Praying For Your Family
Editorís note: In the front page article, Sammy Tippit descibes how the Lord put it in his heart in 2006 to write a book on praying for the family. Below we are including the latter portion of the second chapter from that book. Earlier in the chapter he tells about his conversion just before entering college, and how this deeply upset his mother, and eventually led her to reject him and drive him out of the house.
When I first became a Christian, it seemed so impossible that my mom would ever give her heart to Christ. Yet I learned many great principles of praying for my family because of my relationship with Mom. It is those lessons that have become the very foundation of what I want to share with you about praying for your family.
The first and greatest lesson that God taught me was He deeply loved my family. He is a good God. I know that sounds very basic, but it is also deeply profound. Without a conviction about the goodness and love of God stamped into our hearts, we will become weary and cease praying for our families.
God loved my mother and had a plan for her. Although I never understood what had transpired in Momís life to produce the kind of bitterness she displayed when I became a Christian, God knew. Moreover, He understood her. He loved my mom. He knew everything about her, and He knew how to gently draw her to Himself.
That is the first and greatest principle Jesus taught His disciples when He taught them to pray. When He opened the door of prayer and invited His disciples to step inside, He placed their focus on the character and attributes of God. He wanted His disciples to know the goodness and greatness of God before they ever began making requests. He taught them to pray, "Our Father in heaven." He wants you and me to know and experience Him intimately. I am convinced I would never have known God in the depths of His love without having gone through those tough times with Mom.
The first attribute of God that Jesus showed His disciples was the Fatherhood of God. The second was the greatness of God. When you begin to pray for your family, you will need to know that God is a good Father who gives good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11). He is perfect in His goodness. Tough things take place in family life. When bad things happen to good people, you will need stamped on your heart that the Father is good. He loves you and your family. Without that being ironclad in the deepest part of your soul, you will give up. Persistence and patience are the consequences of getting to know God in His goodness and greatness. You will need both as you pray for your family.
That was what kept me going when Mom seemed so bitter. It was easy for me to look at my circumstance and think it was hopeless. However, when I placed my eyes on our Father, who is perfect in His goodness, it gave me the inner strength to keep praying.
You also will need to know He is on His throne in heaven. Without the knowledge that He rules in the affairs of our lives, you may begin to think your situation is hopeless. However, prayer is one of the ways through which God reveals Himself in His power and sovereignty. We know in part, but He possesses all knowledge. We see in part, but He sees everything Ė past, present, and future. Therefore, when you pray, get to know God in His goodness and His greatness. Focus on who He is.
Praying with Faith
There is a second important truth when we pray for our families Ė praying with faith. Jesus connected prayer and faith in the same way God joins a man and a woman in marriage. He said, "And all things, you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matt. 21:22). Jesus told His disciples a story about a woman who persisted in her requests to an unrighteous judge. He began the story by telling them the truth of persistence but concluded by explaining the importance of faith. He closed the story by asking a question, "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth"? (Luke 18:8). Why is faith so important when we pray for our families, and where does faith come from? Without faith, we give up. We grow weary and faint. We do not have the energy to persist. However, faith energizes us. It gives us the ability to come into His presence continually. Faith brings us back to the goodness and greatness of God. When we see Him, faith rises in our hearts.
Trust stands as the foundation for every deep and meaningful relationship. My wife and I have been married for thirty-eight years, and we have grown in our love for one another. That love has grown because as we have come to know each other more intimately, we have grown in our trust for each other. As much as I love and trust my wife, there have been times when she has failed me; and there have been many more times when I have failed her. Yet as we have gotten to know each other, our trust has grown as our love has grown for one another. How much more is that true with God? He has never failed us. The more you know Him intimately, the more you will trust Him.
The Apostle Paul once told a jailer, "ÖBelieve in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31). He told the man his salvation would come to him if he had faith. Yet he did not stop there. He also told him his household (family) would be saved when he believed. Paul tied the faith of the jailer directly to the salvation of his family.
This principle of faith may be one that is very difficult for us to understand, and we may never fully understand it. What role does faith play in the salvation of our families, and how much of their salvation depends upon Godís sovereign grace? That is an impossible question to answer. All I know is that our salvation is 100 percent Godís doing. God saved us by His grace and His grace alone. I cannot force a person to become a Christian Ė even through my prayers. Nevertheless, a part of the great mystery of prayer is that God allows us to somehow participate in our loved ones coming to Christ by faithful praying. I do not understand it. I just know it works. Prayer is a part of His great plan and His wonderful mystery. It is the meeting place Ė where the Sovereignty of God and the Will of Man intersect. It is the place where faith rises and moves mountains that have stood in the hearts of our families for generations.
