (Romans 8:35)?

Those of us who espouse Reformed theology must be especially warm on this point. Charles Spurgeon truly said,

Those who hear the Calvinistic preacher, are very apt to misrepresent God. . . . Many of our hearers, even through our assertions, when most guarded, are apt to get rather a caricature of God, than a true picture of him. They imagine that God is a severe being, angry and fierce, very easily to be moved to wrath, but not so easily to be induced to love.

Easily moved to wrath. Not easily induced to love. Is this the impression we give? Is this the impression we are tempted to believe ourselves?

Our big God possesses an unimaginably big heart toward sinners. He is incomparable in grandeur and incomparable in love. Christ was betrayed but did not betray, was forsaken while refusing to forsake, was abandoned to die, that his people might be where he is, forever. The love of his disciples shrunk and grew cold at the same hour when his blazed the warmest and glowed the fiercest.

His love can be trusted; his love endures till the end.Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their daughter.2.1K SHARES

3 Ways We Experience the Holy Spirit

Will you accept the Holy Spirit in your life?

By Lesli White

The Apostle Peter promises to those who repent and are baptized that they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The Bible tells us “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:6-8). Scripture explicitly states that we must first be born again. In order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we must be committed to new life in Christ. This is when the real transformation begins. What’s amazing about the Holy Spirit is how we are drawn to it. Before you even choose to become a Christian, the Holy Spirit is at work in you, communicating with you, showing you your sin, and drawing you to Christ. Here are three big ways to experience the Holy Spirit.

Through Understanding

We can’t experience the Holy Spirit with limited understanding of the Holy Spirit. To truly understand the Holy Spirit as a gift, it’s important to understand what the Holy Spirit is. The Holy Spirit is God – not simply a force. It is the third entity of the Trinity, manifested as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each person itself being God. As a result of this, everyone who has repented and turned their life over to Christ has the power to receive the Holy Spirit. Another important thing to understand about the Holy Spirit is that we cannot see it; however, we can experience the Holy Spirit when we are filled with it. There are a number of verses throughout Scripture that speak on “being filled” with the Holy Spirit, including:

Ephesians 1:17: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…”

Acts 4:8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit sais to them, Rulers of the people and elders…”

Acts 13:52: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Understanding the Holy Spirit will not only improve your listening of God, but also give you better direction. The Holy Spirit enables us to do things in ways we could never imagine.

By Seeking God

Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will be experienced by those who seek Him. In the Book of John we are told: “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, who those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost, when Jesus’ followers received the Holy Spirit. This is told in great detail in Acts 2. The account begins with the Holy Spirit descending upon a group of followers who upon receiving it began to speak in tongues. We are told in this account, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound of heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the houses where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, and the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). Because the Holy Spirit came down, the Apostles were enabled to spread the good news of Christ, just as Jesus had promised. With the decent of the Holy Spirit, a New Covenant was inaugurated. We know the Holy Spirit is working through us when we are drawn to Christ.

Through the Fruits of the Spirit

In Galatians 5:22-23 we learn about the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Bible says “against such things, there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence our lives as Christians. We receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Christ. When we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, we have a new awareness of Christ, and can begin entering a relationship with Him. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit coming into our life is change. The Holy Spirit’s role is to mold us into the image of Christ so that we may live in His likeness.

Another place we can turn to is Matthew’s Gospel which says, “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:17-20). This passage helps us understand the observable behaviors of people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to be active in their lives. Practicing these fruits can change your life tremendously as we are allowing the grace of the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives.

Experiencing the Holy Spirit is a privilege, given to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. Once you accept Jesus Christ in your heart, you will receive it. With this privilege comes great responsibility. With the Holy Spirit guiding us, we must seek earnestly to remove ourselves from a context of sin, and obey the commands of God. Our thoughts and our actions should build up the Kingdom of God. Just as the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we too as Christians can enjoy the fullness, greatness and power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. The Holy Spirit also enhances our relationship with God. Accept the Holy Spirit at work in your life today.