For this child I prayed
Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos sold over 200 million copies. Today if we speak about that hymnbook, we have a knowing, rather superior, wry smile because of hymns’ like
“Where is my wandering boy tonight –
The boy of my tenderest care;
The boy that was once my joy and light;
The child of my love and prayer?
Once he was pure as morning dew
As he knelt at his mother’s knee;
No face was so bright, no heart more true,
And none was so sweet as he”.
And yet, the greatest sadness I come across in my travels is the bitter heartache of Christian parents concerned for their children. John White called them ‘Parents in pain’. Every parent knows the earnest desire that each of their children should be committed to Christ and His service, but when this doesn’t happen, heaviness of heart is a real and undying pain. Is there any more pitiful cry in all of Scripture than David’s lament over his son Absalom, “O my son Absalom – my son, my son, Absalom – if only I had died in your place! O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18 v. 33)?
I imagine the prodigal son’s father going to the flat roof of his eastern house and looking to the distant horizon, longing to catch a glimpse of his son on his way home. Daily disappointment did not destroy hope, and eventually that hope was transformed into the most intense joy, and the old man ran to greet his repentant son. Yes, there were scars on the heart of the father, and possibility the body of the son, but all that was past and the son was welcomed and treated as if he had never been away.
Children have been loaned to us so that we might love and enjoy them, teach and pray for them, as their lives are built in our homes. Even though things can go wrong, no matter how bleak the situation, the Christian has the wonderful hope that God can completely turn around the situation. William Grimshaw, the delightfully eccentric 18th century vicar of Howarth in Yorkshire had a wayward son. A couple of years after his father’s death, young Grimshaw was riding his father’s horse on the moors, when a rather tactless parishioner shouted, “Aye, and once a great saint rode on the horse, and now a great sinner!”
Grimshaw dismounted and with tears in his eyes said, “Won’t my father be pleased to see me in heaven?” He had been converted after his father’s death. Until our dying prayers, parents are not to give up hope. (Doesn’t history tell of Luke Short being wonderfully converted whilst working in fields, aged 105?) God hears and answers the prayers of his people.
John sums up the attitude of teachers and parents: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4). Hannah prayed that God would give her a child, and was able to testify, “For this child I prayed and the Lord granted my petition, which I asked of Him.” I love that verse found in 1 Samuel 1 v. 27. Job, aware that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, prayed each day for his children, in case they had cursed God in their hearts (Job 1 v. 5).
Children are a blessing from the Lord. We read that Jesus called children to Himself saying “Let them come unto Me”, but referring to adults He said, “Compel them to come” (Matthew 19 v. 14 & Luke 14 v. 23). Little children can trust Christ and grow to be mature Christians. As Hudson Pope said, “Never under-rate the under eights!” As Steve Green says in his song: “Children are a treasure from the Lord”.
The greatest challenge
The challenge to us all, is to pray for children. CH Spurgeon said, “I tell you that in God’s sight, he is no preacher who does not care for children.” The greatest act of care is to pray for children. The greatest abuse of a child is to be a stumbling block against them coming to Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Some years ago in Leeds we had a night of prayer for children. It was a blessed time, as some prayed for their children serving as missionaries, whilst others prayed for their children who were rebelling against the things of God. Shouldn’t our mid-week prayer meetings encourage parents to share their burdens for their children? Isn’t this a very practical way in which the church can show its genuine love towards each other, by praying for the various families within the church? And while we have breath and time, shouldn’t we plead with God to be merciful to our children? As well, there are children who live on our streets, and nobody would ever pray for them if we did not, so let us pray for children who otherwise would be un-prayed for. As we do, let us remember that we are speaking with the Lord who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them… And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10 v. 14 & 16).
 The story is told in ‘Sagas’ by DJ Carswell, published by 10Publishing