Persistence in Prayer
There is a third principle that helps us as we embark on praying for our families Ė patience and persistence. We live in a generation that demands instant gratification. However, we must learn to wait upon the Lord. We learn to wait upon Him in two ways. First, we wait upon Him over a long period.
I prayed for more than twenty years for my mom before I ever saw an answer come. Some of the greatest victories you will see in prayer will come as we learn to wait upon God for the answer. The Psalmist continually said in the Scriptures, "Wait upon the Lord."
Prayer was prominent in the life of Jesus. He taught the disciples many truths about prayer. One of the most important was persisting in prayer. When He told the story about the woman who had faith enough to persist in her requests to the judge, Jesus was not comparing the unrighteous judge to God. He was contrasting the two. If an unrighteous judge grants our requests because of persistence, then how much more will the righteous Judge of all people grant our requests? He is good, loving, and gracious. He hears, and He will respond. The purpose of our persistence is not to get Him to do something He knows will be bad for us. The purpose of persistence is it brings us repeatedly into His presence.
Why do we need to go into His presence persistently? It is more for us than it is anything else. I can honestly say going into the presence of God for so many years of praying for my mom was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. God had more to do in me than He did in my mom. We wonder why the answer does not come immediately. Perhaps it is because God longs to have fellowship with us and mold us into His image. Waiting upon Him is an act of dependence upon Him. As I look back on the time of praying for my mom, I realize God used that to build a sense of dependence upon Him that was extremely healthy.
There is a second way in which we learn to wait upon God Ė by coming into His presence and waiting before Him. He longs for His children to come into His presence. As we come into His presence, we persistently bring our requests to Him. Moreover, in one Divine moment, He works wonders. Our prayers are answered Ė but in His time. At the same time, He changes our lives because we have spent time in His presence.
Prayer is the greatest adventure upon which man can embark. Prayer opens hearts. It throws doors open wide. It brings you to places you would never have dreamed and arranges circumstances that would be impossible to produce by yourself. When you learn to wait in His presence, He works in unfathomable ways. That is why the Psalmist said, "My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him" (Psa. 62:5).
A Humble, Repentant Heart
The final principle that God taught me as I learned to pray for my family was to pray with a humble, repentant heart. I was praying for Momís repentance, but the greatest need was deep repentance in my heart. When I look back upon those years of praying for my mom, I can clearly identify a moment when things began to change in her. She began to change when I began to change.
One day when I was having a time alone with God, the Holy Spirit opened the hidden parts of my heart and began to search them. One of the things God made known during those moments was an attitude I had not been willing to face. I had been an ungrateful son. I had never expressed to my parents my love and appreciation for all they had done for me. Selfishness was the root cause of that attitude. I never saw what their needs were because I was so wrapped up in my problems and myself.
When God opened my eyes to see my sins, I was broken. God promised that a broken heart and contrite spirit He would not despise (Psa. 51:17). I knew I needed to call Mom, apologize to her, and ask her forgiveness. However, because of all that had occurred previously, I did not know what to expect. After mustering some courage, I called Mom and told her what God had shown me. Her response, once again, took me by surprise.
"Son," she said, "I canít tell you how much that means. Thank you so much."
Wow! Everything changed in my relationship with Mom from that moment on. It did not mean she gave her life to Christ immediately. However, it did mean she was much more open to hearing what God was doing in my life. It was a defining moment in our relationship, and it seemed to allow the Holy Spirit to begin to tenderize her heart.
I do not think that phone call would have ever come when she said, "Sammy, I need God. I need Jesus. I need a church. I need help." However, after twenty years of praying, that incredible moment came. My brokenness softened the soil of my momís heart. My repentance made the ground fertile.
The greatest encouragement I can offer to you about praying for your family is to ask God to search your heart and show you anything that needs removing from your life. The release of Godís Spirit upon their lives begins in your heart and soul. Find a time and place to meet with God. Get to know Him as "our Father." See how mighty He is in heaven. As you develop an intimate relationship with Him, faith will rise in your heart and patience will rest on your soul. God will change you more than God will change the person for whom you are praying. Wait upon the Lord.
Used by permission from Praying for Your Family: An Eternal Legacy by Sammy Tippit. Copyright © 2006. Visit www.PrayingForYourFamily.org for more information on the book and study materials for Praying for Your Family.