Baby Bedtime Prayers and God’s Sovereignty

I sometimes wonder if the Nike Marketing Group has had a hand in influencing the modern American church’s gospel message. There is a certain level of “Just Do It” fervor in the sermons and Sunday school lessons of evangelical churches.

In our zeal to get God’s work done we tend to lead and end with an exhortation for every man, woman and child to go “invite, tell, contextualize, evangelize, and do whatever you can” to get the gospel out. Just do it, just do something, because doing anything with a Christian flavor is better than nothing!

There may not be anything wrong with this.

In a sense this can be a very biblical exhortation (Colossians 3:23). A little bit of Bible study can quickly show us that the Great Commission is the last charge Christ made to all who would claim to be His followers (Matthew 28:19-20).

But a little bit of truth with no context can be a dangerous thing; If we preach the gospel mission as mainly an emphasis on doing, trying, and moving for God, an ungodly deduction could be made in the mind of the listener: “If I don’t move, God can’t. God is dependent on me. God is impotent to get glory if I don’t go get it for Him.”

If we are not careful, in our mind the cosmic tables can be turned. And in a very real sense I can believe with all my heart not that I desperately and daily need God above all else, but that now that I’m a Christian:

“God needs me.”

Jesus is the antidote for this natural man-centered bent of our heart’s. When He spoke and acted, Christ placed the emphasis of evangelism back at His Father’s feet:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Here is how modern evangelicalism has rendered this verse in so many ways: “The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few; therefore GO! Can’t you see? The lost need you! God needs you! The world needs you now! It’s your destiny!”

But this isn’t how Jesus appeals to the blind and hurting world he saw around him. He was driven to tearful compassion for His shepherdless sheep, and the response He wanted us to have was not to hastily run out and use any means to reel them in (JUST DO IT!). The first compassionate biblical command Jesus gave us for a world going to hell with out a Savior was to

“Therefore, pray.”

This seems so counterintuitive to our über busy lives and the works based gospel we have quietly submitted to in the name of church attendance and behavior modification.

Jesus knew without divine unction and calling, mankind could do nothing of eternal value for mankind. Without the Father first preparing vessels for His glory, the sending out of laborers would be in vain. And as a result, all meaningful evangelism efforts must be rooted in humble fervent prayer before the Father asking Him to graciously give what we can never produce:

A harvest of souls.

Revival doesn’t necessarily begin in big tents or rousing services, it begins with us in our prayer closet on our knees tearfully pleading for the Sovereign Ruler to have mercy on us (2 Chronicles 7:14). It is not first about doing, it is first about depending.

I believe this is true even for those seemingly hum drum daily routine prayers we unload hastily at the end of a busy day.

The way a person prays may betray their true theology.

In my bedtime prayer with my son I don’t appeal directly to his will (or his inherent ability to turn to God), I appeal to the God of Justice and Mercy to make Himself known to him based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In reality, almost every parent I know prays for their child this way, regardless of the theological system they claim.

In a word, I pray God will make him willing (Psalm 110)

Would anyone be motivated to pray for another’s salvation otherwise?

If I am not convinced that God can accomplish my son’s salvation and prepare him for an apprehension of grace, what motivation for prayer is there?

This is a weighty privilege and responsibility for parents. Our supplications can be one of the many tiny levers that has helped set the great wheel of God’s sovereignty into motion for our child’s salvation. In prayer, we place our child’s destiny into the caring hands of the merciful Father, for God forbid these precious ones be left up to their own fallen devices.

I know there is tension and mystery on the subject of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. His sovereignty does not negate our responsibility, but rather should motivate and empower it. The God who can be trusted on as a loving Father, can also be depended on to carry out his purposes as a powerful King.

So I pray over my son every night. Standing on the undying promises of a King who can never be thwarted (Eph 1:11):

“God you make Josiah a man of God, You make him a man after Your own heart…You give him a heart of flesh to know You and fear You, and You save him by Your grace.” (Ezekiel 36:26-36).

I know without the Holy Spirit moving on his little heart he will have no inclination to repent and believe the gospel in his lifetime (Eph 2:3-5).

At the conclusion of our bedtime prayer Josiah looks up at me as I say “In Jesus Name.” And he always responds with a hearty drawn out, “Aaaaamen!!!” or, as the word means, “So be it!”

