I have prayed many things for my children (all girls!) over the years. I have prayed for their salvation, that God would shine the light of the gospel in their hearts. I have prayed for their future husbands, that he would be a man that loves Jesus and loves her like Jesus loves His bride. I have prayed for the friends they keep, that they would be wise and not fools.
And while all of those things still populate my prayers, one request has risen above the others as the one that I pray most fervently. It comes from Proverbs 23:26: “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.”
My most earnest prayer lately is for my girls to give me their hearts and find joy in the way I am trying to lead them. Focusing on this desire and asking God to grant it has helped shape both what I want to see in my children and how I respond to them.
If I want my daughters to give me their heart, then I must be a man who can be trusted with it. If I’m holding their tender hearts in my hands, I must be gentle and nurturing. If I crush their heart when it’s in my hands, they may feel they cannot give it to me anymore.
When they come to tell me the joke they’ve already told me 35 times that day (their current favorite is: Knock Knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupting co-MOOOOOOOOOO!) while I’m in the middle of something and I snap or sigh, frown, and say, “Not right now,” I may crush that heart in my hands. When they are fighting and I roll in barking orders and demanding silence instead of patiently working through what happened, I may crush those hearts in my hands. When I am more interested in the latest news buzzing on my phone than I am in their drawing of a cat underneath a rainbow that says, “I love you, Daddy,” I may crush that heart in my hands.
And wanting them to give me their heart also shapes my goal when working through an issue with them. Our oldest daughter struggles with disrespect–rolling eyes, slamming her fist down when I ask her to clean her room, side remarks, and rebellious tones even when her words are technically correct. How will I handle the next offense?
If my goal is to have her heart, I will likely apply more to the situation than mere correction and discipline. I don’t just want her to say, “Yes sir,” with proper respect. I want her heart! I want her to trust that when I tell her to clean her room, it is for her good. I want her to know that having love and respect for her parents will blossom into great joy later in life. And I want her to delight in the way I am leading her. So I must ask questions about what is in her heart. Is she tired? Is she upset about something else? Or is it mere defiance? Discipline may need to be applied but if I show her that what’s in her heart matters to me, she will give it to me more freely.
Wanting their heart also drives my behavior when I’m not directly addressing them. Do they see me sacrificing for the good of the whole household? Do they hear me using my words and my attitudes to serve and edify others around me? When I’m tired, do I still serve them? When choosing a movie or a restaurant or an outside game, do they see me laying down my preference to serve others?
If they can’t trust their hearts with me in preference, in correction, in attention, then how can I expect them to give me their hearts when I tell them the gospel? When I teach them about what kind of man is worthy of their romantic affection? When I give counsel about the friends they choose?
Having their hearts is at the base of everything I want to see God do in the life of my children. Oh God, give me their hearts!