Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament (Christian Focus, 2016). You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
From the moment I first learned I was expecting, I started praying for my child. And I haven't stopped since.
When my boys were young, to be honest, many prayers centered on me—my strength and endurance to make it through the day in once piece. Motherhood was especially hard then; the cloud of depression darkened my days. I always felt insufficient, weak, and helpless as a mom. More often than not, my prayer set on repeat was, "Help me, Lord!"
Through the years, I've prayed about many things for my children. They were chronically sick for a long time and I prayed repeatedly for healing. I've also prayed for their behavior, their friendships with other children, their education, for our relationship as a family, and even for their future jobs, spouses, and children.
But above all, the prayer I keep coming back to time and time again is a prayer for their heart. The status of their heart before God, their salvation, what they believe about Christ, and the work God is doing in them is the prayer that supersedes all other prayers I may have for them.
The Heart of the Matter
Why the heart? Because the heart is the core of who we are. When the Bible talks about the human heart, it doesn’t mean our real heart— the one that beats in our chest and keeps our body alive. It also isn’t referring to the heart shaped candies or chocolates we give those we love on Valentine’s Day. The Bible uses the term ‘heart’ to mean our inner self, who we are as a person, our identity. The real us. This inner self includes our thoughts, our desires, our feelings, our personality, our motives and intentions, and the choices we make. “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19). “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Because we are sinners, our hearts are prone to sin. What we need is a new heart. God promised this in the book of Ezekiel: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). This is what the Spirit does in us when He awakens our dead heart to life. He gives us a new heart, a heart capable of responding to God in faith and living to love and obey God. Theologians call this awakening ‘regeneration.’ “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
The truth is, the heart of the matter is the heart. What our children need most is a new heart. They need the Spirit to bring them from death to life. They need the Spirit to work in them, sanctifying and transforming them into the likeness of Christ. So even as I pray about other things for my children—friendships, education, behavior, etc.—those things are ultimately about the heart as well. For as God transforms and changes their hearts through the work of the Spirit, it changes how they choose friendships, their attitude toward school, and their outward behavior.
From the Prayers of Paul
I've learned this lesson about praying for heart matters from the Apostle Paul. He wrote letters to various churches. Some were struggling with real trials, hardships, even persecution. In those letters, he mentions the prayers he is praying for them. He doesn't mention praying for their physical and temporal needs—though he may have done so. (Jesus taught us to pray for our daily needs in Matthew 6:11). The prayers he prayed for them were not focused on the temporary but on the eternal. He prayed for their hearts, for God's work in them, for their growth in faith. He prayed for the work of the Kingdom and the spread of the gospel through them. He prayed for their spiritual strength and endurance and encouraged them with the hope they had in Christ.
When I consider praying for the hearts of my children, Paul's prayers are an excellent model for doing so. If you desire for God to work in the heart of your child, consider praying the prayers of Paul.
Here are a few of them:
From Ephesians 1:16-20:
"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 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, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places."
From Ephesians 3:13-19:
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
From Philippians 1:9-11:
"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."
From Colossians 1:9-12:
"We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."
From 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:
"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
All that our children are flows from their heart, so whatever it is we pray for them, may we never fail to pray for their hearts.
Ah, the lazy days of summer. Sleeping in. Lounging by the community pool. Trips to the lake or the beach. Chasing fireflies at night. In our house, we've looked forward to summer for weeks now. One of the things I enjoy about summer is the extra time to read. In fact, summer and reading make me nostalgic. My grandfather used to tell everyone about my love of reading and enjoyed sharing about the summer he and my grandmother drove me from my home in Maryland to their home in Florida. As he tells it, I read the entire way there—all 800 miles of it.
Summer reading also makes me think of the library. I grew up in the library. My mother worked there and when I was a teen, I did too. I loved the library's summer reading challenges for children. It was fun keeping track of all the books I read and earning some sort of prize at the end of the summer for my efforts.
That's why I'm excited that the women's ministry blog I manage is co-hosting a summer reading challenge. We want to encourage people to set aside their phones and open a real book. I look forward to hearing the stories of people reading and learn about what they read.
Are you a reader? If you are looking for a book to read this summer, here are few of my suggestions:
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke: I have a like/unlike relationship with social media. That's why I was excited about Tony Reinke's new book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. His book is a wise and thoughtful look at smart phones and their impact on our lives. One thing that struck me about this book is seeing the technology of smart phones in the context of the history of technology as a whole and realize its use and benefit, rather than only seeing it as problematic. My tendency has been to look at the negative aspects to my phone. Yet, there are certainly problems with our phones. We all know how much it rules our lives these days. Some of us can't go five minutes without checking email or viewing what our friends are doing on social media. In this book, Tony Reinke helps readers wisely take control of their smart phone rather than their phone controlling them.
Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (Gospel Coalition) by Courtney Reissig: Here's a fact about me: I never thought I'd be a stay-at-home mom. It was on my "I'll never" list. On that list was also: "I'll never drive a mini van" "I'll never homeschool" "I'll never live in Florida." Yes, that list. God had other plans for me and I struggled to make peace with those plans. I often wondered, does my work in the home have as much value as the work I used to do outside the home? Should I somehow make my work in the home more sanctified—maybe by praying while I fold the laundry? If you've ever wondered about your work in the home and what it means to God, you must read Courtney's book. She helps us see how all work, even ordinary mundane work, glorifies God and has purpose.
Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story by Steven Curtis Chapman: When I was a teen, I went to many concerts with my youth group. Petra. Michael W. Smith. D.C. Talk. Steven Curtis Chapman. I have many fond memories of those concerts. That's why I picked up Steven Curtis Chapman's biography. It's about his life and how it shaped his music. From difficult experiences in childhood, to marriage and raising children, to the loss of his daughter, all of these experiences formed his music. Many of his songs have influenced my own faith and encouraged me when I needed it, perhaps it has for you too.
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry: Since I turned forty a couple of years ago, I've found myself looking back at my life and assessing the choices I've made. In this fictional story, Hannah Coulter, a woman is in the winter of life and looks back at the decades of her life in a small Kentucky town. She describes life on the farm, raising children, widowhood, and community life. There is much in this book I can relate to in my stage of life and if you are looking for a fiction read, I highly recommend it.
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck: I love to travel and enjoy travel memoir's. John Steinbeck's travel memoir is the story of his journey across America with his dog, Charlie. They covered forty states in his pick up truck which he renovated into mobile living quarters, named Rocinante. America was in the midst of change and Steinbeck reflected on the past as he visited town after town. He gives his reflection and perspective on the changes he witnessed. Travels with Charley is a nostalgic and sometimes even funny account of a journey to find America.
Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash: Anyone who has served in ministry for any length of time knows how easy it is to burnout. After years of serving our church in multiple ways, my husband and I found ourselves fatigued and burned out. We took a year off and have gradually found our way back into serving in various capacities. Burnout can be serious, especially with those who are employed in ministry. I've seen pastors leave the ministry due to burnout. I am mentoring one of our youth interns at church this summer and will be talking about this book with her. If you serve in ministry or are employed in ministry, you'll want to read this book.
So, what's on your reading list this summer?
Periodically people ask me, “Should I blog?” Some may already be blogging and wonder if they should continue. Others may write in other contexts and wonder if they should add blogging to what they already do. Still others desire to grow in their writing and wonder if blogging would help them do that.
There are many reasons people start a blog. Some do so as a way to make money. Perhaps they sell ads or promote products on their blog. Others might blog to grow and develop their platform. Tim Challies wrote an article recently about this, advocating that blogging is a good thing to do simply for the sake of blogging, not as a step to something else.
I started blogging as a way to communicate with friends and family far away about the life of my oldest son when he was first born. Blogging then was recently gaining traction and it sounded like a fun new thing to try. I loved it and it awakened a love for writing which had been buried in the responsibilities and duties of adult life. After a while, I started writing for other websites and publication and couldn’t blog as frequently as I once did. Blogging has changed a lot since the first post I wrote. Some wonder if it's even worth doing. Some have even declared that blogging is dying or is already dead. Other authors I know hate blogging. But I still love blogging and here’s why.
My blog is my writing home. It’s where I can be myself and be most comfortable. If you were to come into my physical home, I’d probably be barefoot. There’ll likely be nerf darts scattered in the corners of every room. You’ll see piles of books on every available surface, each of which I am in the middle of reading. And if it’s a Saturday, I might still be in my pajamas!
In a similar way, on my blog I can be myself. I don’t have the constraints of word count, topic, or the concern about whether it’s the type of post people are looking to read. I can play around with a new topic or technique. I can write poetry or tell a story. I don’t have to construct a list (5 Reasons to ____) or provide some defined take away. One of my friends says that when she reads my blog, she hears my voice most clearly than any other place I write.
I also think having a blog is helpful because it provides a place for people to come and visit. If I met someone in real life at the grocery store, the kids sports practice, or at church, we might enjoy spending time together. Each time we see each other we might learn more about each other. But if I were to invite that person to my home, then they’d really get to know me better. They’d see me in my element. Likewise, if someone reads something I wrote on another website and they liked it and wanted to read more, they can visit me at my blogging home and learn more about me than just the three sentence bio at the end of an article.
Writing helps me think. I don’t know what I think about something until I write it. Blogging helps me think through the things going on in my life. It helps me practice applying the gospel to all areas of my life. I often experiment here with a topic that I later expand into an article for another place. Blogging gives me regular writing practice which only serves to help me improve in the craft of writing.
Blogging has changed a lot since that first post I wrote almost twelve years ago. But I’ve changed a lot too. And I think blogging has played a big part in that change and for that I am grateful. For all these reasons and more, I enjoy blogging and plan to continue. How about you? Do you blog? And why?