A three year old knows his utter dependence on the Father’s mercy. Let us find that same childlike dependence in prayer, and our interceding and going and preaching will not be with vain appeals of man-centered movement, but with the Father’s blessing and divine power.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

29 thoughts on “Baby Bedtime Prayers and God’s Sovereignty”

  1. Oh yes…it is God who softens the heart and it is He who draws men to Himself. Once drawn it is there that it becomes mans choice. There are sometimes preachers who just believe in do, do, do and don’t linger long enough in the presence of our Lord to abide so as to receive the power. It delights my heart when I come across a beloved one of God that has an aroma….a sweet scent from on High, Gods servant. It reminds me of that verse in Romans 12:1 How we are to offer a bodies a living sacrifice unto God and that sacrifice has an aroma when burnt. A sweet savour. Call me crazy…but I believe that such a one has power from God so as he prays and shares Christ, He is delighted to move on his behalf. Thank you so much for your posts….my heart is very blessed by them. It would be a delight for me to pray for you and your family that He would be pleased to have His Son revealed in your children and that you and your wife will continue to have it so in your own lives. Thank you again. :))

  2. Thank you for writing this column. So often we believers feel we should be like some sort of Christian superheros dispensing salvation and deliverance where ever we go but then reality sets in. All we can do is pray. I pray for my 15 year old nephew every day. My desire is to see him saved but only he can make that choice not me. I just pray and put things in God’s hands. I also resist the urge to meddle.

  3. Now that my sons are out of their own and my daughter does her own prayers after devotion, I keep a prayer journal for each of them and I write “scripture prayers” much like the ones you’ve given in this post. This just makes me more determined to keep praying these scriptures over them. I’ve even started one for my granddaughter — I’ve already prayed for the one God would have her marry, if that’s His will for her. Thanks, Chief! Sandy

  4. True God calls us to disciple nations not just convert them.
    Too often we hear evangelists who if true to their calling would be out in the highways and byways but instead come to churches were the offerings are; telling us to share Jesus to everyone we meet and making us feel guilty if we don’t. Funny I never hear that in the message of Christ or the 1st Century writers but i do believe our lives whether our calling/gifting is that of an evangelist or that of who serves or teaches should be a manifestation of Christ for all to see!

  5. Mr. Daniels, thank you for the wonderful explanation of why prayer is important, why it needs to be a part of everything we do. You’ve reminded me that I need to teach my daughters (almost 4 and almost 5) to pray that people who aren’t friends with Christ will open their hearts to him. What a blessing you’ve given me tonight.

  6. You probably already know this, but the Greek word “Nike” actually means “victory” which is where the company, Nike, got the name. I understand what you were saying by the “just do it” mentality though. 🙂 However, when I see/hear the word “nike” I think “victory”!

    Jesus has already claimed the victory, halelujah!

  7. “The way a person prays may betray their true theology.”

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact I think you could have stated it emphatically: the way a person prays reveals their true theology.

  8. Reblogged this on Captivated by Christ and commented:
    I religiously follow several blogs, but none of them are evangelical rock stars that have throngs of fans and easily recognizable names. I follow folks like Don Simpson (One Bondservant’s Diary), T. E. Hanna (Of Dust and Kings), Kevin Nunez, Patricia Szymanski (Reading the Bible in 365). Why? Their writings resonate with me and remind me that we don’t have to pastor a mega-church or have a TV ministry for God to speak truth through us. These people are using their gifts for God’s glory. Their voices, and others like them, need to be heard – especially by me. This is a reblog from Bryan Daniels (The Chief of the least) and I just love his stuff. I pray you will be blessed by his wit, wisdom, and warmth as much as I have. I don’t personally know Bryan, but am thrilled (like with the others) to call him my sibling in the faith. Actually, I have met only 2 of those mentioned above. As for the others, along with Bryan, I joyfully anticipate meeting you in this life or in Heaven – for I think we will have much to celebrate and talk about. Grace to you!

  9. I similarly wince at the “just do it” mentality or even worse, “What have you done for God today.” I haven’t done anything FOR God. I think He has done a fine job all by Himself. I count it a priviledge just to be able to join in on what He is doing in prayer or even when He calls me to act.

    Love your blog and I appreciate your visits (and Likes) to mine.

  10. From Paul E. Miller’s book A PRAYING LIFE: CONNECTING WITH GOD IN A DISTRACTING WORLD

    Prayer = Helplessness (section title) p. 54

    Some of the lines in that section:

    “God wants us to come to him empty-handed, weary and heavy-laden. Instinctively, we want to get rid of our helplessness before we come to God…Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, summarized it beautifully: ‘Prayer is an expression of who we are…We are a living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.'” (pp. 54-55)

    Interesting…to call us a “gap”–immediately I recall the Scripture: “I searched for a man who would…stand in the gap…” (Ezekiel 22:30) and of how Jesus came to become the “gap-filler” FOR us. He became a man–he took on the “gap” we are! He “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7 NAS; “made himself nothing” NIV), becoming a gap and then filling it!

    The more helpless we are, the closer we are to real prayer.

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