This morning on the way to school, we pulled into the parking lot and began our regular moment of brief prayer for the school day. As we waited in line for the serpentine parade of vehicles to inch closer to the school doors, Simone, my four-year-old daughter, led us aloud. As she prayed, I was struck with a startling epiphany.
She had used almost identically the same words I had the previous morning.
It wasn't so much the content of the prayer that struck me, it was the imitable style. "Thank you for the cross. Bless mommy at home, daddy at church, and Soriah, Elijah, and me in school." I had said almost the exact same thing 24 hours ago.
When I say that the prayers of fathers "count double," I don't mean that they are twice as powerful. That would be silly. Certainly unbiblical. What I mean is that we are also teaching our children the very language of prayer as we speak.
The implications for this are huge. I will name just three.
1) First, if we pray God-exalting prayers, our children will learn to exalt Him as well. Lifting up the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, magnifying the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, and making much of the glory of the Father will provide a model of praise that is not soon forgotten. Imagine what an entire childhood--filled with daddy's gospel-soaked prayers--would do to a child's prayer life over time!
Dads, if we can model a trajectory of prayer that intentionally exalts God as our supreme joy, our children will learn to regard Him so highly as well. Unfortunately...
2) The opposite of that is also true: selfish models of prayer beget selfish people. Let's be careful here. Of course we should teach our children to ask of God His provision for our lives (Matt 6:11, 7:7-11). The Bible commands us to do that.
But if children learn from daddy's prayers that the whole point (the highest end) of intercession is to make requests, our children will begin to subconsciously adopt the "Divine Butler" theology of God. They will see a God that primarily exists, as John Piper has written cuttingly elsewhere, "to fluff the pillows and adjust the thermostat." Studies in religious experience are showing exactly that: moral therapeutic deism (MTD) is the fastest growing "religion" today.
3) Finally, dads in particular have a crucial role in the spiritual development of our children. Some readers may wonder why I chose to focus this brief piece on fathers in particular and not parents in general. Surely it is true that mommy's prayers are also exemplary. I am not denying this. They are. Nevertheless, fathers have been given a primacy in the family that many (most?) in our age have abdicated entirely. Would not our families be stronger if dad resumed his role as spiritual "head"of household instead of the spiritual "tail" dragging reluctantly behind?
I think the implications are clear. If dad prays without any notable unction--or worse, fails to lead his family in prayer at all--his example will leave a gaping hole in the Christian family.
--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, FL.